The NFL’s Biggest Mistakes: Russell Wilson’s Deal With the Broncos, And Where Do We Begin With The Colts?

We’re officially in the middle of the 18-week NFL regular season, and the contenders are starting to differentiate themselves while reality is starting to put teams headed to disappointing ends.

A number of off-season teams are in a position to make specific moves, moves they believe will propel them to success in the short and long term. And while some organizations have succeeded in this goal (highlighting the Philadelphia deal with AJ Brown, the Tyreek Hill deal in Miami and Buffalo signing Von Miller featuring), others are paying dearly for a miscalculation from which they may not recover soon.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest mistakes and unfortunate decisions in the 2022 off-season and regular season.

Who is the culprit? Is it Aaron Rodgers, who held Green Bay hostage for much of the season before signing a massive contract extension, yet hasn’t fought for the Packers to retain the best receiver he’s ever played with? Or is it management, for not figuring out a way to keep Davante Adams alone?

There’s plenty of blame to go around, and the Packers and their quarterbacks – five-game losers in a row and 27th in the league in scoring – are paying the price. To make matters worse, things did not go well with Adams in Las Vegas. He has publicly expressed his frustration with his use, and it is impossible not to question whether he regretted his decision as much as the Packers should.

But, what was accomplished, and at the very least, GM Brian Gutkunst should have used the first and second-round picks that Raiders gave Adams to help move up in the draft to pick a wide top rack (like Chris Olaf). That would have given Rodgers a true squad maker. Instead, the Packers are stuck with the project’s faltering rookie receivers.

Green Bay tried in vain to redress its excesses by pursuing a veteran wide receiver on trade deadline. Now, at 3-6 and five losses behind the Minnesota NFC North leader, the Packers are largely irrelevant as their season slips away.

Trading Titans AJ Brown

The Titans are a well-trained team, and their soccer brand suits them well. However, as we’ve seen time and time again this season, they have essentially removed themselves from the legitimate feud due to their decision to trade wide Pro Bowl receiver AJ Brown to Philadelphia rather than sign him for a long-term contract extension.

Tennessee offense has had its limits in the past with Ryan Tanehill under the center position, but Brown has bragged about his much-needed game-changing blast. The Titans have held the playoffs for three consecutive seasons and in four of the past five years. But in one season, the Giants’ ranking dropped from fifteenth to twenty-fourth in points, and from seventeenth to thirty-second in yards.

Tanehill has been sidelined with an ankle injury for the past two weeks, forcing Tennessee to turn to novice Malik Willis. The young quarterback struggled with the passing game and certainly would have benefited from Brown’s presence in Sunday’s 20-17 overtime loss to Kansas City. Despite concerns about the salary cap implications associated with Brown signing a massive deal, the Giants had to figure out a way, as his replacement (Treylon Burks) had no effect. Burks has 10 catches for 129 yards and no touchdowns in four looks. And rather than get a chance to keep up with heavy offenses like those of the Chiefs and Bills, Tennessee numbers will fail in post-season shootouts.


Washington’s offensive fared slightly better under Taylor Hynek (right) than Carson Wentz. (Brad Mills/USA Today)

Trade Leaders by Carson Wentz

Ron Rivera kept believing his team was close despite two consecutive seasons of defeat. He and his staff thought they just needed a good midfielder to jump forward. They settled on Carson Wentz, who greeted him in Indianapolis after just one season.

The leaders’ coaches believe they can help the quarterback reclaim their MVP nominee form in 2017 despite abundant struggles with consistency at both Philadelphia and Indy. The acquisition came at a hefty price: three early draft picks (a second, third, and conditional pick that could end up being another second director) and a salary cap of $28 million.

However, Wentz’s time in Washington did not go well. The inconsistencies continued to plague his injury before he broke his finger and surgery led to him having an injured reserve. Despite Taylor Heineke’s limitations, she provided an instant spark that included wins in his first two games. It also helped raise the bar for the team’s overall competition.

Heinicke on Sunday took a step back while showing some of the accuracy and ball safety we saw last year, when he was a Washington start. But attacking did slightly better under his guidance, going from averaging 17 points and 320 yards per game in Wentz’s six starts to 19 points and 329 points in Heinicke’s three starts in 2022. So, Washington essentially squandered three valuable draft picks It hit an unnecessarily huge salary cap. The 4-5 leaders would have been better off rolling with a platoon of Heinicke and picking 5th round Sam Howell and using the money and derivatives they spent on Wentz for other needs.


The raiders, despite their offensive firepower, are 2-6 under Josh McDaniels. (Matt Pendleton / USA Today)

Raiders Hire Josh McDaniels

Despite a strong end to a turbulent 2021 and an unlikely playoff appearance, the Raiders refused to name interim coach Rich Bisachia the permanent replacement for Jon Gruden. Bisaccia went 7-5 at the helm and was well respected by the players, but Mark Davis instead rolled the dice and hired longtime Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who only lasted two seasons (2009-2010) as head coach for the Broncos.

Davis hoped a second chance would yield better results. But, once again, McDaniels has been a huge disappointment. Regarded as one of the best offensive minds in the game, he was none other than Las Vegas. He has a founding quarterback in Derek Carr, an All-Pro receiver at Davante Adams, a back factor at Josh Jacobs and one of Darren Waller’s best tight ends. However, the offense is highly inconsistent, as is the case for McDaniels. Waller wasted time due to injury, but the Raiders still had enough attack to do better.

Three times this year, the Raiders lost after winning by 17 points. Talent shortcomings abound in defense, but one of McDaniels’ biggest overall problems is convincing players of them. His critics point to poor leadership skills as one of his biggest drawbacks. Davis envisioned McDaniels catapulting his team into the ranks of the contenders. But instead, at 2-6, the Raiders seem headed for a top five pick, and McDaniels once again appear to be inept outside of Bill Belichick’s shadow.

Broncos Trading & Extension Russell Wilson

Denver thought it had a Super Bowl roster and just needed a quarterback to make the difference. It was rumored that the Broncos, who had hired Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to be their head coach (another questionable move), would go after Rodgers.

Instead, they sold the farm to Russell Wilson, sending two first-round, two second-round, and fifth-round Drew Lukes, Shelby Davis and Noah Fant to Seattle. They then gave Wilson a five-year extension of $242.5 million with a $161 million guarantee even though his current deal was not expired.

The Wilson era got off to a bleak start. The 33-year-old seems like a coincidence to himself, and Denver is 28th in points scored while in a 3-5 start. The Broncos say they’re still committed to Wilson, but given the dramatic interruption in play — along with Seattle’s improvement without him — it’s hard to believe there wasn’t some buyer’s remorse in Mile High City.

Cardinals supply Cliff Kingsbury and Steve Kim

Nothing about this move seemed justified. Sure, Cliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals made it to the playoffs in year three, but were relegated to post-season after losing four of their last five games, then were blown away by the Rams in the wild cards round. So why extend a coach whose teams have faltered three years in a row? What exactly did General Manager Steve Kim do to justify the extension at the same time?

Things have gone badly for the cardinals ever since. Keim gave Kyler Murray a $230 million extension despite his inconsistent play and the fact that he stayed another year in the rookie deal. Murray has yet to prove that decision by playing this season. Kingsbury was considered a bright offensive mind while in the college ranks, but remained unproven in the winning column. Now, his NFL offenses haven’t yet reached prolific or even steady levels, and his winning track record remains elusive. The Cardinal fell, at 3-6, in 2022 as Seattle swept them and lost four of their last five.

Arizona appears to be in need of regulatory reform. But with Kingsbury and Keim extending until 2027, the property will have to eat a lot of money to make the reset. Hands may be tied.

The Panthers are holding on to Matt Reyle

Despite poor decisions regarding quarterback acquisition and a 23 loss in his first two seasons, Matt Rolle earned the vote of confidence entering his third year. However, few – if any – across the league believe that Panther owner David Tepper has really been sold on Rhule.

Suspicions were justified when Rhule fired after a 1-4 start. The Panthers then traded Christian McCaffrey for San Francisco, signaling the start of the rebuilding that could have begun this past season had Tepper pressed the reset button next.

Interim coach Steve Wilkes now finds himself in an almost impossible situation. As the team ramped up even more, he just fired two of Rhule’s former lieutenants, after two more picked up the ax in October when Rhule was fired.


Colts owner Jim Irsai’s roster and coaching decisions in 2022 have backfired thus far. (Kirby Lee/USA Today)

The ponies trade by Matt Ryan … and more

Ponies may be taking the cake for blunders and unfortunate decisions, after two bad moves doubled this holiday season and then culminated this week with the release of Frank Reich.

Team owner Jim Irsay wasn’t satisfied with Wentz’s 2021 play, who wasn’t bad with 27 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 9-8 record, but he also wasn’t that impressive. Reich thinks growth will follow in 2022. But Ersay spent much of the gathering week in February telling anyone who might listen that he had plans to trade with Wentz. Irsay got his way, and soon after, the Colts acquired Matt Ryan from Falcons, whose salary cap in 2022 and 2023 totaled over $50 million.

The ponies were hoping the 37-year-old had something left in the tank. But Ryan struggled and got off the bench after seven games and a 3-3-1 start. Things deteriorated further after the Colts fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady last week, and then Reich on Monday.

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Irsay messed things up. Jeff Saturday appointed interim coach even though the former Pro Bowl center never coached in college or the pros. The Colts have no one on his staff who has described an offensive play. All hope of a turnaround in the season can be abandoned. Instead, Indianapolis will likely head to one of the top picks in the draft.

It’s amazing to think that the Colts could have been in the thick of things in watered-down South Asia had Irsay only allowed Reich to hold onto Wentz’s team.

(Top photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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