Has it really been 100 years already? Man, that flew by. Seems like only yesterday that the Akron Pros edged out the Decatur Staleys for first place in the American Professional Football Association's first year, scoring a total of 151 points in 11 games and allowing just seven. (Couldn't find anything to tell us how many head-coaching interviews that defensive coordinator got the following offseason.)
Only two teams remain from the original season of the APFA, which would change its name to the NFL in 1922: the Staleys, who moved to Chicago and became the Bears, and the Chicago Cardinals, who moved to St. Louis, then to Phoenix. The star of that generation was Hall of Famer Paddy Driscoll, who wouldn't recognize his chosen sport if we briefed him on it today. Heck, he might struggle figuring out how to turn on the TV, which wasn't even on the market yet in 1920.
That year, Driscoll's Cardinals scored 115 points in their 10 games, a total that Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury and this season's Cards probably need to hit by the end of September. In the 2019 NFL -- and in Arizona, which is on pace to have 100 different head coaches and starting QBs in the next 100 years -- patience isn't at a premium when it comes to offensive deficiencies.
Ol' Paddy, who starred at Northwestern and played his entire 10-year career in Chicago, would be amazed at the way stars changed teams this year. In this one offseason, we've seen Le'Veon Bell leave Pittsburgh for New York, Odell Beckham Jr. go from New York to Cleveland, and Antonio Brown force his way out of Pittsburgh for Oakland.
Back then, Cleveland was home to the 2-4-2 Tigers, who lost three 7-0 games. This season's Browns are supposed to be ... good? Cleveland hasn't won its division since 1989 (when it was still the team that would eventually become the Baltimore Ravens), but here the Browns are, favored by many to win the AFC North behind second-year QB Baker Mayfield and the family-sized bags of chips on his shoulder. They're not expecting 7-0 losses.
Of course, no one expected last season's Super Bowl to end 13-3 either, but that's the Patriots for you. It would be tough to explain this kind of dynasty to Paddy, whose 10-year career saw nine different champions, but yes-Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are back, to the muttering chagrin of every football fan south or west of Connecticut, trying to win their seventh Super Bowl title together and their third in four years. Last time we saw them, they were holding a Rams team that's averaged 31.4 points per game over the past two years to a field goal.
Which is why new-wave offensive guru Sean McVay spent his offseason locked in a secret point-manufacturing lab dreaming up new ways to get four receivers open on the same play, trying to figure out how the Patriots got him. Andy Reid, who was McVay when McVay was still in grade school, is doing the same thing in Kansas City, where Patrick Mahomes is practicing new magic tricks in preparation for his encore. They used to say defense wins championships, but it seems a lot of people have forgotten.
The Saints might have won one of those themselves if not for a crummy no-call in the NFC championship game, which led to Sean Payton and a livid fan base forcing the league into an officiating rule change that allows replay reviews on pass interference calls. (We've almost certainly lost Paddy at this point, since he didn't see much TV, let alone replay, let alone replay reviews, let alone goal-line cams and endless zoom-ins on blades of grass. It's enough to give a guy a headache -- but at least they've developed ibuprofen since his days.)
Yeah, 100 years blew by, even if pro football's 100th season won't look anything like its first. So for us, for you, for Paddy Driscoll and all of his fellow founding footballers ... a toast to 100 years and a healthy anticipation of what history, change and excitement the next 100 will bring.