Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/4/12
So many types of decisions are made in a calendar year in the NFL: coaching decisions, personnel decisions, league decisions, play call decisions; the list goes on and on. Usually, the bad decisions are the ones that get remembered the most, but let’s reflect on some of the five best decisions made during the 2011 NFL year:

5. Sean Payton Letting Drew Brees Break the Single Season Passing Record on Monday night: Sean Payton and the Saints received some heat around the league for this decision. In a game that was already a blowout, Payton chose to continue passing and score again to let Brees break a record. Typically, I’m not a records guy; what the team does is far more important and if New Orleans meets Atlanta again, Atlanta could be fired up to get back at them, but this was a great decision. It not only let the home crowd witness history but allowed for the entire country to witness Brees take down a record that stood tall for over two and a half decades. Sure, it was at the expense of the Falcons, but Atlanta’s defense could have stopped him; they couldn’t, much like every other defense in the league.

4. NFL Keeping the Season at 16 Games: At first glance, an 18 game schedule seems great: more football! Right? But, let’s think about the players. They go through mini camps, training camp, preseason, regular season and then 12 teams play the postseason. If fans just take into account the preseason to the postseason, that’s over six months of games and practices for the two Super Bowl teams. Adding two more weeks gives fans more games, but also increases injuries. Fewer games with NFL stars leads to water down football which the NFL doesn’t want. Plus, with the NFL cracking down on helmet-to-helmet hits and concussions, it would be hypocritical to add more games. The players won’t be compensated anymore, but the owners will earn a higher revenue. If the NFL is serious about player safety, it will keep the 16 game schedule.

3. Cincinnati Drafting Green and Dalton: The Cincinnati Bengals were in quite a bind on draft day with quarterback Carson Palmer demanding a trade or threatening to retire. But with the number four overall pick, the Bengals didn’t reach for quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder. Instead, they selected playmaker wide out A.J. Green. Then, in the second round, maybe in hopes of calling Palmer’s bluff, Cincinnati chose quarterback Andy Dalton. With Palmer staying put on his couch, Dalton impressed throwing for 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions. WR Green also flourished with 65 catches, 1,057 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. The two budding stars, along with an improved defense, won nine games in Cincinnati and earned the final playoff spot in the AFC. Dalton and Green should be a fierce tandem for many years to come.

2. Denver Switching to QB Tim Tebow: Although he has lost steam over the last three weeks, head coach John Fox deciding to start QB Tim Tebow was one of the best decisions of the year. When the switch to Tebow from QB Kyle Orton was made, the Broncos were reeling at 1-4; they looked like one of the worst teams in the AFC. Then, Tebow led Denver to victories in seven of the next eight games. Even with a poor finish, Denver made the playoffs at 8-8. This doesn’t mean Tebow belongs in MVP talks or in the Pro Bowl, but without Tebow, the Broncos simply don’t make the playoffs. Tebow jump started this team with his leadership and inspired the defense to play well. Now, Denver is in their first postseason since 2004.

1. 49ers Hiring Jim Harbaugh: After finishing 8-8 in 2009, the 49ers were supposed to take that next step under head coach Mike Singletary in a very weak NFC West division. For the first time in NFL history, a below .500 team made the playoffs in 2010, but San Francisco fell one win short of Seattle’s 7-9 mark. The 49ers proceeded to fire Singletary and hire former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. His first order of business was to figure out who his quarterback was going to be. Harbaugh didn’t look far as he immediately gave 49er quarterback Alex Smith his playbook to study during the lockout. Harbaugh took Smith under his wing, and with a new bode of confidence, Smith had by far his best season. The new coach also brought the rest of the team together, and San Francisco won 13 games for the first time since 1997. They are in a great position to make a Super Bowl run this season and for seasons to come.

There you have it. Did I miss anything?
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