The year featured its usual array of the exciting (the Giants beat the Patriots in another classic Super Bowl), the fantastic (the play of rookie QBs Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson), the disagreeable (Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano and Giants counterpart Tom Coughlin arguing about strategy) and the tragic (Eagles coach Andy Reid's son overdosing on heroin and Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown being killed in a car accident). While some of these moments were stunning, they all failed to make this year's top five NFL stories of 2012. – By Jason Cole (Yahoo! Sports)
No. 5: Jovan Belcher murder/suicide – One of the ugliest off-field incidents in the history of the game hit the Chiefs on Dec. 1. Belcher, an undrafted free agent linebacker from Maine in his fourth year in the league, first killed his girlfriend and mother of his three-month-old daughter, shooting her nine times. He then took his own life by putting a gun to his head in front of coaches Romeo Crennel and Gary Gibbs and GM Scott Pioli in front of the Chiefs complex. Belcher's tragic loss of his senses led to all sorts of discussions about gun control, relationship issues and mental health. Afterward, several players turned in guns.
No. 4: Junior Seau and suicide in the NFL – The rash of suicides among former NFL players and the perceived link between them and head trauma associated with football came into its sharpest focus on May 2 when Junior Seau took his own life. He was roundly considered one of the happiest, most proud and seemingly care-free men to play in the NFL, having logged 20 seasons in the league. Almost everyone in the NFL had a favorite story to tell about Seau, and New England's Bill Belichick, the last man to coach Seau, was among those who attended his funeral. Sadly, Seau died before he could be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his death may have an even larger effect on pushing safety in the game.
No. 3: New Orleans Saints bounty scandal – Oh, those wacky Saints and their three years of shenanigans under coach Sean Payton and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. From the time that the NFL announced its finding in March, this story never went away, which is an obscenely dumb outcome, all things considered. While it's impossible to get into all of the particulars of the story, the point is: The Saints were wrong by not ending the program after the 2009 season when the NFL investigated them originally. At the same time, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went way too far in penalizing the players, most of which had little or nothing to do with actually administering the bounty program.
No. 2: Replacement refs fiasco – The NFL spent the entire offseason, all of training camp and the first three weeks of the regular season haggling with its locked out officials over what seemed like very little money. The real reason was a complicated pension issue the league is trying to get around. Finally, after the replacement refs were blamed for everything from Green Bay losing to Seattle (and leading to Yahoo's Michael Silver famous exchange with fellow Cal grad Aaron Rodgers) to unrest in the Middle East and global warming (it was a busy three weeks), the NFL capitulated to the veteran officials. Good thing, otherwise we might have lost even more time from the first St. Louis-San Francisco game.
No. 1: Peyton Manning changes places … and pushes Tim Tebow out – Manning's wild saga has dominated the entire year in the NFL. The issues/questions were deep and far-reaching, starting with whether he would ever play again. Next was what would the Colts do, where would Manning sign once Indy let him go, what would the Broncos do with Tebow after they signed Manning, how would Tebow work with incumbent starter Mark Sanchez after being traded to the Jets and how would Manning play. Now we're asking: Will Manning win his fifth NFL MVP award, lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl and where will Tebow play next year?
What is YOUR top NFL story of 2012? Tell us below.