As the year winds down, we are spotlighting the various ways the NFL moved us this year. Today we present our favorite NFL written pieces. These features brought to life compelling players, explored how football intersects with life, politics and society and brought to life stories that were dripping with suspense. This list is, of course, subjective and you may surely have others that you feel belong. Please share those via any of our social media accounts.
Let’s get ready to rrrrrrrread.
(Note: This list is presented in chronological order based on publish date.)
The Search for Jackie Wallace (Ted Jackson, NOLA.com)
Photojournalist Ted Jackson brilliantly captures the troubling, twisty tale of Wallace, a former NFL cornerback who was once a New Orleans legend. Jackson’s emotional piece (full of compelling imagery) is the culmination of his tracking Wallace from the depths of cocaine addiction and homelessness to his reemergence to subsequent disappearance.
How The Eagles Won Super Bowl LII (Greg Bishop and Ben Baskin, SI)
There are plenty of great Super Bowl gamers out there, then there’s this: a reporting tour de force that expertly weaves the game action with colorful anecdotes that add refreshing depth to the key figures In the lead up to this Super Bowl (and every Super Bowl) Bishop and Baskin tag team to interview hundreds and of relevant sources in preparation for any outcome. This piece becomes a piece of art when adding in stories from Brett Favre, Vince Papale, the Foles family and so many more.
Percy Harvin Takes His Battle With Anxiety Public (Michael McKnight, SI)
The former Florida and Vikings star was known for being flashy but also for in fighting and a pattern of disturbing behavior. In this gripping piece that shines a light on mental health, Harvin tells McKnight, “I’m cool with you asking whatever you want. Failing a drug test. The fights. ’Cause it’s gonna help somebody.”
The Man, The Mouth, The Legend (Mina Kimes, ESPN)
Kimes’s Jalen Ramsey feature came on the heels of the more notorious GQ piece in which he evaluates a litany of NFL quarterbacks. But Kimes beautifully captured the essence of Ramsey and what motivates him, all while making the reader feel like they are riding alongside him milkshake in hand.
Runs in the Family (Sarah Spain, ESPN)
The story of Chiefs running back coach Deland McCullough’s search for his biological parents will leave you speechless and inspired. Spain spent months crafting this story and concurrent video feature, which is also masterful. She nailed every detail and perfectly captured the emotion. Some Hollywood executive should turn this into a feature film.
Gladiator: Aaron Hernandez and Football Inc (The Boston Globe)
The Globe went all in on this six-part series highlighting one of the most layered true crime villains in NFL history. The series, which also comes in narrative podcast form, used copious resources to explore everything from Hernandez’s upbringing to the effects of CTE.
Carruth (Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer)
Fowler, who covered Rae Carruth when he played for the Panthers, turns two decades of reporting on Carruth’s role in the murder of his pregnant girlfriend and the miracle baby that survived into a stunning eight-part series presented in both written and podcast form. Readers and listeners may come intrigued by a cold-blooded criminal but will leave with so much more including the inspiring bond between Chancellor, the special needs child who survived and his dedicated grandmother, Saundra Adams and the exploration of forgiveness.
A New Class of Women Are Making Waves in Sports Media (Peter Bukowski, Uproxx)
Bukowski talks to a number of popular media personalities like Katie Nolan and Mina Kimes about the turning tide of women being given roles beyond accessories. He captures the shift without ignoring the fact that the optics are still largely in favor of the white man.
Andy Reid Is Creating Football’s Future, and Patrick Mahomes Is Living It (Jenny Vrentas, SI)
Vrentas perfectly captures the essence of Reid’s philosophy, most notably his ability to be flexible and employ non-conventional coaches to give his offenses an advantage. This piece will give you a new sense of appreciation for Reid and infuriate you if your team’s head coach is a stickler for his system. Vrentas joined the TFG Pod to talk about this brilliant feature.
State Of The Black NFL Fan (Jason Reid, The Undefeated)
Reid’s focus on how black military vets and police officers view player protests elicits a fascinating array of responses that will challenge all conventional thinking. Over 30 people were interviewed for this rich piece that weaves personal stories and how they have framed viewpoints.
Sportswriters Are Too Outraged By Kareem Hunt To Bother To Learn What Domestic Violence Is (Diana Moskovitz, Deadspin)
Among sportswriters, Moskovitz is the utmost authority on domestic violence. She gutsily calls out many of her colleagues for reaching to the usual playbook of reactions when it comes to the latest case of a football player shown attacking a women. She also offers a stark eduction such as pointing out that misuse of the phrase domestic violence, “erases the victim herself by defining her only in relation to a man—even when, as in this case, the relationship barely exists.”
From Horses to Huddles (Lyndsey D’Arcangelo, The Athletic)
In depth look at Bills coaching intern Phoebe Schecter, one of the women crushing the NFL’s glass ceiling. D’Arcangelo does a wonderful job describing Schecter’s improbable journey, which is inspiring on multiple levels.
Michael Bennett’s Political Football (Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker)
A compelling exploration into Bennett’s unique brand of being a change agent, including a look at his upbringing. This piece perfectly captures a feisty, curious human truly believes his methods of disrupt and discomfort are the true path to change.