During the 2015 season, the Oakland Raiders, the St. Louis Rams, and the San Diego Chargers announced their intentions to relocate back to Los Angeles in the ensuing off-season (all three teams had previously resided in the city at various points in their history). NFL owners eventually only approved the relocation of the Rams, by a vote of 30–2 on January 12, 2016. Thus, 2015 ended up being the Rams' last season in St. Louis.
The 2015 NFL League Year began on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, March 7, clubs started to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who became unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 10. On Tuesday, March 10, 2015, clubs exercised options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts, submitted qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation, submitted a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit, "Top-51" began, all clubs must be under the 2015 salary cap, all 2014 player contracts expired at 4:00 p.m. ET and trading period for 2015 began. (4:00 p.m. ET).
A total of 453 players were eligible for some form of free agency at the beginning of the free agency period. Among the players who changed teams via free agency included:
RefereeBill Leavy retired after the 2014 season. On May 13, 2015, the NFL promoted line judge John Hussey to the referee position. In addition to Hussey's promotion to referee, the NFL hired 10 more officials, including the first full-time female official in NFL history, Sarah Thomas, who will work as a line judge,[note 1] as well as Walt Coleman IV, the son of referee Walt Coleman, who will work as a side judge.
The following rule changes were passed for the 2015 NFL season at the owners' meeting on March 25, 2015:
Allow a certified medical trainer to call a medical time-out when a player appears disoriented or concussed. This time-out is not to be charged to the team whose player is injured, even inside the two-minute warning. The only substitution allowed is for the injured player and for a single player from the opposing team to match up.
The 'process' rule on making a catch while going to the ground is adjusted. A receiver will be considered to have made a catch if they "clearly establish themselves as a runner" before going to the ground. Previously a receiver had to make a "football move".
The following changes to the extra point rules were passed for the 2015 NFL season at the owners' meeting on May 19, 2015:
The line of scrimmage for extra point tries will move to the 15-yard line from the two-yard line. Two-point conversions will still be spotted at the two-yard line.
Defenses will be allowed to return turnovers on two-point tries or blocked or missed PAT kicks to the opposing end zone for two points, mirroring the NCAA College football rule adopted in the 1988 season. Furthermore, a one-point safety can now also be scored if either team takes possession and fumbles out of their own end zone or is tackled in it after leaving it.
The following changes to game ball protocol were passed for the 2015 NFL season on July 27, 2015:
There will be increased testing, oversight and security surrounding the balls. At random games, officials will measure the PSI of 24 footballs at halftime. Two officials, instead of only the referee, will measure and record the inflation of footballs before the game. These changes were made in response to the "deflategate" scandal.
The following people associated with the NFL (or AFL) died in 2015.
Ed Sabol died on February 9 at age 98. Sabol founded NFL Films in 1962 where he pioneered a documentary style of capturing the game of football that many credit as a driver of the huge surge in the NFL's popularity. Sabol was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Garo Yepremian died on May 15 at age 70. Yepremian had a fourteen-year career as a placekicker for four NFL teams, most notably with the Miami Dolphins of the 1970s. He was twice named a first-team All-Pro and was a member of two Pro Bowl teams as well as a 2-time Super Bowl champion. He led the league in field goal accuracy three times and was named to the 1970s All-Decade Team.
Training camps for the 2015 season began July 22 and continued through the end of preseason, September 3. The normal training camp window ran from late July to late August or early September. Most of the camps had rookies report first, then veterans. At that point, some teams practiced versus another organization, like the Bills practiced against the Browns this year. Teams started training camp no earlier than fifteen days before the team's first scheduled preseason game. At that point, the rosters for each team were open to 90 players. Those rosters were cut to 75 by Week 3 of preseason, and the final 53-man roster was submitted at the end of preseason.
Prior to the start of the regular season, each team played at least four exhibition games. The preseason schedule got underway with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Sunday evening, August 9. The Hall of Fame game is a traditional part of the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend celebrating new Hall of Fame members. It was played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium which is located adjacent to the Hall of Fame building in Canton, Ohio. The game, which was televised in the U.S. on NBC, featured the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers; as in previous years, each team had an inductee in the class of 2015 (Mick Tingelhoff for the Vikings, Jerome Bettis for the Steelers). The 65-game preseason schedule ended on Thursday, September 3, a week before the start of the regular season, with each team having played four preseason games, except for the Steelers and Vikings, who played five games. The preliminary preseason schedule was released Thursday, April 9.
The 2015 regular season featured 256 games played out over a seventeen-week schedule which began on the Thursday night following Labor Day. Each of the league's 32 teams played a 16-game schedule with one bye week for each team scheduled between weeks four and eleven. The slate also featured seventeen games on Monday night, two of which were played at the end of the first week of the regular season. Additionally, there was no Monday Night game at the end of the final week of the regular season, the same as in previous years. There were games played on Thursday, including the opening game of the regular season on Thursday, September 10 and three games on Thanksgiving Day. The regular season concluded with a full slate of 16 games on Sunday, January 3, all of which were intra-divisional matchups, as it has been since 2010, with the Minnesota Vikings beating the Green Bay Packers on NBC Sunday Night Football
Under the NFL's scheduling formula, each team plays each of the other three teams in their own division twice (one home and one away). In addition, a team plays against all four teams in one other division within the conference, on a 3-year rotation; and one division from the opposite conference, on a 4-year rotation. Two games on a team's schedule are against the two teams in the team's own conference in the divisions the team was not set to play who finished the previous season in the same rank in their division (e.g. the team which finished first in its division the previous season would play each other team in their conference that also finished first in its respective division). The pre-set division pairings for 2015 are as follows:
Thanksgiving Day games: These games occurred on Thursday, November 26, 2015. For the second consecutive season, the AFC was shut out of Thanksgiving, with all six slots going to NFC teams. As usual, three consecutive games were played; the Detroit hosted the Philadelphia in the early slot on Fox and the Dallas hosted the Carolina in the middle slot on CBS; this was the Panthers' first ever Thanksgiving appearance. The Green Bay hosted the Chicago in the primetime game, where the Packers retired longtime quarterback Brett Favre's No. 4 jersey.
Christmas: The Oakland hosted the San Diego at 8:25 p.m. EST (5:25 p.m. local time) on December 24, Christmas Eve. This was the second ever night game on Christmas Eve (the first was in 2007, which was also played in the Pacific Time Zone) and the first time the league has played on a Thursday Christmas Eve. The league has traditionally avoided playing night games on Christmas Eve and, in years past, moved games that would usually play on the night of Christmas Eve to another day of the week, an option the league did not exercise in 2015; no games were held on Christmas Day, which fell on a Friday, in 2015 as the NFL rarely plays games on that day of the week.
Week 13: The Carolina–New Orleans game, originally scheduled at 1:00 p.m. ET, was moved to 4:25 p.m. ET (still on Fox), while the Cincinnati–Cleveland game was "cross-flexed" from CBS to Fox (still at 1:00 p.m. ET).
Week 14: The New England–Houston game, originally scheduled at 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS, was flexed into the 8:30 p.m. ET slot on NBC's Sunday Night Football, in place of the originally scheduled Seattle–Baltimore game, which was moved to 1:00 p.m. ET on Fox.
Week 15: The Arizona–Philadelphia game, originally scheduled at 1:00 p.m. ET on Fox, was flexed into the 8:30 p.m. ET slot on NBC's Sunday Night Football, in place of the originally scheduled Cincinnati–San Francisco game, which was moved to 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS, while the Buffalo–Washington game was "cross-flexed" from CBS to Fox (still at 1:00 p.m. ET).
Week 16: The New York Giants–Minnesota game, originally scheduled at 1:00 p.m. ET on Fox, was flexed into the 8:30 p.m. ET slot on NBC's Sunday Night Football, in place of the originally scheduled Pittsburgh–Baltimore game, which was moved to 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS, while the Indianapolis–Miami game was "cross-flexed" from CBS to Fox (still at 1:00 p.m. ET). In addition, the Jacksonville-New Orelans game was moved from 1:00 p.m. ET to 4:05 p.m. ET (still on CBS).
The Minnesota–Green Bay game, originally scheduled at 1:00 p.m. ET on Fox, was selected as the final 8:30 p.m. ET NBC Sunday Night Football game of the season, which decided the NFC North division champion.
The Baltimore–Cincinnati game, originally scheduled at 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS, was "cross-flexed" to Fox (keeping the same kickoff time).
The Tampa Bay–Carolina game, originally scheduled at 1:00 p.m. ET on Fox, was moved to 4:25 p.m. ET (still on Fox).
The Oakland–Kansas City game, originally scheduled at 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS, was "cross-flexed" to 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox.
The St. Louis–San Francisco game, originally scheduled at 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox, was "cross-flexed" to CBS (keeping the same kickoff time).
^ abcDenver finished ahead of New England and Cincinnati for the No. 1 seed based on head-to-head sweep. New England finished ahead of Cincinnati for the No. 2 seed based on record vs. common opponents — New England's cumulative record against Buffalo, Denver, Houston and Pittsburgh was 4–1, while Cincinnati's cumulative record against the same four teams was 2–3.
^ abPittsburgh finished ahead of the New York Jets for the No. 6 seed and qualified for the last playoff spot based on record vs. common opponents — Pittsburgh's cumulative record against Cleveland, Indianapolis, New England and Oakland was 4–1, while the Jets' cumulative record against the same four teams was 3–2.
^ abBuffalo finished ahead of Indianapolis based on head-to-head victory.
^ abJacksonville finished ahead of Baltimore based on head-to-head victory.
^ abCleveland finished ahead of Tennessee based on head-to-head victory.
^When breaking ties for three or more teams under the NFL's rules, they are first broken within divisions, then comparing only the highest ranked remaining team from each division.
^ abGreen Bay finished ahead of Seattle based on head-to-head victory.
^ abcdSt. Louis and Detroit finished ahead of Philadelphia and New Orleans based on conference record. St. Louis finished ahead of Detroit based on head-to-head victory. Detroit finished ahead of Philadelphia and New Orleans based on head-to-head sweep, while Philadelphia finished ahead of New Orleans based on head-to-head victory.
^ abcThe New York Giants and Chicago each finished ahead of Tampa Bay based on head-to-head victory, while the Giants finished ahead of Chicago based on conference record.
^When breaking ties for three or more teams under the NFL's rules, they are first broken within divisions, then comparing only the highest ranked remaining team from each division.
The 2015 playoffs opened with the Wild Card playoff round on the weekend of Saturday, January 9 and Sunday, January 10, 2016, with the winner of each of the games visiting the top two seeded teams in each conference. The Divisional round games were then played on the weekend of Saturday, January 16 and Sunday, January 17, 2016. The Conference championships were held on Sunday, January 24, 2016 with the AFC Championship Game and the NFC Championship Game.
Super Bowl 50 decided the 2015 NFL Champion and was played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Sunday, February 7, 2016. Instead of naming it Super Bowl L with Roman numerals like in previous Super Bowls, this game was marketed with the Arabic numeral "50". According to Jaime Weston, the league's vice president of brand and creative, the primary reason was that the league's graphic designers had difficulty designing a suitable, aesthetically pleasing logo with only the Roman numeral "L".
In May, after a lengthy investigation led by Ted Wells, the external investigator appointed by the NFL, the league levied its punishment against the Patriots in the so-called "Deflategate" scandal. The scandal stemmed from the discovery that several of the footballs used by the Patriots during the previous season's AFC championship game were not within the league's inflation guidelines. The Patriots were fined $1 million and stripped of their first-round selection in the 2016 NFL draft and their fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL draft. Quarterback Tom Brady, who the league's report determined was likely aware of a scheme to manipulate inflation levels, was suspended for four games. Additionally, two locker room attendants employed by the Patriots were suspended indefinitely.
While the team agreed not to appeal the fine and draft pick revocation, Brady appealed his suspension. League commissioner Roger Goodell heard the appeal and confirmed the sentence on July 28. Immediately upon the announcement of the appeal verdict, the league filed suit against the NFL Players Association in civil court in an effort to gain a ruling upholding the punishment. Judge Richard M. Berman pushed the two sides hard to reach a settlement, but when they were unable to he ruled for Brady and the union vacating the suspension imposed by the league. Although the league appealed Judge Berman's ruling, Brady's suspension was lifted clearing the way for him to play in the season opener.
The two Patriots employees, assistant equipment manager John Jastremski and officials locker room attendant Jim McNally, who had previously been suspended by the team were allowed by the league to be reinstated in September. As a condition for the lifting of the suspensions, neither employee is allowed to be involved with the handling or preparation of game balls.
Willis, who was regarded as one of the best middle linebackers in the league, played in just six games in 2014 as he dealt with a toe injury. He announced in March his decision to retire at age 30 due to the chronic nature of the foot injuries he had endured in his eight-year career.
Borland led the 49ers with 107 tackles in his rookie season in 2014 despite starting just eight games after being selected in the third round of the 2014 draft. Borland cited concerns over the potential long-term impact to his brain health in continuing to play the game in announcing his retirement which he did in March just days after Willis' announcement.
Davis missed four games in 2014 with his first diagnosed concussion. In announcing his retirement in June, he said that he planned to take "a year or so away from the NFL" to "allow my brain and body a chance to heal."
Worilds was entering free agency after playing for the Steelers the previous five seasons. He turned down contract offers worth tens of millions of dollars in order to devote more time to his Jehovah's Witnesses faith.
Locker played four years for the Titans after they made him the eighth overall selection in 2011 draft. He was a free agent when he announced that he would be retiring because he had lost "the burning desire necessary to play the game for a living."
First female coach and on-field official
The 2015 season marked the hiring of the first female NFL coach and first female NFL on-field official. Jen Welter was hired by the Arizona Cardinals as a coaching intern. Welter worked with the team's inside linebackers through the off-season and pre-season. Welter's internship with the Cardinals expired after the team's third preseason game on August 30.
Sarah Thomas became the NFL's first female on-field official when she was hired by the league in April.[note 1] Thomas had previously become the first female to officiate a major college football game as well as the first to officiate a bowl game.
Official suspended one game due to timekeeping gaffe
The NFL suspended side judge Rob Vernatchi (from Pete Morelli's crew) for Week 6 of the regular season due to a timekeeping blunder that occurred during a game the previous week. The host San Diego Chargers kicked a field goal to take a 3-point lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers with 2:56 remaining in the fourth quarter. The subsequent kickoff was a touchback, which shouldn't have resulted in any time coming off the game clock. However, when the Steelers took over on offense the scoreboard clock read 2:38. Vernatchi was responsible for keeping the official game time, but he did not notice the 18-second discrepancy. The Steelers ended up scoring a touchdown to secure a win with no time left on the clock.
Referee crew demoted following questionable calls
The referee crew led by Pete Morelli had been assigned to officiate a Sunday Night Football game between the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13, but was reassigned to a different game (Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots), due to heavy criticism for questionable calls made during the previous week's Arizona Cardinals–San Francisco 49ers game. Morelli's crew drew the ire of Cardinals' head coach Bruce Arians and 49ers' safety Eric Reed, including a botched roughing-the-passer call on Cardinals' quarterback Carson Palmer that aided the Cardinals' eventual game-winning drive, as well as a missed delay-of-game penalty. Morelli's crew had previously been the subject of criticism, following a clock error during a Week 5 game – see above. In addition, Morelli's crew was involved in a missed call at the end of the Jacksonville Jaguars–Baltimore Ravens game in Week 10, where they missed a false start penalty against the Jaguars before the final snap that resulted in a facemask penalty against the Ravens when time expired, allowing the Jaguars to gain 15 yards and kick the game-winning field goal.
Discipline for off-field incidents
A total of 26 players were suspended by the league as of the season's first week. Most of these suspensions were for violations of the league's performance-enhancing drug (PED), substance abuse and personal conduct policies.
Browns GM suspended for texting scandal
Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer was suspended by the league for the first four games of the 2015 season due to a texting scandal which occurred in 2014. The league found that Farmer had used a cellphone to communicate with personnel on the Browns' sideline "on multiple occasions during games" in violation of league rules which prohibit such communications. In addition to Farmer's suspension, the team was assessed a fine of $250,000.
Falcons stripped of draft pick after being caught supplementing crowd noise
The league stripped the Atlanta Falcons of their selection in the fifth round of the 2016 draft after it was determined that they had been using pre-recorded crowd noise during the team's home games throughout 2013 and into 2014. In addition to losing the draft pick the franchise was fined $350,000 and team president Rich McKay was suspended from his post as chairman of the league's Competition Committee for three months starting in April. The team fired event marketing director Roddy White who they determined was directly responsible for the violation.
Bills suspend assistant coach Aaron Kromer after assault arrest
Buffalo Bills offensive line coach Aaron Kromer was suspended by the team for the first six weeks of the season after he was arrested for an altercation during which Kromer allegedly punched a teenager. The incident occurred in July near Kromer's home in Florida. Charges in the matter were eventually dropped.
Browns assistant coach Andy Moeller suspended following an alleged domestic incident
Cleveland Browns offensive line coach Andy Moeller was suspended indefinitely by the Browns in September after in incident in which police were called to Moeller's house after a female houseguest alleged that Moeller physically assaulted her. Prosecutors declined to press charges related to the incident despite their conclusion that "it is quite clear an incident of volatile nature took place." On September 29, 2015, the Browns officially parted ways with Moeller.
Marcus Mariota became the first quarterback in NFL history to gain a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his NFL debut and the first quarterback in NFL history to throw four TD passes in the first half of his NFL debut. He also became the youngest quarterback to gain a perfect passer rating (21 years, 318 days) surpassing Robert Griffin III.
Devonta Freeman became the first player in the Super Bowl era to rush for at least seven touchdowns in his first three starts to begin a career.
Antonio Gates caught his 100th receiving touchdown and became the ninth player and second tight end to reach this mark in NFL history.
Peyton Manning surpassed Brett Favre as the NFL's all-time leader in combined regular season and postseason passing yards.
Aaron Rodgers became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30,000 yards, needing only 3,652 attempts to reach the mark.
Five teams (the Panthers, Packers, Broncos, Bengals, and Patriots) started the season 6–0, setting a new NFL record for most teams to start a season 6–0 or better.
Ryan Tannehill set the NFL record for consecutive completed passes with 25, completing his first 18 passes his Week 7 game and the final seven of his previous game.
Tom Brady became the fifth quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 55,000 yards.
In a game between the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints, the two teams combined for 13 touchdown passes, setting a new NFL record for the most combined passing touchdowns between both teams in a single game. The Saints defeated the Giants, 52–49. Drew Brees became the eighth quarterback to throw seven TD passes in a single game and Eli Manning became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw six TD passes with no interceptions but lose the game. Brees also joined Ben Roethlisberger as one of only two quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for at least 500 yards in a game at least twice in a career. The combined score of 101 points was, at the time, the third highest scoring game in NFL history (although it has since moved to the fourth highest scoring game). In addition, the Giants' 49 points tied the NFL record for the most points scored by a losing team (with the Houston Oilers).
The Detroit Lions' away win over the Green Bay Packers snapped the Lions' 24-game losing streak at Lambeau Field (both regular season and postseason games), which was the longest away losing streak by one NFL team against another team in NFL history.
The Green Bay Packers became the second franchise in NFL history to record 750 total wins, including playoff victories, joining the Chicago Bears as the only teams to reach this mark.
Matthew Stafford became the fastest player to reach 25,000 yards as he reached this milestone in his 90th career game, which broke the record of 92 that was set by Dan Marino.
Russell Wilson became the first quarterback in NFL history to have at least a 138.5 QB rating in four straight games.
Russell Wilson became the first quarterback in NFL history to have at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions in five straight games.
Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards and pass for at least 300 yards with five touchdowns in a single game.
Tom Brady became the second quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 35 touchdown passes in a season four times, joining Peyton Manning.
Drew Brees became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to reach at least 60,000 regular season passing yards, joining Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Dan Marino. Brees became both the youngest and fastest quarterback to reach this mark in NFL history. Brees also set new NFL records for most consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards (ten straight seasons) and most regular season games with at least 300 passing yards in a career (94 games).
Antonio Brown set a new NFL record for the most receptions by any player in any three consecutive seasons in NFL history (355 receptions), breaking Marvin Harrison's record of 354 receptions during the 2000–02 seasons.
The Kansas City Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to follow up a five-game losing streak with an eight-game winning streak.
Brandon Marshall reached 100 catches for an NFL record sixth season. He also became the first Jets player to reach 100 catches in a season.
In their loss to the St. Louis Rams, the Seattle Seahawks never gained a lead at any time, which ended their NFL record streak of 70 consecutive games (both regular season and playoff games) in which they had held a lead at any point during a game. This was the first time that the Seahawks failed to gain a lead at any point during a game since the final week of the 2011 season.
Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and score at least eight rushing touchdowns in a season.
Antonio Brown became the second player in NFL history to record 1,600 receiving yards in back to back seasons, joining Calvin Johnson, who accomplished the feat in 2011–12. Brown also became the second player in NFL history to record 120 catches in back to back seasons, joining Cris Carter (1994–95).
As of the end of week 16, the New Orleans Saints had surrendered 43 total passing touchdowns during the season, setting a new NFL record for most passing touchdowns surrendered during a season.
Kirk Cousins finished the season posting the highest completion percentage (74.7) in home games in NFL history, with a minimum of 100 attempts.
Russell Wilson became the first quarterback in NFL history to have 4,000 or more passing yards, 30 or more passing touchdowns, and 500 or more rushing yards in the same season.
Antonio Brown set an NFL record of 265 receptions over the last two NFL seasons and became the first wide receiver in NFL history to record at least 1,700 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back seasons.
Frank Gore became the 15th player in NFL history to reach 12,000 career rushing yards.
Drew Brees finished the season with 4,870 passing yards, his NFL-record sixth consecutive season with at least 4,500 yards. Brees has seven career 4,500-yard passing seasons, the most in NFL history. Brees also led the league in passing for the sixth time in his career, setting an NFL record for most seasons leading the league, breaking the record of five that was shared by Sonny Jurgensen and Dan Marino. In addition, Brees tied Tom Brady for third most all-time regular season passing touchdowns after Brady failed to throw a TD pass during the Patriots' loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Eleven different quarterbacks passed for 30 or more touchdowns setting an NFL single season record. The previous record was nine quarterbacks set in 2014.
This game was the first ever Super Bowl in which both starting quarterbacks were No. 1 overall picks in an NFL draft; Peyton Manning was selected with the first overall pick in 1998Cam Newton was selected with the first overall pick in 2011. This game was also the first Super Bowl to feature the top two overall picks from the same NFL draft on opposing teams; Newton and Broncos' linebacker Von Miller were selected first and second overall, respectively, in 2011.
Peyton Manning became the first quarterback in NFL history to record 200 combined regular season and postseason wins in a career. Manning surpassed Brett Favre (199) for the most combined regular season and postseason victories by a quarterback in a career.
Smith compiled a record of 67–50 (.573), including the postseason, in seven seasons with the Falcons. He is the only coach to lead the franchise to consecutive winning seasons and consecutive playoff berths.
Quinn, who never held a head coaching position prior to 2015, had served as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. Due to league anti-tampering rules, the Falcons had to wait until after the completion of the Seahawks' playoff run, before formally hiring Quinn.
Marrone compiled a record of 15–17 (.469) in two seasons with the Bills and resigned on December 31, 2014. His tenure was marked by the team's first winning season since 2004 but also by tensions with general manager Doug Whaley and players, especially Mike Williams, who requested a trade during the season. Marrone's contract had an opt-out clause which allowed him to resign his position within three days of the end of the season and still collect his full salary for the rest of the contract (he had one year remaining) if the team changed ownership which it did when the Bills were sold to the Pegula family in September. Marrone joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as offensive line coach.
On January 12, 2015, the Bills hired Rex Ryan as their head coach. Ryan had spent the previous six seasons as head coach of the New York Jets.
Trestman compiled a record of 13–19 (.406) in two seasons with the Bears, and had finished the 2014 season with a 5–11 record. He and general manager Phil Emery were both dismissed on December 29, 2014. Trestman then became offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.
Fox was hired on January 16, 2015 to become the head coach. Fox spent the past 4 seasons as the head coach of the Denver Broncos.
In four seasons with the Broncos, Fox compiled a record of 49–22 (.690) including postseason games, won his division all four seasons, and appeared in Super Bowl XLVIII, but was bounced from the playoffs in the divisional round the other three years. By mutual agreement, Fox left the team on January 12, 2015, following the most recent divisional playoff loss.
Kubiak was hired on January 19, 2015 to become the head coach. Kubiak, formerly head coach of the Houston Texans from 2006 to 2013, spent the past season as the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.
Ryan compiled a record of 50–52 (.490), including postseason games, in six seasons as head coach of the Jets. Ryan led the Jets to two AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two seasons, losing both, but failed to earn a winning season or playoff berth in his last four. He and general manager John Idzik, Jr. were both dismissed on December 29, 2014.
Bowles was hired on January 14, 2015, to become their head coach after serving as defensive coordinator for Arizona Cardinals since 2013; he previously served as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2011.
Allen was fired on September 29, 2014 after an 8–28 (.222) record as Raiders head coach, and an 0–4 start to the 2014 season. Allen joined the staff of the New Orleans Saints for the 2015 season.
Sparano, formerly head coach of the Miami Dolphins, finished the season as interim head coach, compiling a record of 3–9. He then became tight ends coach for the San Francisco 49ers.
Jack Del Rio was hired on January 14, 2015, to become their head coach after serving as defensive coordinator for Denver Broncos since 2012; he previously served as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003 to 2011.
Harbaugh compiled a record of 49–22–1 (.688), including postseason games, in four seasons with the 49ers, and led the team to three NFC Championship Game appearances and a berth in Super Bowl XLVII. After a mediocre 8–8 season in 2014 (the first time his team did not make the playoffs) and amid tensions between Harbaugh and the 49ers front office, Harbaugh left to become head coach at his college alma mater, the University of Michigan.
On January 14, 2015, Jim Tomsula was promoted to head coach after serving as defensive line coach with the team since 2007; it is his second time at the helm, as he previously served as the 49ers' interim head coach for one game, after Mike Singletary's firing in 2010.
Philbin compiled a record of 24–28 (.462), with no playoff appearances, in 3¼ seasons as head coach of the Dolphins. The Dolphins were expected to be contenders for a playoff position in 2015 but grossly underachieved, starting the season 1–3, which led to Philbin's firing. Campbell, the team's tight ends coach, took over for the rest of the season.
Whisenhunt compiled a record of 3–20 (.130), with no playoff appearances, in 1½ seasons as head coach of the Titans. After an impressive opening day win, the Titans lost six straight, resulting in Whisenhunt's dismissal. Mularkey, the team's tight ends coach, took over as interim head coach. Mularkey's previous head coaching experience includes two seasons with the Buffalo Bills (2004–05) and one season with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2012).
Kelly compiled a record of 26–21 (.553) in almost three years with the Eagles. He led the team to the playoffs in 2013, but lost in the Wild Card. He was fired from both his head coach and de facto general manager positions when the team, after its ninth loss of the season, was eliminated from postseason contention with one game remaining on the schedule. Shurmur, the Eagles' offensive coordinator, filled in as head coach for the team's last game; he previously coached the Cleveland Browns from 2011 to 2012.
Roseman, who served as General Manager of the Eagles from 2010 to 2014, was promoted up to Executive Vice President of Football Operations. The General Manager position Roseman leaves behind remained unfilled, and head coach Chip Kelly fulfilled the duties of that position until his Week 16 firing.
Vice President of Player Personnel Ed Marynowitz was fired alongside Head Coach Chip Kelly on December 29, 2015. Donahoe last served as president and general manager of the Buffalo Bills from 2001 to 2005 but has largely been out of football in the ten years since his firing from that position.
Roseman, who carried the title of "executive vice president of football operations" while Kelly handled general manager duties in 2015, reverted to his previous general manager duties after Kelly's firing.
Tennessee Titans' venue renamed Nissan Stadium
The stadium in Nashville where the Tennessee Titans play their home games was renamed Nissan Stadium in an agreement with automobile manufacturer Nissan. Though financial terms remain undisclosed, the naming rights deal is expected to last for twenty years. Nissan operates two plants in Tennessee and is one of middle Tennessee's largest employers. Since 2006, the facility had been branded as "LP Field," under a naming rights agreement with Nashville-based building materials manufacturer Louisiana-Pacific. This is the third name change for the venue since its 1999 opening.
NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans, converted from a natural grass field to an artificial turf field after week 1. Despite various attempts to improve field conditions, players from both the Texans and the visiting Kansas City Chiefs complained of poor field conditions in their week 1 game. The decision to convert was made 5 days later, and the turf field was installed in time for the Texans next home game against Tampa Bay in Week 3.
The team's lease at the Oakland Coliseum expired after the 2013 season, and the Raiders after that point became tenants of the Coliseum on a year-to-year basis.
On July 29, 2014, reports surfaced that the Oakland Raiders might consider relocating to San Antonio in 2015 after owner Mark Davis met with San Antonio civic leaders the week before at the encouragement of former Raider Cliff Branch, whom Davis was in town to visit for a local ceremony for Branch. The Raiders themselves acknowledged Davis being in San Antonio for the event for Branch before news broke about a possible relocation, but would not confirm nor deny that Davis also mentioned being there discussing moving his team east. Among the two existing NFL teams in Texas, Houston Texans' then-owner Bob McNair and Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones—the latter of which has San Antonio as part of his territorial rights and previously voiced support of an NFL team moving there when the New Orleans Saints temporarily played in San Antonio in 2005 due to damages to the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina – both favored an NFL team playing in San Antonio.
On September 3, 2014, the city of Oakland reached a tentative deal to build a new football stadium in Oakland, which would have resulted in the Coliseum being demolished; Davis did not respond to the proposal, which would have also forced the Oakland Athletics to build a new stadium of their own (which they did not agree to do), while Alameda County (then co-owners of the coliseum) indicated they would probably not have supported the plan. Davis, in the meantime, had team officials scout the Alamodome to determine if it would be suitable for the NFL.
On February 19, 2015, the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers announced plans for a privately financed $1.7 billion stadium that the two teams would build in Carson, California, if they were to move to the Los Angeles market. Such a move would have marked a return to the nation's second-largest market for both teams; the Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994 while the Chargers called LA home for their inaugural season in the American Football League. The Chargers were at the time the only NFL team to play in Southern California, with San Diego being a 125-mile (201 km) distance from Los Angeles and had Los Angeles as a secondary market. The Chargers had been looking to replace Qualcomm Stadium (which, like the O.co Coliseum opened in the late 1960s) since at least 2003, and had an annual out clause in which it could move in exchange for paying a fine to the city of San Diego for its remaining years on its lease.
Due to television contracts, NFL bylaws, and being in the same division if both of the longstanding division rivals moved to Los Angeles, one of the teams would have had to move to the National Football Conference and the NFC West, something that Mark Davis volunteered the Raiders to be willing to do. The Raiders' move to the National Football Conference and the NFC West would have been considered ironic because Davis's father Al Davis was a staunch opponent of the NFL during its rivalry and eventual merger with the AFL. If such a realignment had occurred, one of the existing NFC West teams would have taken their spot in the AFC West. The early rumor was that the Seattle Seahawks, who played in the AFC West from 1977 to 2001, would have been the favorite to switch conferences with the Raiders. However, that team's then growing rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers (who are assured of staying in the NFC West) pointed to either the Arizona Cardinals or the St. Louis Rams (if the latter had stayed in St. Louis) moving to the AFC West to take the Raiders' spot. If the Rams stayed in St. Louis, switching them to the AFC would have allowed for a yearly home-and-home with the cross-state Kansas City Chiefs.
On October 23, 2015, Chargers spokesperson Mark Fabiani confirmed that the team planned to officially notify the NFL about its intentions to relocate to Los Angeles in January during the timetable for when teams can request to relocate.
The Rams and the St. Louis CVC (Convention & Visitors Commission) began negotiating deals to get the Rams' home stadium, the Edward Jones Dome, into the top 25 percent of stadiums in the league (i.e., top eight teams of the thirty-two NFL teams in reference to luxury boxes, amenities and overall fan experience). Under the terms of the lease agreement, the St. Louis CVC was required to make modifications to the Edward Jones Dome in 2005. However, then-owner Georgia Frontiere waived the provision in exchange for cash that served as a penalty for the city's noncompliance. The City of St. Louis, in subsequent years, made changes to the scoreboard and increased the natural lighting by replacing panels with windows, although the overall feel remained dark. The minor renovations which totaled about $70 million did not bring the stadium within the specifications required under the lease agreement.
On February 1, 2013, an arbitrator (3 panel) selected to preside over the arbitration process found that the Edward Jones Dome was not in the top 25% of all NFL venues as required under the terms of the lease agreement between the Rams and the CVC. The arbitrator further found that the estimated $700 million in proposed renovations by the Rams was not unreasonable given the terms of the lease agreement. Finally, the City of St. Louis was Ordered to pay the Rams attorneys' fees which totaled a reported $2 million.
Publicly, city, county and state officials expressed no interest in providing further funding to the Edward Jones Dome in light of those entities, as well as taxpayers, continuing to owe approximately $300 million more on that facility. As such, if a resolution was not reached by the end of the 2014–15 NFL season and the City of St. Louis remained non-compliant in its obligations under the lease agreement, the Rams were free to nullify their lease and relocate.
On January 31, 2014, both the Los Angeles Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Rams owner Stan Kroenke had purchased 60 acres of land adjacent to the Forum in Inglewood, Los Angeles County, California. It was, by the most conservative estimates, sufficient land on which an NFL-proper stadium could be constructed. The purchase price was rumored to have been US$90–100 million. Commissioner Roger Goodell represented that Kroenke informed the league of the purchase. As an NFL owner, any purchase of land in which a potential stadium could be built must be disclosed to the league. This development further fueled rumors that the Rams intended to return its management and football operations to Southern California. The land was initially targeted for a Walmart Supercenter but Walmart could not get the necessary permits to build the center. Kroenke is married to Ann Walton Kroenke, who is a member of the Walton family and many of Kroenke's real estate deals have involved Walmart properties. On January 5, 2015, The Los Angeles Times reported that Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and Stockbridge Capital Group were partnering to develop a new NFL stadium owned by Kroenke. The project included a stadium of up to 80,000 seats and a performance venue of 6,000 seats while reconfiguring the previously approved Hollywood Park plan for up to 890,000 square feet of retail, 780,000 square feet of office space, 2,500 new residential units, a 300-room hotel and 25 acres of public parks, playgrounds, open space and pedestrian and bicycle access. In lieu of this the city of St. Louis responded on January 9, 2015, by unveiling an outdoor, open-air, riverfront stadium that could accommodate the Rams and an MLS team with the hopes that the NFL bylaws would force them to stay. On February 24, 2015, the Inglewood City Council approved the stadium and the initiative with construction on the stadium beginning in December 2015.
With the Chargers, Raiders and Rams proposing their own stadiums as part of their Los Angeles relocation contingency plans, the proposed Farmers Field project was permanently scrapped in March 2015. Farmers Field was a proposal from Anschutz Entertainment Group to lure an NFL team to Los Angeles by promising a new stadium, but AEG placed restrictions on any relocation that the rest of the league found unacceptable, and the project had lain dormant since 2012.
Super Bowl 50 promotion
To mark the 50thSuper Bowl, various gold-themed promotions and initiatives were held during the 2015 season, including gold-tinted logos across all NFL properties, the numbering of the 50-yard line on fields being painted in gold, sideline jackets and hats featuring gold-trimmed logos from week 7 onward, and Pro Bowl jersey designs incorporating gold numbering. Gold footballs were given to each high school that has had a player or coach appear in the Super Bowl, and "homecoming" events were held by teams at games.
Through their first two home games, the Oakland Raiders declined to participate in the use of gold paint to mark the 50-yard line. On September 22, Sports Business Daily reported that NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy stated it was because the Oakland Athletics were still playing at the O.co Coliseum (the only stadium that is still shared by both an NFL team and a Major League Baseball team, which forces the Raiders to play on its dirt infield until the baseball season concludes), but the Coliseum's General Manager Chris Wright responded by saying that the Raiders told him not to apply the gold marks for the remaining regular season games. One day later, Raiders owner Mark Davis confirmed that the gold markings would be used after the conclusion of the Athletics season, boasting that because they had appeared in five of them, "nobody respects the Super Bowl more than Raiders".
New uniforms and patches
After it had been leaked months before by the Packers that both teams were allowed to wear their colored jerseys for Thursday Night Football contests, on October 30, 2015, the NFL announced "Color Rush," a series of four Thursday contests in which all eight teams will wear one-time, specially designed and monochromatic alternate uniforms. The Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans wore their regular alternate uniforms (with the Panthers debuting "Carolina blue" pants), while the Dallas Cowboys revived their white "Double Star" uniforms from the mid-1990s (while debuting white pants) and the St. Louis Rams wore a gold version of their 1973–99 throwbacks for the games. The other four teams involved (Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) wore all-new uniforms for the games. The November 12 game between the Bills and Jets was particularly problematic, with the Bills' all-red uniforms (the first time the team has ever worn a red jersey on the field) and the Jets' kelly green outfits being indistinguishable to those with color blindness.
The Cleveland Browns unveiled new uniforms on April 14, 2015. There are three jersey colors and three pants colors: orange, brown, and white, allowing for nine possible uniform combinations. The uniforms have "Cleveland" above the numbers on the front, "Browns" down the leg, and "Dawg Pound" inside the collar. The uniforms are the first in the NFL to utilize contrast stitching and chainmail/raised numbers. The city name in front and team name down the leg are also NFL firsts. On February 24, the Browns slightly tweaked their logo. The orange on their helmet is brighter and the facemask, which was gray, is now brown. The team also updated their secondary logo.
The San Francisco 49ers unveiled a new black alternate uniform on May 1, 2015. The jerseys have red numerals with matching black pants. This is the first alternate uniform in the team's history. In addition, the 49ers sported a helmet decal and lapel pin honoring Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bob St. Clair who died in April; the decal had St. Clair's number 79 in white inside a black football shape.
The Tennessee Titans switched their primary colored jerseys from light "Titans Blue" to navy blue, the latter of which was the team's primary home jersey color from 1999 to 2007.
The Green Bay Packers unveiled a new throwback uniform on July 28, 2015. The design features the same layout the Packers used between 1937 and 1949, and again in 1994. Like the previous 1920s-inspired throwbacks, the base colors will be brown, navy blue and yellow.
The Miami Dolphins unveiled a new throwback uniform to commemorate the team's 50th season on July 29, 2015. The uniform is a throwback to the Dolphins' inaugural season in 1966. The team also wore a patch celebrating the anniversary during the entirety of the season.
The Baltimore Ravens wore a patch to commemorate the team's 20th season. On December 20, 2015, the team also unexpectedly debuted gold pants for the first time, wearing them with their regular purple jerseys against the Kansas City Chiefs. Although gold is an official accent color of the Ravens, the pants got an overwhelmingly negative response on social media by both Ravens fans and fans of other NFL teams, with some comparisons being made to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers pants.
This was the second season under the league's broadcast contracts with its television partners. On May 12, 2015, it was announced that ABC would simulcast ESPN's wildcard game, marking the first time that ABC broadcast any NFL game in nearly 10 years. ESPN also continued to carry Monday Night Football and the Pro Bowl. NBC continued to air Sunday Night Football, the annual Kickoff game, and the primetime Thanksgiving game. This was also the second year that included "cross-flexing" (switching) Sunday afternoon games between CBS and Fox before or during the season, regardless of whether the visiting team is in the AFC (which CBS normally airs) or the NFC (which is normally carried by Fox).
After its successful inaugural season under the arrangement, the NFL extended CBS's contract for Thursday Night Football into the 2015 season; as with the previous season, CBS produced all games, and the first seven games (weeks 2-7), as well as week 13, were broadcast by the CBS network. All games, including those not aired by CBS, were broadcast by NFL Network. The package also included one Saturday game in Week 15 and one in Week 16, both exclusive to NFL Network
On March 23, 2015, league owners voted to, as an experiment, suspend the NFL's blackout rules for the 2015 season; no games were blacked out in their home markets because of insufficient ticket sales. These moves came after the Federal Communications Commission's September 2014 decision to stop enforcing blackout rules on terrestrial television stations, and the fact that, ultimately, no games were blacked out at all during the 2014 season.
The NFL also experimented with online streaming as part of the International Series game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills. The game was streamed worldwide by Yahoo!, who handled hosting, promotion, and advertising sales for the stream, while CBS produced the telecast. The game only aired on television in the team's home markets (in accordance with NFL policies), as well as in the United Kingdom on BBC Two and Sky Sports, and in China.Brian Rolapp, the league's executive vice president of media, explained that the experiment was part of the NFL's efforts to attempt alternative distribution models for games, such as those that would appeal to viewers who do not subscribe to pay television. Yahoo! was reported to have paid $15 million for the rights fees, plus an additional $2 million "marketing fee," and beat out Amazon.com, Twitter, and YouTube—some of whom had made higher bids but would have planned to place the broadcast behind a paywall, which the league resisted.