2002 NFL season

The 2002 NFL season was the 83rd regular season of the National Football League (NFL).

2002 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 5 – December 30, 2002
Start dateJanuary 4, 2003
AFC ChampionsOakland Raiders
NFC ChampionsTampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl XXXVII
DateJanuary 26, 2003
SiteQualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
ChampionsTampa Bay Buccaneers
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 2, 2003
SiteAloha Stadium
2002 NFL season is located in the United States
AFC teams: Yellow ffff00 pog.svg West, Blue pog.svg North, Red pog.svg South, White pog.svg East
2002 NFL season is located in the United States
NFC teams: Yellow ffff00 pog.svg West, Blue pog.svg North, Red pog.svg South, White pog.svg East

The league went back to an even number of teams with the addition of the Houston Texans; the league has remained static with 32 teams since. The clubs were realigned into eight divisions, four teams in each. Also, the Chicago Bears played their home games in 2002 in Champaign, Illinois at Memorial Stadium because of the reconstruction of Soldier Field.

The NFL title was won by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they defeated the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California on January 26, 2003. It would be the last Super Bowl held in January and the last to be hosted in San Diego.

Expansion and realignmentEdit

With the Houston Texans joining the NFL, the teams were realigned into eight divisions: four teams in each division and four divisions in each conference. The league tried to maintain historical rivalries from the old alignment while organizing the teams geographically. Legally, three teams from the AFC Central (Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh) were required to be in the same division as part of any realignment proposals; this was part of the NFL's settlement with the city of Cleveland in the wake of the 1995 Cleveland Browns relocation controversy.[1]

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the eventual Super Bowl winners, hosting the Minnesota Vikings in week 9

The major changes were:[2][3]

Additionally, the arrival of the Texans meant that the league could return to its pre-1999 scheduling format in which no team received a bye during the first three weeks or last seven weeks of the season. From 1999 to 2001, at least one team sat out each week (including the preseason) because of an odd number of teams in the league (this also happened in 1960, 1966, and other years wherein the league had an odd number of teams). It nearly became problematic during the previous season due to the September 11 attacks, since the San Diego Chargers had their bye week during that week and the league considered cancelling that week's slate of games before ultimately rescheduling them after Week 17.

The league also introduced a new eight-year scheduling rotation designed so that all teams will play each other at least twice during those eight years, and play in every other team's stadium at least once. Under scheduling formulas in use from 1978 to 2001, there were several instances of two teams in different divisions going over 15 seasons without playing each other.[4][note 1] Under the new scheduling formula, only two of a team's games each season are based on the previous season's record, down from four under the previous system. All teams play four interconference games. An analysis of win percentages in 2008 showed a statistical trend upwards for top teams since this change; the top team each year then averaged 14.2 wins, versus 13.4 previously.[5][citation needed]

The playoff format was also modified from the one first used in 1990: the number of playoff teams remained the same at 12, but four division winners and two wild cards from each conference advanced to the playoffs, instead of three division winners and three wild cards. In each conference, the division winners were now seeded 1 through 4, and the wild cards were seeded 5 and 6. The only way a wild card team could host a playoff game was if both teams in the conference's championship game were wild cards. This 2002 revised format lasted until 2019. In 2020, the number of playoff teams expanded to 14, and the number of wild card teams went back to three.

Player movementEdit


The 2002 NFL Draft was held from April 20 to 21, 2002 at New York City's Theater at Madison Square Garden. With the first pick, the Houston Texans selected quarterback David Carr from Fresno State University.

Expansion DraftEdit

The 2002 NFL expansion draft was held on February 18, 2002. 155 players were left unprotected by their teams for the Houston Texans to select to fill their initial roster. With the first overall pick, the Texans selected offensive tackle Tony Boselli from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Major rule changesEdit

  • A player who touches a pylon remains in-bounds until any part of his body touches the ground out-of-bounds.
  • Continuing-action fouls now become dead-ball fouls and will result in the loss of down and distance.
  • Any dead-ball penalties by the offense after they have made the line to gain will result in a loss of 15 yards and a new first down. Previously, the 15 yard penalty was enforced but the down was replayed.
The 2002–03 AFC Champion Oakland Raiders playing at home against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 28, 2002
  • The act of batting and stripping the ball from a player is officially legal.
  • Chop-blocks are illegal on kicking plays.
  • Hitting a quarterback helmet-to-helmet anytime after a change of possession is illegal.
  • After a kickoff, the game clock will start when the ball is touched legally in the field of play. Previously, the clock started immediately when the ball was kicked.
  • Inside the final two minutes of a half/overtime, the game clock will not stop when the player who originally takes the snap is tackled behind the line of scrimmage (i.e. sacked).

Also, with the opening of the NFL's first stadium with a retractable roof, Reliant Stadium, the following rules were enacted:

  • The home team must determine whether their retractable roof is to be opened or closed 90 minutes before kickoff (regular season only; in the playoffs, the NFL determines whether the roof is open or closed).
  • If it is closed at kickoff, it cannot be reopened during the game.
  • If it is open at kickoff, it cannot be closed during the game unless the weather conditions become severe.

This rule was amended in 2015 to allow a roof to be opened or closed at halftime, at the home team's discretion.[6]

2002 DeathsEdit

  • Johnny Unitas who died on September 11, 2002 from a heart attack. On Week 2 of the season each game played held a moment of silence pre-game tribute to Unitas.
  • Dick "Night Train" Lane
  • Mike Webster
  • Al Lerner owner of the Cleveland Browns passed away during the 2002 season the Browns wore a patch on their uniforms to commemorate Lerner.

Final regular season standingsEdit


  • N.Y. Jets finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on a better record in common games (8–4 to 7–5) and Miami based on better division record (4–2 to 2–4).
  • New England finished ahead of Miami in the AFC East based on better division record (4–2 to 2–4).
  • Cleveland clinched the AFC 6 seed instead of Denver or New England based on better conference record (7–5 to Denver's 5–7 and New England's 6–6).
  • Oakland clinched the AFC 1 seed instead of Tennessee based on a head-to-head victory.
  • San Diego finished ahead of Kansas City in the AFC West based on better division record (3–3 to 2–4).
  • Philadelphia clinched the NFC 1 seed instead of Green Bay or Tampa Bay based on better conference record (11–1 to Green Bay's 9–3 and Tampa Bay's 9–3).
  • Tampa Bay clinched the NFC 2 seed instead of Green Bay on a head-to-head victory.
  • St. Louis finished ahead of Seattle in the NFC West based on better division record (4–2 to 2–4).


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.[7]

Playoff seeds
1 Oakland Raiders (West winner) Philadelphia Eagles (East winner)
2 Tennessee Titans (South winner) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (South winner)
3 Pittsburgh Steelers (North winner) Green Bay Packers (North winner)
4 New York Jets (East winner) San Francisco 49ers (West winner)
5 Indianapolis Colts (wild card) New York Giants (wild card)
6 Cleveland Browns (wild card) Atlanta Falcons (wild card)


Jan 5 – Heinz Field Jan 11 – The Coliseum
6 Cleveland 33
3 Pittsburgh 31
3 Pittsburgh 36 Jan 19 – Network Associates Coliseum
2 Tennessee 34*
Jan 4 – Giants Stadium 2 Tennessee 24
Jan 12 – Network Associates Coliseum
1 Oakland 41
5 Indianapolis 0 AFC Championship
4 NY Jets 10
4 NY Jets 41 Jan 26 – Qualcomm Stadium
1 Oakland 30
Wild Card playoffs
Divisional playoffs
Jan 5 – Candlestick Park A1 Oakland 21
Jan 12 – Raymond James Stadium
N2 Tampa Bay 48
5 NY Giants 38 Super Bowl XXXVII
4 San Francisco 6
4 San Francisco 39 Jan 19 – Veterans Stadium
2 Tampa Bay 31
Jan 4 – Lambeau Field 2 Tampa Bay 27
Jan 11 – Veterans Stadium
1 Philadelphia 10
6 Atlanta 27 NFC Championship
6 Atlanta 6
3 Green Bay 7
1 Philadelphia 20

* Indicates overtime victory


The following teams and players set all-time NFL records during the season:

Record Player/team Date/opponent Previous record holder[8]
Most pass receptions, season Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (143) December 29, vs. Jacksonville Herman Moore, Detroit, 1995 (123)
Longest return of a missed field goal Chris McAlister, Baltimore (107 yards) September 30, vs. Denver Aaron Glenn, N.Y. Jets vs. Indianapolis, November 15, 1998 (104)
Yards from scrimmage, career Jerry Rice, Oakland (21,284) September 29, vs. Tennessee Walter Payton, 1975–1987 (21,264)
Most rushing yards gained, career Emmitt Smith, Dallas October 27, vs. Seattle Walter Payton, 1975–1987 (16,726)
Most rushing yards by a quarterback, game Michael Vick, Atlanta (173) December 1 vs. Minnesota Tobin Rote, Green Bay vs. Chicago, November 18, 1951 (150)
Most first downs by both teams, game Seattle (32) vs. Kansas City (32) [64 total] November 24 Tied by 2 games (62 total)
Fewest fumbles by a team, season Kansas City (7) N/A Cleveland, 1959 (8)
Fewest fumbles lost by a team, season Kansas City (2) N/A Tied by 2 teams (3)
Most punts by a team, season Houston (116) N/A Chicago, 1981 (114)

Statistical leadersEdit


Points scored Kansas City Chiefs (467)
Total yards gained Oakland Raiders (6,237)
Yards rushing Minnesota Vikings (2,507)
Yards passing Oakland Raiders (4,475)
Fewest points allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (196)
Fewest total yards allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4,044)
Fewest rushing yards allowed Pittsburgh Steelers (1,375)
Fewest passing yards allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2,490)


Scoring Priest Holmes, Kansas City (144 points)
Touchdowns Priest Holmes, Kansas City (24 TDs)
Most field goals made Martin Gramatica, Tampa Bay (32 FGs)
Rushing Ricky Williams, Miami (1,853 yards)
Passing Rich Gannon, Oakland Raiders (4,689 yards)
Passing touchdowns Tom Brady, New England (28 TDs)
Pass receiving Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (143 catches)
Pass receiving yards Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (1,722)
Punt returns Jimmy Williams, San Francisco (16.8 average yards)
Kickoff returns MarTay Jenkins, Arizona (28.0 average yards)
Interceptions Brian Kelly, Tampa Bay (8)
Punting Todd Sauerbrun, Carolina (45.5 average yards)
Sacks Jason Taylor, Miami (18.5)


Most Valuable Player Rich Gannon, quarterback, Oakland
Coach of the Year Andy Reid, Philadelphia
Offensive Player of the Year Priest Holmes, running back, Kansas City
Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks, linebacker, Tampa Bay
Offensive Rookie of the Year Clinton Portis, running back, Denver
Defensive Rookie of the Year Julius Peppers, defensive end, Carolina
NFL Comeback Player of the Year Tommy Maddox, quarterback, Pittsburgh
Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Troy Vincent, cornerback, Philadelphia
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Dexter Jackson, safety, Tampa Bay

Coaching changesEdit

Stadium changesEdit

New uniformsEdit

Reebok becomes official providerEdit

Reebok took over the contract to be the official athletic supplier to the NFL for all 32 teams’ uniforms. Previously, all teams had individual contracts with athletic suppliers. American Needle, which had a contract with a few teams before the Reebok deal, challenged the NFL in court over Reebok's exclusive deal, with the NFL effectively stating that it was a “single-entity league” instead of a group consisting of various owners. The case eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2009, the Supreme Court agreed to hear American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League. In 2010, the court ruled that the NFL is not a single entity.[9] Reebok remained the league's athletic supplier through the 2011 NFL season, when Nike took over the contract for the 2012 NFL season.[10]

Reebok had initially announced when the deal was signed in 2000 that aside from the expansion Texans, all NFL teams would be wearing new uniforms for the 2002 season. However, after protests from several owners—most vocally Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney[11]—Reebok later rescinded the proposal. Reebok did, however (by player request to reduce holding calls), shorten the sleeves on the jerseys for teams that hadn't done so already (most players had been for the previous decade tying the sleeves tight around their arms to prevent holding) and made the jerseys tighter-fitting. This is perhaps most noticeable on the Indianapolis Colts jerseys, where the shoulder stripes, which initially went from the top of the shoulders all the way underneath the arms, were truncated to just the top portion of the shoulders.

Uniform changesEdit

Although Reebok rescinded the idea of all NFL teams wearing new uniforms for the 2002 season, the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks did redesign their uniforms, with the Seahawks also unveiling an updated logo in honor of their move to Seahawks Stadium and the NFC.

  • The Arizona Cardinals wore white pants with white jerseys for two games, and red pants with red jerseys for one game. It was the first time they wore all-white since 1989, and first time they ever wore all-red.
  • The Buffalo Bills introduced new uniforms featuring, among others, a darker shade of blue, nickel gray as an accent color, and red side panels on both the home and away jerseys
  • The Carolina Panthers added blue third alternate uniforms
  • The Cleveland Browns added orange third alternate uniforms
  • The Denver Broncos added orange third alternate uniforms
  • The Houston Texans expansion team introduced dark blue helmets; dark blue and white jerseys, both with red trim; and white pants to be worn with the blue jerseys and blue pants with the white jerseys. The new helmet logo features a bull head colored and shaped in such a way to resemble the flag of Texas and the state of Texas.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars added black third alternate uniforms, and introduced new black pants with home uniforms for selected games.
  • The New Orleans Saints returned to wearing gold pants with their black jerseys, and with their white jerseys for selected games. They introduced a gold alternate jersey but only wore it for one game (week 15 vs. Minnesota).
  • The New York Jets began wearing green pants with either their green or white jerseys
  • The San Diego Chargers switched back to navy pants with white jerseys, also brought back throwback powder blue uniforms for one game.
  • The Seattle Seahawks introduced new uniforms featuring, among others, a lighter "Seahawks Blue", a darker "Seahawks Navy" and lime green piping. The helmet was changed from silver to the darker navy color. The helmet logo was also modified, re-colored accordingly to the new team colors, and the eyebrows and eyes redrawn to make it a more aggressive bird.
  • The St. Louis Rams removed the side panels from their jerseys.
  • The Washington Redskins introduced replicas of their 1960s design as a third alternate uniform.


This was the fifth year under the league's eight-year broadcast contracts with ABC, CBS, Fox, and ESPN to televise Monday Night Football, the AFC package, the NFC package, and Sunday Night Football, respectively.

This was the first season since 1980 without a Pat SummerallJohn Madden lead broadcast team. Although Summerall had previously announced his retirement as a full-time NFL broadcaster after the 2001 season ended, he continued to call selected games for Fox in 2002. Meanwhile, ABC hired Madden from Fox to join Al Michaels in a two-man booth, dropping the network's experiment with Micheals, Dan Fouts, and comedian Dennis Miller on MNF.

Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Cris Collinsworth replaced Summerall and Madden as Fox's new lead broadcast team. The network opted to leave Dick Stockton and Daryl Johnston as Fox's #2 team in a two-man booth, and not find a replacement for Aikman there. To replace Collinsworth on Fox NFL Sunday, the network initially used a rotating series of guest analysts before Jimmy Johnson took over the seat permanently midway through the season.

Boomer Esiason and Dan Marino joined The NFL Today as analysts, while Randy Cross went back to color commentating for CBS, Mike Ditka left the program, and Jerry Glanville was a reserve color commentator from 2002-2003.


  1. ^ In the most extreme cases, the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs did not play from 1973 through 1991, the New York Jets and St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals did not play from 1979 through 1995, the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants did not play from 1973 through 1989, the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not play from 1978 through 1993, and the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos only played one time from 1976 through 1997. Additionally, while the Buffalo Bills played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seven times between 1976 and 2001, all seven of those games were played in Tampa.

External linksEdit


  1. ^ Murray, Ken (May 21, 2001). "Nfl Vote On Realignment Nears". Hartford Courant. Archived from the original on November 8, 2016. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  2. ^ "Realignment for 2002". National Football League. May 23, 2001. Archived from the original on December 26, 2016. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  3. ^ Mason, Andrew (May 23, 2001). "Old faces, new places". National Football League. Archived from the original on June 5, 2001. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  4. ^ Urena, Ivan; Pro Football Schedules: A Complete Historical Guide from 1933 to the Present, pp. 17-18 ISBN 0786473517
  5. ^ "16–0: The Myth of Perfection". The Fount. Archived from the original on February 7, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2008.
  6. ^ Cardinals among teams to benefit from new roof rule
  7. ^ "NFL Playoff Procedures and Tiebreakers". Yahoo! Sports. December 31, 2006. Archived from the original on January 10, 2010.
  8. ^ "Records". 2005 NFL Record and Fact Book. NFL. 2005. ISBN 978-1-932994-36-0.
  9. ^ "American Needle Supreme Court Ruling: NFL Loses Lawsuit". Huffington Post. May 24, 2010. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
  10. ^ "Nike strikes uniform deal with NFL". ESPN.com. Associated Press. October 12, 2010. Archived from the original on June 10, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  11. ^ Bouchette, Ed; Dulac, Gerry (December 25, 2000). "Steelers Report: 12/25/00". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on November 26, 2010. Retrieved September 1, 2008.