Bests and worsts of the NFC North in 2011

February, 10, 2012
2/10/12
1:00
PM ET
Just for the fun of it, I thought I would throw an addendum onto our annual All-NFC North team. Coaches, front office executives and others all deserve recognition for the work they do. So in rapid-fire fashion, let's roll through a final take on the 2011 season:

Best head coach: Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
Comment:
Evaluating coaches is easier than most people make it. Nothing matters more than winning, and McCarthy went 15-2 in 2011.

Best assistant: Scott Linehan, Detroit Lions
Comment:
Although his primary role is offensive coordinator, Linehan's development of quarterback Matthew Stafford merits recognition alone. After three years with Linehan and quarterbacks coach Todd Downing, Stafford became the youngest 5,000-yard passer in NFL history. I'll repeat what I wrote the moment Linehan arrived in Detroit. You can say what you want about his tenure as the St. Louis Rams' coach, but he remains one of the NFL's top offensive coordinators. The Lions are fortunate to have him.

Best executive: Martin Mayhew, Lions general manager
Comment:
Mayhew has made some inspired moves during his tenure and few, if any, mistakes. That's how you go from 0-16 to 10-6 in a hurry. His roster is a mix of every possible avenue of player acquisition: draft, trades, veteran free agency and undrafted rookies. Packers general manager Ted Thompson deserves mention, but his inability to replace the pass rush of departed defensive end Cullen Jenkins hurt the Packers in 2011.

Best rookie: Titus Young, Lions receiver
Comment: Young played 63 percent of the Lions' offensive snaps as their third receiver, catching 48 passes for 607 yards and six touchdowns. He got more opportunities than the Packers' Randall Cobb, but we don't hold that against him.

Most intriguing rookie: D.J. Smith, Packers linebacker
Comment:
In 3 1/2 games as an injury replacement, Smith collected 33 tackles and an interception. I'm not sure how Smith could fit into the Packers' 2012 plans, if at all, but he certainly proved a reliable and instinctive short-term asset.

Most disappointing rookie: Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings quarterback
Comment: Ponder was considered perhaps the most pro-ready quarterback available in the draft, but his late-season decision-making called that into question. He threw seven interceptions in his final 122 passes. For context, consider that rate would lead to 29 interceptions over a typical 500-pass season.

Biggest mistake: Donovan McNabb, Vikings quarterback
Comment:
The rushed acquisition of McNabb didn't make sense at the time, and the situation deteriorated rapidly. Waiving your starting quarterback during the season is an embarrassing admission.

Biggest mistake II: Roy Williams, Bears receiver
Comment:
Williams' shaky hands and questionable effort made the Bears' preseason hopes for him laughable. At least one of his drops, near the end zone against the Kansas City Chiefs, played a big role in a huge defeat.

Any other thoughts? By all means, leave them in the comment section below. Otherwise, it's onward and upward toward the 2012 season. ...

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