Analysis

The 33rd Team’s Offbeat Awards for 2022 NFL Season

The NFL will announce its individual awards during Super Bowl week. You know, MVP, Coach of the Year, Comeback Player and such.

Ho-hum. Yawn. 

Try on these Offbeat Awards for size. And they are available right now, courtesy of The 33rd Team panel consisting of former NFL executives Jeff Diamond and T.J. McCreight, broadcaster Paul Burmeister, and journalists Vic Carucci, Paul Domowitch and Barry Wilner (total votes on parenthesis).

Best Play

Week 10: Jefferson’s One-Handed Catch

Not much debate here: Justin Jefferson’s leaping, one-handed grab over Bills CB Cam Davis in Minnesota’s equally stunning victory at Buffalo. What made it even more incredible were the circumstances: 4th-and-18 with the Vikings down by four points, late in the fourth quarter. We could watch this highlight forever.

“Jefferson makes at least a couple of SportsCenter highlight catches every game,” Domowitch said. “But that one was the most impressive I’ve seen from anyone this season.”

Worst Play

Week 15: Patriots’ Lateral Damage 

This was a slam dunk. Or shall we say, brain lock of the century?

New England was headed to overtime at Las Vegas when Rhamondre Stevenson lateraled to Jakobi Meyers as the final seconds ticked away. Inexplicably, Meyers heaved a lateral cross-field to Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. The wrong Jones caught it – Raiders edge rusher Chandler Jones – and he stiff-armed the QB before heading to the end zone for the winning touchdown.

“Give it whatever nickname you like: Sin City Stiff-Arm; Las Vegas Lateral; Jakobi’s Bad Joke,” Wilner said. “But this has no competition.”

Best Game

Week 10: Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills

Jefferson’s magnificent reception was one of a dozen or more special plays in the Vikings’ 33-30 overtime victory at Buffalo. Both teams won – and lost – this game a few times.

“Sixty-three points. Nearly a thousand yards in total offense,” Domowitch said. “A wild fourth-quarter featuring a goal-line stand by the Bills, then a Vikings touchdown off a fumbled snap, then a five-play, 69-drive in 39 seconds by the Bills for a game-tying field goal. Then, the Vikings pulled it out in overtime.”

Worst Game

Week 5: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos 

Take two of the teams that plummeted in 2022, particularly on offense, and put them in the Week 5 Thursday night showcase. What do we get? The most unwatchable of game of 2022. It went into overtime before Indy survived, 12-9.  

Wade Phillips’ tweet during the game said it best: “I think both teams should consider punting on first down.”

Most-Improved Team

Philadelphia Eagles, Jacksonville Jaguars

There were plenty of teams to choose from here and the panel ended in a tie between the Eagles and Jaguars. The Eagles were 9-8 last season while the Jaguars were just 3-14. The Lions and Giants also received votes in this category. 

“Can’t argue with the Eagles,” Carucci said, “although the Jaguars have surged from the bottom of the league to near-playoff qualification.”

Sean McVay

Most-Disappointing Team

L.A. Rams

There were many options to choose from here. But with surges by Tampa Bay and Green Bay, this came down to the Broncos and the defending-champion Rams.

“When the Super Bowl champions fall apart, they earn this nod,” Wilner said. 

 “The Broncos went 7-10 last year with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock at quarterback,” Domowitch said. “Adding Russell Wilson was supposed to make them a playoff contender. The defense has held up their end of the bargain, but Wilson and the offense have stunk up the joint.”

Most-Improved Player

Jalen Hurts

Quarterbacks drew the attention, which is hardly surprising these days. They were young QBs, too. 

Hurts has gone from a guy the Eagles still weren’t sure about a year ago to a league MVP candidate that the Eagles desperately want to lock up,” Domowitch said. “He’s improved in every area and has been a difference-maker as a runner. And his best is yet to come.”

Most-Disappointing Player

Russell Wilson

Again, a quarterback-driven category, dominated by an unfathomable slump for Wilson. Raiders QB Derek Carr, who was benched with two weeks left in the season, also received a vote, and one ballot went to Colts guard Quenton Nelson.

“Nearly everyone points to Russell Wilson, which is fair,” Wilner said. “I’ll go with the perennial All-Pro in Indianapolis. His falloff has come from an even higher pedestal.”

Best Coaching Decision

Kyle Shanahan

San Francisco’s second-half surge and how Kyle Shanahan has maneuvered his injury-ravaged roster earned three of the six selections, followed by one each for Philadelphia’s Nick Sirianni adopting the “Bush Push” on sneaks that has become an NFL rage; the Giants’ Brian Daboll for going for two points and the win in the season opener against Tennessee; and Doug Pederson echoing Daboll’s move in Jacksonville’s victory over Baltimore.

Said Diamond of his top choice: “Kyle Shanahan sticks with rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy, who knew the 49ers offense, rather than bringing in an outside QB when Garoppolo was injured.” 

“For me, it was Pederson deciding to go for a two-point conversion to beat the Ravens, whose last-gasp hope for a win fell short with Justin Tucker’s missed 67-yard field goal try,” Carucci said

Worst Coaching Decision

Nathaniel Hackett 

There were plenty of shield-your-eyes moments this season, some long-range moves and others in the heat of the action.

The since-fired Nathaniel Hackett was at the top (or bottom of the list, depending on your viewpoint) with his inexplicable decision in the season opener.

“Hackett opting for a late, failed 64-yard field goal on fourth-and-5 instead of letting Russell Wilson go for the first down in his return to Seattle, resulting in a 17-16 Denver loss,” Diamond said.

Domowitch questioned Bill Belichick’s “curious” choice of defensive coach Matt Patricia as offensive coordinator: Great coaches clearly aren’t immune from making an occasional bad decision.”. 

McCreight wondered about Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski’s logic: “Having Deshaun Watson pass the ball 31 times in bad weather against New Orleans in Week 16.”

Carucci cited the Colts’ Jeff Saturday for helping Minnesota complete the biggest comeback in NFL history in Week 15.

“Saturday looked to put the game away by running Matt Ryan on a QB sneak on fourth-and-a-foot,” he said. “His mistake was not having two offensive linemen in the backfield to legally push Ryan forward. He came up short and the Vikings scored a touchdown to force OT.”

Burmeister went with Washington’s Ron Rivera for switching back to quarterback Carson Wentz with playoff eligibility on the line in Week 17. Wentz was picked off three times and the Commanders lost to Cleveland.

Best Trade or Free-Agent Move

Tyreek Hill

Star wide receivers got as much attention here as they do from cornerbacks. Miami’s acquisition of Tyreek Hill, Philly’s trade for A.J. Brown and the Raiders dealing for Davante Adams topped the list. Imagine those three on the same squad.

Worst Trade or Free-Agent Move

Russell Wilson

Diamond chose Cleveland’s trade for Watson (and wrote about it in-depth here), while the remainder of the panel went for Denver’s deal to get Wilson. 

“They won’t say this in Seattle, where the Seahawks will bear the fruits of what looks like a steal in dealing Russell Wilson to Denver,” Wilner said.

Most-Impactful Injury

Von Miller

This was a very difficult category, particularly with so many stars being sidelined for lengthy periods. 

Domowitch and Diamond selected linebacker Von Miller being lost for Buffalo. Carucci chose Tampa Bay center Ryan Jensen, whose preseason injury made a mess of the offensive line. Wilner voted for Pittsburgh’s T.J., Watt, the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year whose absence nearly sank the Steelers’ season before he returned. 

For Burmeister, it was WR Cooper Kupp, last season’s Offensive Player of the Year, going down. And McCreight chose Jets rookie running back Breece Hall; New York’s offense disappeared after he was sidelined.

Regarding losing Miller, Domowitch looked ahead, too.

“This is a loss whose potential effect has not yet been felt,” he said. “Miller, who was a key to the Broncos’ and Rams’ Super Bowl winners, had a team-high eight sacks when he hurt his knee in late November. The Bills’ pass rush clearly isn’t as good without him. Not having him for the inevitable playoff rematch with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs could be the difference between victory and defeat.”

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