Ten Dubious Decisions in a Strange NFL Season

Ten Dubious Decisions in a Strange NFL Season
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Every NFL season is filled with decisions that rank either as controversial, dubious or outright bone-headed. The 2022 season appears to have more than its share of bad judgment calls, either in deliberation or spontaneously.

There was a real head scratcher in Carolina this season. The state still has not put together legal North Carolina sports betting, but you can bet the move at the top of the list did not go down well with Panthers fans.

Here are 10 that were headline worthy. And the season isn’t over yet.

Christian McCaffrey Trade

Perhaps Carolina simply felt all was lost and wanted to get whatever they could  to build for the future. After a 1-5 start, the Panthers traded one of the best players in franchise history, running back Christian McCaffrey, to San Francisco for draft picks.

However, not one of those picks is a No. 1. Instead, Carolina got second-, third- and fourth- round picks in 2023 and a fifth-rounder in ’24.

Showing none of the effects of injuries in 2020 and ’21, McCaffrey in his first eight games with the 49ers has 880 yards from scrimmage, seven touchdowns and a touchdown pass. San Francisco is 7-1 in those games.

With a 5-9 record, the Panthers actually have a chance to make the playoffs in the woeful NFC South, but they won’t have McCaffrey to help.

Tom Brady Unretires

Brady decided to return to the NFL in March. Since then, it’s been a little rocky.

It is still possible the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) win the Super Bowl and Tom Brady is named the game’s MVP.

It’s also possible the Bucs don’t make the playoffs at all, and Brady has his first-ever losing season as a starting QB. Brady has 22 TD passes, just seven interceptions and a vintage miracle finish in a win over New Orleans. But he’s also No. 22 in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating system, and No. 12 in Pro Football Focus’ QB rankings.

Brady might not second-guess his decision to unretire, but there’s concerns that he’s tarnishing his GOAT legacy just a little, and much has been speculated about his devotion to the game stressing his marriage to now ex-wife Gisele Bündchen.

Patriots’ Lateral Fiasco

Some bad decisions come as a result of deliberation. Others are spur-of-the-moment.  That brings us to the Patriots playing schoolyard keep-away against the Las Vegas Raiders in a tie game that appeared headed for overtime. Instead, as regulation time was running out, New England RB Rhamondre Stevenson lateraled to WR Jakobi Meyers, who compounded the risky business by trying to throw across the field to QB Mac Jones.

Raiders defender Chandler Jones intercepted and ran over Mac Jones on his way to the winning touchdown.

Razzle-dazzle definitely was not Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s plan right there. Later, the stone-faced Belichick said simply: “We talk about situational football, we talk about it every week. But obviously, we have to do a better job of playing situational football and not making critical mistakes in the game.”

Russell Wilson Trade

Teams make dreadful trades all the time, but this one could cost Denver for years. In exchange for quarterback Russell Wilson, the Broncos gave up quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive linemen Shelby Harris and a load of draft picks.

The picks Denver relinquished were two first-rounders (2022 and ‘23), two second-rounders (2022 and ‘23) and a fifth in ’22, all for Wilson and a ‘22 fourth-rounder. Wilson, who got a $50 million signing bonus, has been having a mediocre year (29th in QBR) and the Broncos are 4-10.

Deshaun Watson Trade

To acquire quarterback Deshaun Watson, Cleveland -- where Super Bowl aspirations go to die -- gave up first-round picks in 2022, ’23 and ’24, plus a 2022 fourth-round choice, a third-round pick in 2023 and a fourth-round pick in 2024.

The Browns received Watson and are paying him $230 million.

Watson sat out the bulk of the 2022 season because of sexual misconduct allegations and despite the Browns having a 2-1 record in his three starts, Watson’s play has been mediocre (the Browns have two offensive TDs in his three starts).

Allowing Tua to Play

Health is paramount, and the case of Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa is replete with medical complexities. Earlier in the season, Tua was allowed to return to a game against Buffalo after he went down after throwing a pass and was visibly wobbly.

He also played four days later on a Thursday (when he was removed on a stretcher after still another hit). Since all that, Tua has returned to action, but the NFL’s concussion protocol was changed to include “ataxia,” a condition marked by instability and other indicators.

Decision to Kick Extra Long Field Goal

If you’re a coach about to make a questionable decision, you really want to avoid doing it on Monday Night Football, when the whole NFL world is watching.

Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett made such a decision on a Monday night in a one-point loss to Seattle. In this case, Hackett had a fourth-and-5 choice – either kick a 64-yard field goal or let  Wilson, the quarterback for whom the Broncos had traded a ton of draft picks and who they are paying tens of millions of dollars, do exactly what he was acquired to do – make plays at key times.

The Brandon McManus kick failed. A day later, Hackett admitted it was a mistake.

Colts Pick Very New Coach

Team owners certainly have been known to fire head coaches mid-season and hire interims. But Colts owner Jim Irsay broke new ground in firing head coach Frank Reich, who had an overall winning record (40-33-1 and two playoff appearances), and replaced him with former center, current TV analyst and personal friend Jeff Saturday.

Saturday had absolutely zero NFL or college coaching experience. So far, Saturday is 1-4, and just witnessed his team suffer the biggest comeback loss in NFL history as the Vikings rallied from 33 points down to beat Indianapolis, 39-36, in OT.

Colts Fail to Take Timeout

More from recent Colts play.

Clock management decisions are frequently ripe for second-guessing, but in the case of Indianapolis’ 24-17 MNF loss to Pittsburgh, it was the rookie head coach, Jeff Saturday, who was second-guessing himself.

The Colts were trying to drive for a late TD when QB Matt Ryan scrambled for a big gain but was a yard or so short of a first down.  The Colts had all three timeouts left but maddeningly let the clock run. On third-and-1, a run failed to get the first down. After finally taking a timeout, an incomplete pass basically ended the game. A day later, Saturday admitted he regretted how he managed the final sequence.

Carson Wentz Trade

Washington’s decision to trade for quarterback Carson Wentz isn’t nearly on par with Denver dealing for Wilson, or Cleveland acquiring Watson, because the draft picks the Commanders gave Indianapolis were not nearly as hefty.

Basically, Washington got Wentz plus second- and seventh-round picks in 2022 and gave up 2022 second- and third-round picks and a conditional third-rounder in 2023.

At the beginning of the season, Wentz was 2-4 as a starter before getting hurt. Wentz’ replacement, Taylor Heinicke, is 5-2-1 and has had Washington in every game he has played this year. It remains to be seen if the Commanders give up on Wentz.

Stick close to BetCarolina.com for stories of interest to as we monitor any legislation that will bring North Carolina betting apps to the state.

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Contributors

Bill Ordine
Senior Journalist & Opinion Columnist

Bill Ordine, senior journalist and columnist for BetCarolaina.com, was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others.

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