The Giants wrapped a bow on the 2011-12 campaign, a season that almost didn't happen. From the lockout that dominated the offseason to Peyton Manning's career getting thrown into jeopardy to Green Bay's attempt at perfection to Tebow morphing from a proper noun to a verb, it was another magical season in the NFL.
Some of the storylines were obvious, but let's look at some of the things that happened in 2011 that we might never witness again:
1. Tim Tebow exceeding expectations: The Tebow phenomenon notwithstanding, what Tebow did in terms of wins and losses has to be recognized. He got a coaching staff to change its ways to fit his skill set and he got a group of players to believe. Coming off the bench to do so, the bar was low when he worked his magic. Every win was a bonus. Wins will be expected in 2012.
2. Peyton Manning in Indianapolis: What a disastrous ending on so many fronts. Manning was signed to a $95 million contract extension before the season, despite having a procedure to his neck that wasn't supposed to keep him off the field beyond the preseason. Another procedure was needed, he didn't play, the Colts were the NFL's worst team, GM Bill Polian and coach Jim Caldwell were fired, and now Manning appears to be done in Indy.
3. Rex Ryan guaranteeing Super Bowls: The Jets' late-season collapse coupled with tawdry tales of locker room discord prompted the (in)digestion of a huge slice of humble pie. I believe Rex often contrived some of his bombast to steer attention away from some of the issues with his team, but now the scab has been picked off and Rex will change his public approach.
4. Hue Jackson's news conferences/declarations: The former Raiders coach gave us one of the most entertaining quotes of the year, when he referred to the trading of first- and second-round draft picks to Cincinnati for retired quarterback Carson Palmer as, "the greatest trade in football." Bengals fans would agree. Jackson's news conferences were entertaining and emotional, but -- for now -- they are history, since he was replaced after Oakland failed to make the playoffs and a regime change ensued.
5. Tony Romo's ribs: Romo reached Willis Reed status when he returned to defeat the 49ers in the regular season after breaking ribs and puncturing a lung. For the next month or so, he spawned more attention to Kevlar vests than a S.W.A.T. team, and had us all scrutinizing ribs like we were at a Kansas City barbeque cookoff.
6. Cam Newton's "In your face": The Offensive Rookie of the Year lit up the NFL after months of hearing his skill set would not translate to the NFL. (And how, even if it did, he would be too focused on being an icon and entertainer.) Newton and the Panthers sent a warning shot through the league this season and made Carolina a team to watch in 2012. As for that "Entertainer" thing, Newton's Superman touchdown celebration has become one of the most copied poses in the country.
7. The negative impact of giving running backs big contracts:Titans tailback Chris Johnson signed a four-year contract extension worth up to $53 million with $30 million guaranteed. Then, under a new offensive coordinator, he totaled 1,047 yards and only four touchdowns. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson signed a seven-year contract with $36 million guaranteed and rushed for a career-low 970 yards before tearing his ACL in Week 16. Meanwhile, Chicago's Matt Forte and Philly's LeSean McCoy want (and will get) new deals after killing it in 2011, but they might not break the bank after the seasons Johnson and Peterson endured.
8. The Dream Team: Money can't buy love, happiness or even a playoff berth. The Eagles found out that going on a shopping spree for some of the NFL's top free agents wasn't all that it seemed. Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin played well (especially Jenkins and Babin), but the lack of chemistry backfired after a lockout-shortened offseason. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson also didn't seem to take too kindly to watching management pay other players but not take care of him, and his brooding clearly had a negative effect.
9. Victor Cruz's Salsa: None of us knew who Cruz was at this point of 2011. The Giants wide receiver broke onto the scene in a huge way and helped lead New York to a Super Bowl title. He hit us with the salsa every time he scored, branding himself on his rise to stardom. Odds are that he moves on to another step next season -- and there won't be anything wrong with that.
11. Al Davis: The Raiders owner and AFL/NFL icon died last season, leaving behind multiple legacies of greatness, tolerance, innovation, disdain and Just Winning, Baby.