Professor Alex Marvez has a season's worth of work to check over. With the 2014 season at its end, it's time to see which teams set the curve and made the grade.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: F
The only positive in Lovie Smith’s first season as head coach was securing the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft by finishing with the league’s worst record. That will give Tampa Bay the chance to draft the franchise quarterback (cough, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, cough) the team sorely lacks.
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY SportsJason Bridge
Tennessee Titans: F
The Titans lost their final 10 games to finish with the franchise’s worst record since 1994 when still playing as the Houston Oilers. At least the Titans had the chance to evaluate rookie Zach Metteneberger as a potential franchise quarterback before he got hurt.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY SportsJim Brown
Chicago Bears: D-
A horrible defense and offensive implosion behind quarterback Jay Cutler contributed to Chicago finishing with its worst record since 2004. One of the few bright spots was Matt Forte, who set an NFL receiving record for running backs with 102 catches.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY SportsBenny Sieu
New York Jets: D-
Losing seven games by eight points or less – including two by a combined total of three points to New England -- serves as little consolation for a Jets squad that finished with its worst record since 2007.
Getty ImagesMike Ehrmann
Washington Redskins: D-
Robert Griffin III’s lack of development at quarterback -- and the public brouhaha that accompanied it -- along with a lousy defense made it a messy first season for head coach Jay Gruden.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY SportsRobert Deutsch
San Francisco 49ers: D
The team itself would get a “C” but that grade is mitigated by the “F” deserved by the front office. A dysfunctional relationship with head coach Jim Harbaugh trickled into the locker room and affected the on-field product before both sides finally parted ways following the season-finale.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
New York Giants: D
A seven-game losing streak knocked the Giants out of playoff contention before December. The best part of New York’s third consecutive season without a postseason berth was the emergence of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
Jacksonville Jaguars: D
The second year of the rebuilding process under head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell concluded with an even worse record than in 2013. The Jaguars need rookie quarterback Blake Bortles to make a significant leap next season for a chance at respectability.
Getty ImagesSam Greenwood
Oakland Raiders: D
The Raiders were the last team to win a game this season, starting 0-10. Oakland, though, heads into the offseason with a brighter future after winning its three final home games and the emergence of talented rookies like quarterback Derek Carr and outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
Getty ImagesDonald Miralle
Atlanta Falcons: D+
The Falcons survived a stretch of 52 days without a victory to remain alive in the NFC South playoff race only to blow their chance with a 34-3 home loss to Carolina. Falcons head coach Mike Smith was fired less than 24 hours later.
Getty ImagesScott Cunningham
New Orleans Saints: D+
A second-half collapse in the season-opening loss to Atlanta would prove a harbinger of the defensive problems that would plague New Orleans. The distinct home-field advantage the Saints once held also dissipated with four straight Superdome losses in November and December.
St. Louis Rams: D+
The Rams paid dearly for going all-in on Sam Bradford as their starting quarterback and not selecting a potential heir apparent early in last April’s draft. The defense wasn’t consistent enough in Gregg Williams’ first season as coordinator.
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY SportsRon Schwane
Cleveland Browns: C-
What was becoming a special season -- at least by Browns standards -- got ruined by four December losses and the failings of rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel both on the field and with his ongoing off-field immaturity.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsBob Donnan
Minnesota Vikings: C
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s development was among the most positive signs for a team that also improved as the season unfolded. The Vikings were 5-4 in their final nine games with the four losses coming by a combined total of 15 points.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsBrad Rempel
Philadelphia Eagles: C
A second straight winning season under head coach Chip Kelly is little consolation for a club that failed to defend its NFC East title or make the playoffs. The turnover-prone offense sputtered under two quarterbacks (Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez) and the secondary was too porous.
Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY SportsDerik Hamilton
Miami Dolphins: C
The Dolphins made enough progress that head coach Joe Philbin will return in 2014. For him to last beyond 2015, Miami must do a better job finishing games and improve a surprisingly average defense.
Wilfredo Lee/Associated PressWilfredo Lee
Carolina Panthers: C+
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera kept his team together through a trying season and was rewarded with an NFC South title when Carolina won its final four games, spurred by a defensive resurgence.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY SportsJeremy Brevard
Kansas City Chiefs: C+
A lack of punch in the passing game -- no wide receiver caught a touchdown all season -- helped doom the Chiefs. Outside linebacker Justin Houston did have a monster year with a league-high 22 sacks.
John Rieger-USA TODAY SportsJohn Rieger
San Diego Chargers: C+
The Chargers squandered the chance to reach the playoffs with last Sunday’s 19-7 loss at Kansas City. But just the fact San Diego was even in postseason contention despite a litany of injuries was an impressive feat in itself.
Houston Texans: B-
The Texans almost became the third consecutive team to reach the playoffs after finishing with the league’s worst record the previous year. Defensive end J.J. Watt has a legitimate chance to win NFL Most Valuable Player honors after his second straight 20-sack season.
Getty ImagesBob Levey
Buffalo Bills: B-
A 15th consecutive season without a playoff appearance isn’t reason to celebrate. But securing a winning record and fielding one of the NFL’s best defenses is reflective of progress the Bills made in 2014 under head coach Doug Marrone.
Getty ImagesBob Levey/Getty Images
Detroit Lions: B
The Lions finished with their best regular-season record since 1991 thanks largely to a defense that excelled under first-year coordinator Teryl Austin. Questions remain about whether Matt Stafford can ever become an elite quarterback after another erratic season.
Baltimore Ravens: B
In some ways, the 2014 Ravens were like the team that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Baltimore didn’t always click but hung tough to reach the playoffs for the sixth time in John Harbaugh’s seven-year coaching tenure.
Cincinnati Bengals: B
The Bengals’ play in 2014 reflects that of its quarterback Andy Dalton – erratic. Two December losses to Pittsburgh relegated the Bengals to a wild-card berth as the franchise seeks its first playoff win since 1990.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY SportsAndrew Weber
Pittsburgh Steelers: B+
Unlike this franchise’s past division winners, the 2014 Steelers were powered by their offense rather than defense. It’s still maddening that this team lost to inferior opposition like Tampa Bay and the New York Jets, which cost Pittsburgh the chance for a first-round playoff bye.
Don McPeak-USA TODAY SportsDon McPeak
Indianapolis Colts: B+
Despite fielding an unimpressive pass rush and running game, the Colts defended their AFC South crown as Andrew Luck set the franchise’s single-season passing record with 4,761 yards along with 40 touchdowns.
Getty ImagesFrederick Breedon
Arizona Cardinals: A-
Even with a roster-wide rash of injuries that felled Arizona’s top two quarterbacks (Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton), the Cardinals finished with the franchise’s first 11-win season since 1975. That speaks volumes about the job done by head coach Bruce Arians and his staff.
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY SportsSteven Bisig
Dallas Cowboys: A-
The Cowboys exorcised the ghosts of recent years with clutch play and a late-season surge. Finishing 4-0 in December and posting the NFL’s only perfect road record gives the Cowboys hope they can make a Super Bowl run despite not having a first-round bye.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Seattle Seahawks: A
After a bumpy start, the defending Super Bowl champion hit its stride. Seattle’s defense led the NFL in fewest yards and points allowed while holding five of its last six opponents without a touchdown.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY SportsJoe Nicholson
Green Bay Packers: A
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers enjoyed another MVP-caliber season but it’s Green Bay’s resurgent defense that was the most pleasant surprise as the Packers won a fourth straight NFC North title.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY SportsBenny Sieu
Denver Broncos: A
Although the Broncos weren’t nearly as dynamic offensively as last season, a sounder defense and C.J. Anderson-led rushing attack helped Denver secure the AFC’s No. 2 playoff seed and a first-round bye.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
New England Patriots: A
To say talk of New England’s demise -- as well as that of quarterback Tom Brady -- was premature is an understatement. Often a slow-starting team, the Patriots won 10 of their final 12 games to clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.