40. Adrian Peterson shreds his left knee: In a meaningless game on Christmas Eve, one of the league’s most dominant backs suffered one of the most gruesome injuries of the 2011 season when Redskins rookie DeJon Gomes took him out at the knees. Peterson tore his ACL and MCL and underwent reconstructive surgery in early January. Four years into his career, Peterson was on the Hall of Fame track, but injuries — and particularly that one — derailed his 2011 campaign. Now, the 26-year-old’s future is completely up in the air.
39. Indianapolis hosts a top-notch Super Bowl: They lucked out with the weather, but it went beyond that. Indy embraced the hell out of its first Super Bowl, with events dominating the downtown core. The people were friendly and happy. The zip line was unique. The crowds were gigantic. The ‘NFL Experience’ smashed attendance records. And the stadium is a thing of beauty.
38. Todd Haley runs out of time in Kansas City: This came as a surprise. Haley led the the Chiefs to a division title and the playoffs in 2010, and had them in the playoff picture despite a multitude of crippling injuries in 2011. Yet he was fired 14 weeks into the season. The whole thing has us wondering if there was more to this story.
37. Josh McDaniels jumps from St. Louis to New England: Rarely if ever do you see a guy coach in two different cities in one year, but that’s actually what happened to McDaniels this season. When the Rams fired Steve Spagnuolo after the regular season, McDaniels jumped ship, returning to New England in time for the team’s Super Bowl run. And now, he has already replaced the departed Bill O’Brien to resume his role as the Pats’ offensive coordinator. The fact that McDaniels was able to join the New England staff during the season raised some eyebrows, and could inspire a rule change.
36. Kevin Kolb falls on his face in Arizona: One of the most popular available players of the 2011 offseason, Kolb signed a five-year, $63 million deal the moment he was traded from Philadelphia to Arizona. But in his first year in Glendale, Kolb tossed only nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions while struggling with injuries. The Cardinals only won two of the eight games in which Kolb played significant time, while they went 6-2 with backup John Skelton running the show.