An epic Super Bowl rounds out an NFL season like no other

An epic Super Bowl wraps up an NFL season like no other – from shamed stars, concussion scandals, Damar Hamlin’s collapse and its biggest icon retiring in Tom Brady, the league has had a grilling – but we still tune in for America’s game

  • The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a thrilling Super Bowl
  • The NFL has faced questions over diversity and player safety during the season 
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As Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs emerge from the haziest of nights, an NFL season like no other draws to a close.

Say what you like about America’s game but it is unparalleled when it comes to drama, on and off the field.

This year the storylines were other-worldly wild. The 2022 season began with an enormous cloud hanging over Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder, who is charged with sexual harassment, workplace misconduct and creating a toxic culture.

He initially dodged a Congressional subpoena as he was living it up in the Mediterranean on Lady S, his 302-foot yacht.

The embattled Snyder – who bought Washington in 1999 – begrudgingly agreed to testify and sell the franchise.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl LVII victory rounds off an NFL season like no other

Patrick Mahomes (right) and Travis Kelce celebrate with the Vince Lombardi trophy 

The season began with an enormous cloud hanging over Commanders owner Dan Snyder

But despite playing in a dilapidated stadium and having only reached the playoffs just six times under his ownership, his inflated asking price is a preposterous $7billion.

Elsewhere, the Cleveland Browns were busy trading for Deshaun Watson, a quarterback who has allegedly sexually harassed at least two dozen women massage therapists, seemingly assaulting several of them.

Watson is a fiercely talented player, but after sitting out the 2021 season in Houston, the Browns won a tawdry bidding war for the NFL’s most prized asset, a franchise quarterback.

Two further owners also faced unwanted scrutiny. Stephen Ross was fined and suspended after the Miami Dolphins were docked draft picks for attempting to lure Tom Brady and former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.

The plot was revealed by former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores who sued the NFL and three teams – the Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants – for alleged racist hiring practices.

In November, a photograph of a 14-year-old Jerry Jones emerged. The Dallas Cowboys owner was in a group of white students who attempted to stop six Black students from desegregating at North Little Rock High School.

Jones acknowledged it was him in the picture, but added: ‘I don’t know that I or anybody anticipated had a background of knowing… what was involved. It was more a curious thing.’

On the field, things were equally jarring.

Deshaun Watson was accused of sexually harassing at least two dozen massage therapists

A photograph of a 14-year-old Jerry Jones emerged of him in a group of white students who attempted to stop six Black students from desegregating at North Little Rock High School

Since buying the Cowboys in 1989, Jerry Jones, now 80, has won three Super Bowls

In week three the world winced as Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a concussion. Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano hit Tagovailoa with a late hit; his head crashed against the turf and he was unsteady as he returned to his feet.

Tagovailoa was taken out of the game, but four days later was starting against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football.

After being thrown to the turf by Cincinnati’s Josh Tupou, Tagovailoa’s fingers splayed and he laid motionless for over seven minutes before being taken to a hospital with reported head and neck injuries.

‘There was a point I was unconscious,’ Tagovailoa later said. ‘I remember the entire night up until the point I got tackled.

‘I don’t remember being carted off. I do remember some things from the ambulance and the hospital.’

Tagovailoa’s season was finally ended in December against the Green Bay Packers, when he suffered another concussion.

‘For concussion protocol, I think the team did me the biggest service throughout that,’ Tagovailoa told USA Today. ‘They never allowed me to go through protocol normally until the season was done. So that’s why it might have seemed like it took forever, but they were just protecting me from myself.’

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered three concussions this season 

The Dolphins quarterback laid motionless for over seven minutes against the Bengals

In January, Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after going into cardiac arrest. After nine minutes of CPR he was resuscitated before being taken to hospital.

From live tweeting the Bills playoff victory over Miami from his hospital bed, the NFL put his most remarkable of recoveries front and center. But then its machine only whirred into life only when it was safe to do so.

Hamlin appeared three times during Super Bowl week, saying on Thursday: ‘I have a long journey ahead, a journey full of unknowns and a journey full of milestones, but it’s a lot easier to face your fears when you know your purpose.’

Hamlin is targeting a return to the field someday, but as the NFL continues to plough on with the 17-game season and Thursday Night Football, serious questions remain about its commitment to player safety.

Likewise its push towards diversity. While Mahomes and Jalen Hurts made history as the first Black quarterbacks to start in a Super Bowl, Goodell faced a grilling during his annual press conference.

In Week 17 Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after going into cardiac arrest

His recovery has been remarkable – he was in attendance for the Super Bowl on Sunday  

During an 80-second question, NFL Media’s Jim Trotter asked: ‘You and other league officials have said that the league’s commitment to diversity equity and inclusion extend beyond the sidelines and beyond the front offices.

‘And it’s applied to all aspects of the company. I’ve worked in NFL media for five years. During those five years, we’ve never had a Black person in senior management in our newsroom. That’s a problem because we cover a league who according to league data, the player population is 60 to 70 per cent Black which means that there is no one who looks like these players at the table when decisions are being made about how they are covered.

‘More concerning is that for a year plus now, we have never had a full-time Black employee on the news desk,’ Trotter added. ‘Which again is a problem because we cover a league because player population is 60 to 70 per cent Black according to league data.’

Despite being given 80 seconds to prepare his answer, the rattled PR guru – who earns $44million-a-year replied: ‘I am not in charge of the newsroom.

‘Can I answer your question? As you point out, it’s the same question you asked last year. And we did go back and we have reviewed everything we’ve been doing across the league. And we are looking at everything from vendors that we’re working with, to partners that we’re working with, to ownership where we’ve seen significant changes in diversity just this year. And I do not know specifically about the media business.

Tom Brady retired, meaning the NFL now moves on without its most iconic player  

Brady made the announcement in an emotional social media video and insists it is for good

Commissioner Roger Goodell faced a grilling during his annual Super Bowl press conference

‘We’ll check in again with our people. But I am comfortable that we made significant progress across the league. I can’t answer the specific questions. Some of the data you may have raised there may be accurate, may be not. Last year, I was told some of it wasn’t. We’ll get to you on that. We want to make progress across the board. And that includes in the media room. And so those are things that we’ll continue to look at and hopefully make real progress to. I can’t answer because I do not know specifically what those numbers are today.’

The NFL is in many ways a fortunate sport. Despite its short season it continues to dominate the agenda throughout the year.

But its persistence with Thursday Night Football and the extension into a 17-game season shows exactly where its priorities lie: the safety and wellbeing of its players are of secondary importance.

Yet still the machine whirs on. And all this in a year when its biggest idol – seven-time Super Bowl winner Brady – called time on his career.

But still we tune in to watch the excellence, despite its many and obvious flaws. Of the 100 most-watched television broadcasts of 2022 in America, 82 were NFL games. And until that changes, nor will the NFL.

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