|Duration||September 7 – December 31, 2006|
|Start date||January 6, 2007|
|AFC Champions||Indianapolis Colts|
|NFC Champions||Chicago Bears|
|Super Bowl XLI|
|Date||February 4, 2007|
|Site||Dolphin Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida|
|Date||February 10, 2007|
The 2006 NFL season was the 87th regular season of the National Football League (NFL). Regular season play was held from September 7 to December 31, 2006.
The season began with the reigning Super Bowl XL champion Pittsburgh Steelers defeating the Miami Dolphins in the NFL Kickoff Game.
The NFL title was eventually won by the Indianapolis Colts, when they defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI at Dolphin Stadium at Miami Gardens, Florida on February 4, 2007.
On March 20, 2006, Paul Tagliabue announced his plans to retire as NFL commissioner. During an NFL meeting in Northbrook, Illinois, on August 8, league team owners selected Roger Goodell, the NFL's then-current chief operating officer, as the new commissioner. Tagliabue continued to serve as commissioner until Goodell officially replaced him on Friday September 1.
Tagliabue became NFL commissioner on October 26, 1989. During his tenure, the league added four new teams; saw four franchises move (including two franchises—the Rams and Raiders—from Los Angeles, the second-largest television market in the U.S.); the construction of seventeen new stadiums; began its own in-house television specialty cable network, the NFL Network; greatly increased television rights fees with its broadcasters, including the addition of the Fox network and its NFL programming; and maintained labor peace with the players' union.
The 2006 NFL Draft was held from April 29 to 30, 2006 at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. With the first pick, the Houston Texans selected defensive end Mario Williams from North Carolina State University.
Bernie Kukar and Tom White retired. Jerome Boger and Gene Steratore were promoted to referee.
The 2006 season marked the debut of new officiating uniforms which are supposed to be more comfortable for officials to wear in extreme weather over the old polyester uniforms. The uniforms were designed by Reebok using a proprietary material technology to keep officials both warm and dry during the winter months of the season. On the shirt, the position and number are removed from the front pocket and the lettering and numbers on the back side were black-on-white and are smaller print and the sleeve shows the uniform number. Officials also wore full-length black pants with white stripe during the winter months to stay warm, which was criticized by media. Also, a black stripe was added to each side of the white knickers. This was the first major design overhaul since 1979, when the position name was added to the shirt, but later abbreviated in 1982.
For the first time since Super Bowl IV at the conclusion of the 1969 season, the official NFL game ball was known as "The Duke" in honor of Wellington Mara, whose family owns the New York Giants. Son John is the current CEO of the team. The NFL first used "The Duke" ball in honor of owner Tim Mara (Wellington's father) made a deal with Wilson Sporting Goods to become the league's official supplier of game balls, a relationship that continued into its sixty-fifth year in 2006.
"The Duke" ball was discontinued after the 1970 AFL–NFL merger, and the merged league began using a different standardized ball made by Wilson. The only other time that "The Duke" ball name was used was during the two "Thanksgiving Classic" games in 2004.
One side of the new 2006 "Duke" football featured the NFL shield logo in gold, the words "The Duke", and the NFL commissioner's signature. The obverse side has a small NFL logo above the needle bladder hole, the conference names between the hole, and the words "National Football League" in gold. As per the custom, specially branded balls were used for the first week of the 2006 season (the "Opening Kickoff") as well as for the Thanksgiving Day, conference championships, Super Bowl XLI and Pro Bowl games.
Lamar Hunt died in Dallas, Texas on December 13 from complications from prostate cancer at the age of 74. He is credited with challenging the NFL with the formation of the American Football League, which led to the subsequent merger of the two leagues.
At 3 a.m. on January 1, 2007, Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was shot and killed in Denver, within hours after the last regular season game against the San Francisco 49ers. Less than two months after, on February 24, 2007, Broncos running back Damien Nash collapsed and died after a charity basketball game at a high school. Both players died at the age of 24.
Further information: NFL_on_television § Flexible-scheduling
This was the first season that the NFL used a "flexible-scheduling" for the last few weeks of the season, allowing the league flexibility in selecting games to air on Sunday night, in order to feature the current hottest, streaking teams. This was implemented to prevent games featuring losing teams from airing during primetime late in the season, while at the same time allowing NBC to rake in more money off the higher ratings from surprise, playoff-potential teams that more fans would enjoy watching.
Under the flexible-scheduling system, all Sunday games in the affected weeks tentatively had the start times of 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT, except those played in the Pacific or Mountain time zones, which will have a tentative start time of 4:05 p.m. ET/1:05 p.m. PT (or 4:15 p.m. ET/1:15 p.m. PT if it is on the doubleheader network). On the Tuesday 12 days before the games, the league moved one game to the Sunday Night Football slot, and possibly one or more 1 p.m. slotted games to the 4:05/4:15 p.m. slots. During the last week of the season, the league could reschedule games as late as six days before the contests so that all of the television networks will be able to broadcast a game that has playoff implications.
Week 10: The Chicago–New York Giants game was flexed into Sunday Night Football at 8:15 p.m. ET on NBC and the New Orleans–Pittsburgh game was flexed to 4:15 p.m. ET on Fox.
Week 11: The San Diego–Denver game was flexed into SNF and the Indianapolis–Dallas game was flexed to 4:15 p.m. ET on CBS.
Week 14: The New Orleans–Dallas game was flexed into SNF and the Buffalo–New York Jets game was flexed to 4:15 p.m. ET on CBS.
Week 15: The Kansas City–San Diego game was flexed into SNF and the Philadelphia–New York Giants game was flexed to 4:15 p.m. ET on Fox.
Further information: 2006–07 NFL playoffs
Within each conference, the four division winners and the two wild card teams (the top two non-division winners with the best overall regular season records) qualified for the playoffs. The four division winners are seeded 1 through 4 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, and the wild card teams are seeded 5 and 6. The NFL does not use a fixed bracket playoff system, and there are no restrictions regarding teams from the same division matching up in any round. In the first round, dubbed the wild-card playoffs or wild-card weekend, the third-seeded division winner hosts the sixth seed wild card, and the fourth seed hosts the fifth. The 1 and 2 seeds from each conference then receive a bye in the first round. In the second round, the divisional playoffs, the number 1 seed hosts the worst surviving seed from the first round (seed 4, 5, or 6), while the number 2 seed will play the other team (seed 3, 4, or 5). The two surviving teams from each conference's divisional playoff games then meet in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the fourth and final round of the playoffs, is played at a neutral site, the designated home team is based on an annual rotation by conference.
|1||San Diego Chargers (West winner)||Chicago Bears (North winner)|
|2||Baltimore Ravens (North winner)||New Orleans Saints (South winner)|
|3||Indianapolis Colts (South winner)||Philadelphia Eagles (East winner)|
|4||New England Patriots (East winner)||Seattle Seahawks (West winner)|
|5||New York Jets (wild card)||Dallas Cowboys (wild card)|
|6||Kansas City Chiefs (wild card)||New York Giants (wild card)|
|Jan 7 – Gillette Stadium||Jan 14 – Qualcomm Stadium|
|4||New England||37||Jan 21 – RCA Dome|
|Jan 6 – RCA Dome||4||New England||34|
|Jan 13 – M&T Bank Stadium|
|6||Kansas City||8||AFC Championship|
|3||Indianapolis||23||Feb 4 – Dolphin Stadium|
|Wild Card playoffs|
|Jan 7 – Lincoln Financial Field||A3||Indianapolis||29|
|Jan 13 – Louisiana Superdome|
|6||NY Giants||20||Super Bowl XLI|
|3||Philadelphia||23||Jan 21 – Soldier Field|
|Jan 6 – Qwest Field||2||New Orleans||14|
|Jan 14 – Soldier Field|
The following teams and players set all-time NFL records during the regular season:
|Record||Player/team||Date/opponent||Previous record holder|
|Most points scored, career||Morten Andersen, Atlanta||December 16 vs. Dallas||Gary Anderson, 1982–2004 (2,434)|
|Most field goals, career||Morten Andersen, Atlanta||December 24 vs. Carolina||Gary Anderson, 1982–2004 (538)|
|Most passes completed, career||Brett Favre, Green Bay||December 17 vs. Detroit||Dan Marino, 1983–1999 (4,967)|
|Most touchdowns, season||LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (31)||December 10 vs. Denver||Shaun Alexander, Seattle, 2005 (28)|
|Most rushing touchdowns, season||LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (28)||December 10 vs. Denver||Shaun Alexander, 2005 |
Priest Holmes, 2003 (27)
|Most points scored, season||LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (186)||December 17 vs. Kansas City||Paul Hornung, 1960 (176)|
|Most rushing attempts, season||Larry Johnson, Kansas City (416)||December 31 vs. Jacksonville||Jamal Anderson, Atlanta, 1998 (410)|
|Most kick returns for a touchdown, season||Devin Hester, Chicago (5; 3 punts and 2 kickoffs)||December 11 at St. Louis||Tied by 9 players (4)|
|Points scored||San Diego Chargers (492)|
|Total yards gained||New Orleans Saints (6,264)|
|Yards rushing||Atlanta Falcons (2,939)|
|Yards passing||New Orleans Saints (4,503)|
|Fewest points allowed||Baltimore Ravens (201)|
|Fewest total yards allowed||Baltimore Ravens (4,225)|
|Fewest rushing yards allowed||Minnesota Vikings (985)|
|Fewest passing yards allowed||Oakland Raiders (2,413)|
|Scoring||LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (186 points)|
|Touchdowns||LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (31 TDs)|
|Most field goals made||Robbie Gould, Chicago and Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis (32 FGs)|
|Rushing||LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (1,815 yards)|
|Passer rating||Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (101.0 rating)|
|Passing touchdowns||Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (31 TDs)|
|Passing yards||Drew Brees, New Orleans (4,418 yards)|
|Pass receptions||Andre Johnson, Houston (103 catches)|
|Pass receiving yards||Chad Johnson, Cincinnati (1,369 yards)|
|Punt returns||Adam "Pacman" Jones, Tennessee (12.9 average yards)|
|Kickoff returns||Justin Miller, New York Jets (28.3 average yards)|
|Interceptions||Asante Samuel, New England and Champ Bailey, Denver (10)|
|Punting||Mat McBriar, Dallas (48.2 average yards)|
|Sacks||Shawne Merriman, San Diego (17)|
|Most Valuable Player||LaDainian Tomlinson, running back, San Diego Chargers|
|Coach of the Year||Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints|
|Offensive Player of the Year||LaDainian Tomlinson, running back, San Diego Chargers|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Jason Taylor, defensive end, Miami Dolphins|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||Vince Young, quarterback, Tennessee Titans|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||DeMeco Ryans, linebacker, Houston Texans|
|NFL Comeback Player of the Year||Chad Pennington, quarterback, New York Jets|
|Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year||LaDainian Tomlinson, running back, San Diego Chargers and||Drew Brees, quarterback, New Orleans Saints|
|Super Bowl Most Valuable Player||Peyton Manning, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts|
|Quarterback||Drew Brees, New Orleans|
|Running back||LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego|
Larry Johnson, Kansas City
|Fullback||Lorenzo Neal, San Diego|
|Wide receiver||Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis|
Chad Johnson, Cincinnati
|Tight end||Antonio Gates, San Diego|
|Offensive tackle||Willie Anderson, Cincinnati|
Jammal Brown, New Orleans
|Offensive guard||Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh|
Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia
|Center||Olin Kreutz, Chicago|
|Defensive end||Jason Taylor, Miami|
Julius Peppers, Carolina
|Defensive tackle||Jamal Williams, San Diego|
Kevin Williams, Minnesota
|Outside linebacker||Shawne Merriman, San Diego|
Adalius Thomas, Baltimore
|Inside linebacker||Brian Urlacher, Chicago|
Zach Thomas, Miami
|Cornerback||Champ Bailey, Denver|
Rashean Mathis, Jacksonville
|Safety||Brian Dawkins, Philadelphia|
Ed Reed, Baltimore
|Kicker||Robbie Gould, Chicago|
|Punter||Brian Moorman, Buffalo|
|Kick returner||Devin Hester, Chicago|
Through week 11 of the season, all NFL games had been sold out, and for the 24th time, all blackout restrictions had been lifted. The streak was ended by the Jacksonville at Buffalo game in Week 12.
This was the first season that NBC held the rights to televise Sunday Night Football, becoming the beneficiaries by negotiating the new flexible-scheduling system (it also marked the network's return to carrying NFL games since the end of the 1997 season). ESPN became the new home of Monday Night Football. Disney-owned corporate sibling ABC had lost millions of dollars on televising MNF during the late 1990s and 2000s despite generating high ratings, and with the NFL wanting Sunday night to be the new night for its marquee game, ABC preferred to protect its Desperate Housewives franchise rather than move the comedy-drama show to another night. By September 2006, ABC began using the ESPN on ABC brand after ABC Sports was fully integrated into ESPN (ABC would not air NFL games again, whether exclusive or a simulcast from ESPN, until they began simulcasting a Wild Card playoff game in 2016, and began simulcasting select MNF games in 2020). Meanwhile, CBS and Fox renewed their television contracts to the AFC and the NFC packages, respectively. ESPN's new deal was for eight seasons through 2013, while the new agreements with NBC, CBS, and Fox were initially for six seasons through 2011.
Initially, NBC was able to hire color commentator John Madden, MNF lead producer Fred Gaudelli, and MNF director Drew Esocoff from ABC. However, play-by-play announcer Al Michaels remained under contract with ABC/ESPN, and plans were originally for him to be teamed with Joe Theismann, who would be coming over from ESPN Sunday Night Football. In February 2006, the two networks' parent companies, The Walt Disney Company and NBCUniversal, agreed to a multi-asset trade that, among others, allowed Michaels to sign with NBC, while Disney took ownership of the intellectual property of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (a cartoon character developed by Walt Disney himself in the 1920s) from NBCUniversal. ESPN then opted to go with Mike Tirico on play-by-play, and Theismann and Tony Kornheiser as analysts.
For its new pregame show Football Night in America, NBC gained the exclusive rights from ESPN's NFL Primetime to show extensive highlights of Sunday afternoon games prior to Sunday Night Football. ESPN responded by moving its show to Mondays. Bob Costas became the host of Football Night in America, while Cris Collinsworth, Jerome Bettis, and Sterling Sharpe became its studio analysts.
The league-owned NFL Network was given an eight-game package, consisting of five Thursday Night Football games and three Saturday game that began airing from Thanksgiving to the end of the regular season. The NFL Network hired HBO Sports' Bryant Gumbel as play-by-play announcer, NBC's Collinsworth as the color commentator for the Thursday telecasts, and Dick Vermeil replacing Collinsworth for Saturday telecasts.
James Brown moved from Fox to CBS, replacing Greg Gumbel as host of The NFL Today. Gumbel then replaced Dick Enberg as the network's #2 play-by-play announcer, and Enberg was demoted to #3.
Fox announced that Joe Buck would replace Brown as lead host on Fox NFL Sunday. Because Buck was already serving as Fox's lead play-by-play announcer, the pregame show was primarily broadcast from the site where Buck was calling the game, and Curt Menefee hosted the halftime and postgame segments. Menefee substituted for Buck as the full-time host when Buck was calling the Major League Baseball playoffs.
Beginning this season and continuing until 2012; CBS would not use sideline reporters for regular season coverage.
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