2002 NFL season

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2002 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 5 – December 30, 2002
Start dateJanuary 4, 2003
AFC Champions Oakland Raiders
NFC Champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl XXXVII
DateJanuary 26, 2003
Site Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 2, 2003
Site Aloha Stadium
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NFC teams: Yellow ffff00 pog.svg West, Blue pog.svg North, Red pog.svg South, White pog.svg East

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


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 Tampa Bay when they defeated Oakland 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 realignment

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 Walsh Culpepper Birk.JPEG
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 movement


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 Draft

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 changes

The 2002-03 AFC Champion Oakland Raiders playing at home against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 28, 2002 Oakland Raiders 24, Kansas City Chiefs 0, 2002, by Ken Lund.jpg
The 2002–03 AFC Champion Oakland Raiders playing at home against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 28, 2002

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

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 Deaths

Final regular season standings



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 36Jan 19 – Network Associates Coliseum
    2 Tennessee 34*
    Jan 4 – Giants Stadium 2Tennessee24
    Jan 12 – Network Associates Coliseum
    5 Indianapolis 0AFC Championship
    4NY Jets10
    4 NY Jets 41Jan 26 – Qualcomm Stadium
    1 Oakland 30
    Wild Card playoffs
    Divisional playoffs
    Jan 5 – Candlestick Park A1Oakland21
    Jan 12 – Raymond James Stadium
    N2Tampa Bay48
    5 NY Giants 38 Super Bowl XXXVII
    4San Francisco6
    4 San Francisco 39Jan 19 – Veterans Stadium
    2 Tampa Bay 31
    Jan 4 – Lambeau Field 2Tampa Bay27
    Jan 11 – Veterans Stadium
    6 Atlanta 27NFC Championship
    3 Green Bay 7
    1 Philadelphia 20

    * Indicates overtime victory


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

    RecordPlayer/teamDate/opponentPrevious 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, DallasOctober 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, gameSeattle (32) vs. Kansas City (32) [64 total]November 24Tied by 2 games (62 total)
    Fewest fumbles by a team, seasonKansas City (7)N/ACleveland, 1959 (8)
    Fewest fumbles lost by a team, seasonKansas City (2)N/ATied by 2 teams (3)
    Most punts by a team, seasonHouston (116)N/AChicago, 1981 (114)

    Statistical leaders


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


    ScoringPriest Holmes, Kansas City (144 points)
    TouchdownsPriest 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 yardsMarvin Harrison, Indianapolis (1,722)
    Punt returnsJimmy 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 changes

    Stadium changes

    New uniforms

    Reebok becomes official provider

    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 changes

    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.


    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.

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