Dec 28, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) returns to the locker room following a 20-6 victory against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL in 2014 — for better or worse — has been a memorable year. From the Seattle Seahawks winning their first Super Bowl title to the domestic violence scourge, there have been no shortage of storylines the past 365 days. [ Join FanDuel’s $1.75M Wild Card fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 14,530 teams paid ] Here’s a month-by-month look at the stories that resonated the most: JANUARY The Seahawks started their Super Bowl run with home wins over the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers — each exciting, one-score games, with the NFC championship game capped by a Richard Sherman tip that led to the game-ending interception and an interview (“Crabtree!!”) with Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews that few will forget. The Seahawks would go on to demolish Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in XLVIII, the first Bowl played in the New York area. (It happened on February 2, but work with us here.) Russell Wilson became a household name, and the Seahawks’ defense rose to prominence as one of the finest units the NFL has seen in recent years. FEBRUARY On the eve of the NFL scouting combine, reports emerged of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his wife at an Atlantic City hotel, leading to team officials meeting with Rice and trying to unravel a story that would linger for months. The other big story was the announcement of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who told the NFL world he is gay. Although Sam is currently out of the league, the story resonated through the league as a historic and fascinating moment. MARCH Two strange stories commanded the league’s attention. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving, with police finding multiple prescription drugs and a large amount of cash inside his vehicle and Irsay having failed a roadside sobriety test. At the end of the month, the NFL — and several celebrities — descended on College Station, Texas, for the pro day of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who put on a show while wearing his helmet with rock music blaring throughout in a workout that few league observers could remember the likes of. Former president George H.W. Bush, former first lady Barbara Bush and their dog appeared to enjoy the performance. APRIL Typically one of the quieter months, this past April was no different. But there were two very interesting speedsters who left their longtime digs for greener pastures. Or, more aptly, they weren’t welcomed back to their old homes. The departure of DeSean Jackson to the Washington Redskins was for more green, aka money, than the Eagles — who released Jackson for what they said were “football reasons” — were willing to pay. The move ended up hurting the Eagles, who missed the postseason, than it did help the Redskins. But the only green Chris Johnson saw was on his uniform. The self-proclaimed NFL’s fastest man added little to a New York Jets offense that eventually would phase him out fairly quickly, at least as a feature back. His former team, the Tennessee Titans, didn’t appear to miss him, but they did finish even worse off than the Jets at 2-14.  MAY In an NFL draft that will go down as one of the more interesting in recent memory, an exciting first round kicked off with the pick of Jadeveon Clowney to the Houston Texans, was sandwiched by the semi-slide of Manziel (who ended up with the Cleveland Browns after their slew of trades) and was capped by the trade-up pick of Teddy Bridgewater to the Minnesota Vikings. Two days later, in one of the more meaningful third days of the draft anyone can remember, the St. Louis Rams made Sam — the first openly gay prospect in league history — the 249th pick in the draft. JUNE The death of longtime Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, 82, who ran the team from 1969-91 and led the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships, resonated through the football world. Noll was the quiet, guiding voice behind one of the true NFL dynasties with the “Steel Curtain” teams of the 1970s, and he left the game with an impeccable coaching mark of 209-156-1. Asked in 2007 by Sports Illustrated how he wanted to be remembered, Noll said: “A person who could adapt to a world of constant change. But most of all as a teacher.” That was indeed his legacy.  JULY After being embroiled in a bitter contract dispute that saw him shackled with a franchise tag he wanted no part of, Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints came to an agreement on a contract extension for four years and $40 million, including $21 million guaranteed. The deal came right at the deadline of when the two sides could work out a new deal, and it ended the debate — tight end or receiver? — of what position Graham really played, per the parameters of the franchise designation and his role in the Saints’ offense. AUGUST In late March, beloved Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson died, and the league honored the franchise and Wilson at the Pro Football Hall Of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, with a Bills-centric celebration that saw the induction of wide receiver Andre Reed and the appearance of a weak, but newly cancer-free Jim Kelly. The rest of the month celebrated the return of football, but it seemed there were daily reports coming out of Berea, Ohio, on the quarterback battle for the Cleveland Browns: Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer. Hoyer would win the job and keep it for most of the season, playing well at times but slowing down at the end and giving way to Manziel late in the season. Manziel struggled in the preseason for the most part, and he was not great when he got his regular-season chance, making a lot of that hype feel quite empty now. SEPTEMBER In a week unlike any other in NFL history, domestic abuse came to the forefront of the league and put commissioner Roger Goodell squarely in the public crosshairs. The video of the Rice incident emerged, and three other NFL players — Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer — were charged with domestic abuse crimes. In addition, San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald was investigated in his own domestic violence case, as the issue in the NFL became front-page news and Goodell took heat for how the NFL was handling the cases. Rice’s two-game suspension (which later was increased to an indefinite one) drew the ire of people across the nation. In the league’s biggest game this month — and perhaps one of the more fascinating battles of the season — the upstart Dallas Cowboys shocked the Seahawks with an eye-opening 30-23 victory that was more dominant than the score indicated.  OCTOBER Earning chants of “Brady, Brady!” in a week unlike any he has experience in New England, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led a 43-17 demolishing of the previously unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5. Brady completed 23-of-35 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns, one of them to Rob Gronkowski, who would start to regain his form as the dominant tight end in the NFL. The Patriots’ victory kicked off a seven-game win streak, and 10 wins in their next 11 games, to clinch another division title and the top seed in the AFC playoffs. NOVEMBER New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. kicked off his torching of the NFL with his — and the league’s — signature on-field moment of the season. Beckham made a catch that defied belief and set the internet on fire: a Gumbi-like, one-handed (really two-fingered) grab in the Week 12 game against the Cowboys. It was the play of the year, kick-starting Beckham’s unbelievable statistical achievement in Year 1 in the league. DECEMBER The Seahawks, Patriots, Packers and Broncos all earned top-two seeds and first-round byes but did so in almost anticlimactic fashion. Meanwhile, a few of the wildcard teams got into the derby in stranger fashion. The Arizona Cardinals, who started the season 9-1, slumped down the stretch following quarterback injuries and limped in. The Carolina Panthers, who went two months without winning a game, shockingly swiped the NFC South crown. And the Cowboys, often mocked as December failures, grabbed the steer by the horns and stole the NFC East from the Eagles in a tremendous season. As always, Black Monday is a dark day on the NFL calendar, and 2014 was no different. Dec. 29 marked the firing of four NFL head coaches, but none were bigger than the departure of Jim Harbaugh from the San Francisco 49ers. The tension between the successful Harbaugh and the management duo of owner Jed York and GM Trent Baalke grew seemingly each day and month from the offseason reports that the two sides were reaching the point of irreconcilable differences. Two other franchises — the Chicago Bears and New York Jets — fired both their head coach and general manager, as the Rex Ryan era in New York came to a foreseeable end.  – – – – – – – Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

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