RERUNS: Resimulating NFL History, Episode 6: The 2016-17 NFL Season

I love living in the past and I love drowning in hypotheticals. My favorite thing to explore is the butterfly effect of every individual moment and explore what could happen if certain events never transpired. As such, I thought it would be a fun exercise to run the NFL back to a point in time before everything we know and love about the league today had a chance to come to fruition. But in order to do that, I had to use the ultimate prognosticator in the business: old-ass versions of Madden.

That’s right, we are rerunning the NFL of the last decade. No Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes, no Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan and most importantly, no Bill O’Brien running the Texans.

I placed the NFL timeline back to the 2011-12 season for a couple reasons. For one, it resets virtually every one of the league’s top quarterbacks, creating a massive amount of variance, but Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are both already Super Bowl champions in this timeline and trending towards Hall of Fame resumes. But the more significant reason is that Madden 12 is the earliest version of the game I owned. So yes, we are rolling back to XBOX 360 for these simulations. Going back far but not too far to a reasonably advanced system offers a lot of potential futures, but also some logic with regards to player progression and roster moves. I am not sure how far down the road I will be simming, but plan on it at least bringing us to present day.

Up next, the 2016-17 NFL season.

Past Results

2011-12 Super Bowl Champs: Chargers

2012-13 Super Bowl Champs: Steelers

2013-14 Super Bowl Champs: Falcons

2014-15 Super Bowl Champs: Raiders

2015-16 Super Bowl Champs: Chiefs

2016-17 NFL Results

Sim Result Real Life Result
NFL MVP Cody Beasley Matt Ryan
OPOY Zack Bruening Matt Ryan
DPOY Asante Samuel Khalil Mack
OROY Marquee Cargill Dak Prescott
DROY Albert Wallace Joey Bosa
Coach of Year Douglas Franklin (Rams) Jason Garrett
Best Record Rams (13-2-1) Patriots (14-2)
AFC Champ Patriots Patriots
NFC Champ Packers Falcons
SB Champ Packers Patriots
Top Passer Cody Beasley (4,494) Drew Brees (5,208)
Top Rusher LaCraig Calloway (1,568) Ezekiel Elliott (1,631)
Top Receiver Parker Dunkley (1,303) T.Y. Hilton (1,448)
Sack Leader Aldon Smith (18.5) Vic Beasley (15.5)
Int. Leader Asante Samuel (11) Casey Hayward

The Sim Season

Coaching Changes

NE: Rod Wilson takes over for fake Bill Belichick

NYJ: Randy Gruber takes over for Rex Ryan

SF: Josh Moore takes over for Jim Harbaugh


  • Charles Tillman
  • Robert Gallery
  • David Akers
  • Matt Birk
  • Adrian Wilson
  • Michael Turner
  • Shaun Rogers
  • James Harrison
  • Andrew Whitworth
  • Todd Heap
  • Bryant McKinnie

Roster Moves

NFL teams have officially lost their minds. Teams are paying out the wazoo to acquire broken down quarterbacks while they have award winners, Super Bowl champions and top-five picks at the position on their rosters already. The Texans dumped reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year Matt Schaub in favor of Tony Romo, for example.

  • Broncos sign Jordy Nelson
  • Chargers sign Nick Barnett
  • Colts sign said defending Super Bowl champion quarterback Matt Cassel
  • Colts also sign Marques Colston, Mike Williams
  • Cowboys sign Glover Quin
  • Dolphins sign Eli Manning — with two recent top-10-drafted QBs on the roster. WTF are the Dolphins doing?
  • Dolphins also sign Tommy Kelly, Brandon Albert
  • Falcons sign Matt Forte, Chris Harris, Pierre Garcon, Shaun O’Hara, Leon Hall, Tramon Williams, Roman Harper, Marcus Gilbert
  • 49ers sign Santonio Holmes, Paul Soliai, Sam Baker
  • Giants sign Matt Schaub, Wes Welker, Tyson Clabo, Quinton Carter
  • Jets sign Eric Weddle, Jay Ratliff, Joe Staley
  • Rams sign Kyle Williams
  • Saints sign Dareon Patrick (fifth-year DT, 80 overall)
  • Seahawks sign Brett Keisel
  • Steelers sign Richard Seymour, Lamar Woodley, Osi Umenyiora
  • Texans sign Tony Romo
  • Vikings sign Vernon Carey


Pass catchers dominated the top five as the league is getting inundated with mediocre young quarterbacks. To give them the best chance, the bottom of the league is trying to compensate with top receiving talent.

Top-Five Picks

  • Jaguars take WR Nagui Lynch, Oregon State
  • Cowboys take CB Devrin Sheehan, Texas Tech
  • 49ers take TE Charlston Sanders, Tennessee
  • Broncos take WR Jimmy Jefferson, Oklahoma State
  • Jets take LT Khaynin Reese, Miami

The first quarterback off the board was A.C. Clark who went seventh overall to the Eagles. Out of East Carolina, Clark brings small school representation to the top of the draft, not unlike how Carson Wentz did in the real 2016 draft. The only other quarterback to go in the first was LSU’s Chase Roberts, a lanky passer with a fauxhawk and a chinstrap. He was selected by the Titans, who have now taken a quarterback in the first round three times in five drafts.

Clark, who is a 76 in year 1, was beaten out by Kip Booth a 2015 second-rounder who is a 79. Roberts is also a 76 and is well behind 2014 first-rounder Trevor Clark, an 86. We do, however, get a day 1 starter in Jacksonville, as third-rounder Marquee Cargill beat out Blaine Gabbert, giving some new life to the Jaguars. Cargill is a scrambler with 89 speed, so perhaps a new dimension will be coming to the Jags offense. He is the only rookie starter, however. And most of the league is still being controlled by mediocre aging vets — Eli Manning is starting ahead of Chandler Waslewsci and Benton Gordon, top-10 picks in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

The highest-rated rookies entering this season: 49ers TE and No. 3 pick Charlston Sanders (86), Falcons third-round C Hunter Scott (86), Vikings sixth-round DE Jackson Austin (86), Bengals fifth-round RB Jovanta Noel (85), Seahawks sixth-round RB Jordunn Jefferson (85), Bears fourth-round RB Daimone Diggs (85), Panthers fourth-round FS Caddarreus Clements (85). No. 1 pick Lynch is a 75, No. 2 pick Sheehan and No. 4 pick Jefferson both 83, No. 5 Reese 80.

High-Profile Free Agents Entering Season

Frank Gore and Justin Babineaux are the only players rated 80 or higher entering the season as free agents. A few of the notable free agent quarterbacks: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton and Tommy Papagianopoulos. The latter, a 2012 first-rounder, appears to be nearing the end of his career and will forever be one of the great busts of these sims.

99 Overalls

  • Tyre Myrick remains as the preeminent fictional player
  • Shamare Kirkwood (second fictional player to hit the mark, 2013 second-round C for the Titans, has yet to make a Pro Bowl)
  • Maurkice Pouncey
  • Clay Matthews

Top Teams

The Rams set the standard both by record and with their defense. They were the only team in the NFC with double-digit wins. Read that sentence again. ONE TEAM had at least 10 wins in the NFC. St. Louis was driven entirely by said defense, the only team to allow fewer than 300 points. Meanwhile, their offense was fairly strong, ranking fourth in the league, albeit with under 400 points scored.

The AFC was considerably stronger. Four teams were at least 11-5 and the Chargers topped them all with a 12-4 record and the NFL’s best offense. And Philip Rivers’ numbers were just OK, so running back LaCraig Calloway led the way for them. What a timeline we are on here.

The Patriots, Bengals and Titans were within a game of the Chargers, and the defending-champion Chiefs just a tick behind at 10-6 despite dumping Matt Cassel in favor of Edwin James, a third-year quarterback in his first year as starter.

That is not to say the AFC was without flaw. The Cassel-led Colts earned a Wild Card spot with a 7-9 record. Last year I remarked how much parity there was with 16 teams finishing between 7-9 and 9-7. This year, that number was 19, including nine 7-9 teams. Seven teams went 8-8, six of whom missed the playoffs.

Worst Teams

And like last year, with so much parity, only one team stood out as miserable. Once again, it was the Jaguars. The league’s second-worst scoring offense and defense will do that for you. Rookie third-round quarterback Marquee Cargill struggled mightily, though his bestowed accolades say differently (he was inexplicably named Rookie of the Year). So once again, the Jags have the No. 1 pick and may be in the quarterback market.

After them, the only notably bad team was Atlanta, who had the second-worst record at 5-10-1, but more surprisingly, had the league’s worst scoring offense. Matt Ryan‘s numbers were strong, Atlanta just had trouble in the red zone, sporting the league’s worst scoring percentage there.

Top Players

Passing numbers came down a bit this year. The leading passer was Oakland’s Cody Beasley with 4,494, 300 yards more than second-place Carter Murphy of the Redskins. Only three others recorded 4,000 yards. Beasley also led with 33 touchdowns, joined above the 30-touchdown mark by just five other quarterbacks. Efficiency-wise, Drew Brees led all quarterbacks, throwing 32 TDs and just five picks, but the 3,600-yard total was underwhelming at best. Minnesota’s Connor Williams finally jumped up to elite status with 25 TDs and six picks for the league’s second-highest passer rating behind only Brees. Despite Brees and Williams having more efficient seasons, Beasley was named NFL MVP due to his sheer volume advantage. Former NFL MVP Zack Bruening, however, was named Offensive Player of the Year despite fewer touchdowns and yards than Beasley plus 11 picks. It seems voters are dead set on giving this award to the fifth-most-worthy quarterback every year.

LaCraig Calloway repeated as rushing champ, though not quite as prolific as his 2,000-scrimmage-yard 2015. Still, the 2013 No. 1 pick is at least paying off as much value as a top-selected running back can, and the Chargers were in fact the best team in the AFC. Just behind Calloway was Donel Haynes, third-year back for the Jets repeating his breakout 2015. Fortunately for realism sake, they were the only two backs over 1,500 yards rushing. We did, however, go up again in 1,000-yard rushers this year with 26.

Parker Dunkley, Oakland’s 2012 first-round receiver, is putting together a Hall-of-Fame career. He made his third straight Pro Bowl, leading in receiving for the second time and also leading in touchdowns with 18. Leonard Hankerson finished just four yards behind him, but could not touch Dunkley’s touchdown total. Hankerson did, however, lead in receptions again with 111, and Tampa’s Mike Williams was just a hair back with 1,384 yards and 11 touchdowns.

On defense, Aldon Smith shook off his off-field troubles to lead the league in sacks with 18 1/2, one more than Corey Wootton‘s 18. Smith also had over 150 tackles. But veteran Asante Samuel had a huge year with 11 picks to lead all defensive backs, and he narrowly edged Smith to win Defensive Player of the Year.


Rookie Report

A 3-13 record and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. That was the season for Marquee Cargill. He had more interceptions than touchdowns (17 to 16) and the Jaguars offense was second-worst in football, but doggone it, what are they gonna do, give Rookie of the Year to Jimmy Jefferson? A receiver who had over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns? Or Donnard Russell who had 1,100 and six touchdowns? Yes, that’s exactly what should have happened. Cargill won because he was the only rookie QB to take a snap, ignoring the fact that he stunk.

Jefferson easily outpaced No. 1 pick Nagui Lynch, who probably suffered from Cargill’s poor passing. Lynch’s numbers were still decent with 746 yards and three touchdowns. No. 3 pick Charlston Sanders had excellent numbers for a tight end — 66 catches, 652 yards, four TDs — while No. 5 pick Khaynin Reese did not start a single game for the Jets.

Packers linebacker Albert Wallace won Defensive Rookie of the Year and he was deserving, in contrast to Cargill. Ten sacks, 119 tackles is a pretty great line for a second-rounder. No one else really challenged Wallace for this award. No. 2 pick Devrin Sheehan was primarily a nickelback and had three picks, but that paled in comparison to Cargill.

The Playoffs

1 Chargers (12-4) Rams (13-2-1)
2 Patriots (11-5) Packers (9-6-1)
3 Bengals (11-5) Panthers (9-7)
4 Titans (11-5) Cowboys (9-7)
5 Chiefs (10-6) Redskins (8-7-1)
6 Colts (7-9) Eagles (8-8)

Wild Card Round

Panthers defeat Eagles 20-14

Chiefs defeat Titans 23-17

Cowboys defeat Redskins 37-24

Bengals defeat Colts 20-17

All these NFC teams that played this week are bunched together in terms of records and quality. As such, no result was really going to surprise, though Dallas putting 37 on Washington was impressive. The AFC had more intrigue, particularly with the 7-9 Colts trying to upset one of the league’s best teams. Alas, the Bengals held firm to win a low-scoring affair, and the defending champs continued their run with a first-year starter.

Divisional Round

Chargers defeat Chiefs 38-31

Cowboys defeat Rams 26-20

Patriots defeat Bengals 31-14

Packers defeat Panthers 23-18

The two best teams in the AFC proved as such. New England completely hammered a great Bengals team with Tom Brady seriously outplaying Bruening start to finish. The Chargers, in kind, took it to a solid Chiefs defense, though they needed a strong fourth quarter to knock off the reigning champs.

The NFC featured closer games and serious drama, particularly with the 9-7 Cowboys taking down the top team in the NFL. With the Rams going down, we are guaranteed a single-digit-win team representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Cowboys have looked impressive in their run, but Green Bay has the best quarterback, so this should be an intriguing matchup of bad playoff teams.

Conference Championships

Patriots defeat Chargers 20-9

Packers defeat Cowboys 22-21

It took everything we had, but finally fans get to see the Super Bowl matchup we have been dreaming of for years. Rodgers vs. Brady, MTOAT vs. GOAT.

Rodgers did not have his best game, throwing for just 189 yards, but he threw a late touchdown that would have tied the game, but instead, the Packers opted to go for 2 and the win. They converted, and Dom Capers’ balls pushed the Packers through. In the AFC, Brady was better with 280 yard and two scores, but the Patriots defense carried the way against the once-juggernaut Chargers and their top-ranked offense.

Super Bowl

The first real positive alternative outcome of these reruns, we finally get to see Tom Brady take on a truly elite quarterback in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the high level of quarterbacking did not manifest itself with a shootout game. Rodgers outplayed Brady much of the way, but did not put up great numbers himself, throwing for 209 yards and two touchdowns and a 106.8 passer rating. Brady, by contrast, was abysmal with 185 yards, a touchdown and a pick with a rating below 70.

Green Bay’s offense simply controlled the clock. James Starks had a monster game, running for 168 yards and a score, and the Packers’ 200-plus rushing yards accounted for more than half their offense (which totaled 381 yards). The Patriots struggled to move the ball, finishing with 277 despite a solid line of 82 yards and a score on just 13 carries for Demetri Taylor.

Still, New England stayed with Green Bay for the entire game, and it was a complete deadlock through two quarters with neither side producing much. The score was 10-10 at the break. In the third, however, Rodgers took off, throwing a pair of touchdowns and putting the Packers up two scores heading into the final frame. Brady finally caught some life in the fourth, getting the Pats within 8 late. With two minutes left, he found the end zone for his first touchdown pass of the game, but the Patriots failed to convert the 2-point conversion and could not recover the onside kick. Green Bay burned the clock with Starks and became the first team of the modern era to win the Super Bowl after single-digit wins in the regular season (the Giants did not win the 2011-12 Super Bowl at 9-7 in this timeline). So Rodgers is now a two-time Super Bowl champ, pushing him ahead of Drew Brees in the NFL ring counter.

However, the day belonged to Starks. He took home Super Bowl MVP for igniting the Packers offense and putting the game away down the stretch. So yeah, James Starks is a key Super Bowl contributor in this timeline; make of that what you will.

Packers defeat Patriots 24-22

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