5 Worst Head Coaching Decisions in the 2011 NFL Season

Pete Schauer@@Pete_SchauerCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2012

5 Worst Head Coaching Decisions in the 2011 NFL Season

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    NFL coaches are trusted by their teams' owners, officials and players to make the correct decisions in crucial times during a season and give their team its best possible chance to win.

    When they don't, they find themselves on lists such as this one.

    Here are the five worst head coaching decisions of the 2011 NFL season.

Leslie Frazier Choosing Donovan McNabb as the Starter in Minnesota

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    When it didn't work out in Washington with coach Mike Shanahan, Donovan McNabb thought he'd find a home in Minnesota.

    Both he and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier were wrong.

    The time that Frazier and his coaches spent building their offense around McNabb turned out be unrewarding, as McNabb only lasted six starts and was eventually released.

    In those six starts, McNabb threw for only 1,026 yards and four touchdowns, and had a 1-5 record.

    It's unclear as to why Frazier and the Vikings even gave McNabb a shot after he threw more interceptions than touchdowns in 2010 for the Redskins and finished the season with a 77.1 passer rating. 

Mike Smith's Fourth Down Call Against the Saints

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    Mike Smith's unfortunate decision came in a game against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 13 in overtime.

    Not wanting to punt the ball away, Smith decided to go for the fourth down conversion and ultimately failed.

    From their own 29-yard line, the Falcons handed the ball off to Michael Turner, who was bottled up at the line of scrimmage, resulting in a turnover on downs.

    The Saints ran three plays and kicked the game-winning field goal, resulting in a 26-23 loss for Smith's Falcons.

    Smith's ill-fated decision left many to wonder why he went for the conversion so deep in his own territory, knowing that the Saints were in prime position to win the game if his team failed to convert. 

John Fox Starting Kyle Orton for the First Five Games of the Season

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    They said hindsight is 20-20, and not even Nostradamus could have predicted the mania that Tim Tebow would bring to Denver.

    Apparently Bronco's coach John Fox didn't either, or else he wouldn't have wasted the first five games of the season by starting Kyle Orton.

    During those five games, Orton failed to throw for more than 1,000 yards, tossed eight touchdowns and seven picks, sported a 58.7 completion percentage and had only a 75.7 passer rating.

    Oh yeah, and he went 1-4 as the starter in Denver.

    While his replacement had a lower completion percentage and passer rating, Tebow went 7-4 as a starter, including a six-game win streak.

    To the offense, Tebow brought both a spark and an added rushing attack, contributing a total of 18 touchdowns with both his arm and his feet.

    He then went on to lead the Broncos to the playoffs, highlighted by a stunning overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday.

Jason Garrett Icing His Own Kicker Against Arizona

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    Jason Garrett's mistake against the Arizona Cardinals arguably cost the Dallas Cowboys their season and playoff hopes.

    Garrett's error came with time winding down in the fourth quarter in a tie game.

    As kicker Dan Bailey hammered a 49-yard field goal through the uprights to seal the win for Dallas, the whistles blew, and the call was made.

    Garrett had called timeout, and ultimately iced his own kicker.

    Bailey's next attempt was short and to the left, which led to a 52-yard LaRod Stephens-Howling touchdown, giving the Cardinals a 19-13 victory.

    Dallas went on to lose three out of its four final games, including two to the New York Giants, who won the NFC East title with its wins over the Cowboys

Andy Reid Selecting Juan Castillo as the Defensive Coordinator in Philadelphia

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    Prior to 2011, Juan Castillo's coaching career consisted of offensive assistant, tight ends coach and offensive line coach over the course of 15-plus years for the Eagles.

    So where did Andy Reid get the ingenious idea that Castillo was suited to take over the defense?

    Overall, this was probably the worst head coaching mistake made during the 2011 season.

    Castillo's defense surrendered over 324 yards per game, and gave up 30 points or more in five games during the season.

    The Eagles finished with an 8-8 record after being dubbed "the Dream Team" by backup QB Vince Young, and missed the playoffs. 

Honorable Mention

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    Jack Del Rio for cutting quarterback David Garrard, and Jim Caldwell for not adjusting or sparking the Indianapolis Colts in any way.