Monday, January 4, 2010

Playing for the T-Shirt

Well, that Wes Welker injury ought to shut everyone up about Jim Caldwell and the Colts not going for the win last week against the Jets.

If not that, how about the absurd snowstorm the Colts would have been obliged to chase history through?

Are we done yet?

The banter from NFL talking heads on this issue was nothing short of comical. It was like Caldwell had robbed a bank. The consensus seemed to be that you simply HAD to go for “history” by trying to win even meaningless late season games. Even though Bill Polian correctly pointed out that going 16-0 was not historic. (See Patriots, 2008.) Nor was it ever one of their goals.

Polian, correctly saw the regular season and winning the Super Bowl as two separate things. The pundits wanted him to see it as one great tapestry upon which Peyton Manning could have painted a masterpiece.

The fans, well, they seemed to be rooting for the t-shirt.

“The Colts: 19-0! The Greatest Team Ever!”

Except that would be highly debatable. Perfect is not greatest.

The Colts had many games this year in which they were dead to rights. Greatest escape artist team ever, perhaps.

The Dolphins out-time-of-possessioned them 45-15 in minutes, and they still needed a 48 yard Pierre Garcon catch and run in the final minute. Joe Addai throws a gadget pass for a TD to escape the Niners 18-14. Kris Brown chokes on a 44 yarder at the gun. A two point squeaker against the Ravens.

Bill Belichick gets nutty.

These Colts are mighty good. A juggernaut, no.

Yet former players who now get paid to talk on TV, almost never pass up a chance to sound tough, get outraged, or second guess a coach. You’ll never hear one say: “Eh, big deal. It’s the smart thing to do.”

Now, Roger Goodell, one of the dimmest bulbs to ever land on top of a major sporting league, has said the league is going to investigate ways to give teams an incentive to play all their starters to the bitter end of a season.

Yeah. Sure. Good luck with that.

Compensatory draft picks? Get real. How many 3rd rounders would it take for the Colts to risk Peyton Manning getting creamed in the snow? Would the Saints have played Drew Brees for a half, and then walked over to the commissioner on the sideline and ask for their draft pick coupon?

And please don’t start with the “fans are getting ripped off” angle. Fans get ripped off all the time. They are very much aware of the rip offs out there (parking, $8 beers). When you arrive at Week 17 and you have tickets to see Peyton play your Bills, and he sits, that’s bad luck. Not a ripoff.

Besides, fans would be elated if the Bills were playing for their own playoff spot.
There is no way for things to be perfectly equitable for every team as the season unravels in the final weekend. It is a sloppy buffet of the-bus-is-running-outside-already (Giants), skeleton rosters (Redskins), and no-thank-you portions of playing time (Chargers).

Next time, win more games.

And you guys on TV, find something more interesting to talk about.

There might be a Super Bowl parade in Indy this year, but you can cancel the t-shirt.


  1. Czabe:

    couldn't agree more...the teams that are pissed are really just jealous that they don't have the luxury of resting anybody.


  2. Czabe

    I think Mike Tomlin was the most stand up about this mostly that a team deserves what it gets, and if you have the luxury, it's your right.

  3. I agree with the premise, the "history" angle, the not fair to other teams fighting for the playoffs angle..all overblown.

    But it will be interesting to see if these teams that shut it down early can get it fired up for the playoffs vs teams that have had to fight to get into the playoffs and then had to scrap in a wildcard game the week before.

    At the end of the day momentum and timing might be the best reason to play every game to win.

    Sure the injuries suck but Welker could just as easily been injured in first quarter of the playoff game (see Palmer, Carson).

  4. There's no solution to the teams playing for nothing issue. For every Colts team, there are 10 teams mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

    What are you going to do about a 4-10 team? Fine them if you think they aren't giving 100%?

    As far as the Colts not going for 16-0...
    Belichick went for it. Just like he went for it on 4th and 2 on his 28. That's the way he is. He's not a coward. Belichick has 3 super bowl rings to show for his attitude.

    Caldwell seems like a coward to me. The Colts are likely to go into a prevent defense in the playoffs and lose. I predict that neither the Colts or the Chargers win the SB. Why? because their coaches are cowards and at some point their teams will shrivel with fear.

  5. 3 Super Bowl rings for without the opponent's practice tape to help him. No one ever points that out.

  6. I'm a Dolphins fan so you know what I think about Belichick.
    But as to resting your players, I have to think that human nature makes football at least a little like boxing: the more you feed the beast and stay 'on the edge,' the more combat-ready you are. I hope Manning et al can stay hungry while peeing away a couple of games. If it pays off, good for just seems to go against a competitor's nature, I guess that's what I'm trying to say.

  7. If a team wants to rest their players, that's their prerogative. However, after seeing how certain teams mailed it in these past 2 weeks - some that had something to play for - don't wail to me about the sanctity of the game. The Giants are an example of a team that made more of a mockery of the game than anything the Colts did.

  8. Roger Goodell oughta make sure parity doesn't become a parody of Pete Rozelle's dream instead of continuing his schmoozing to the Jerry Jones' and Robert Kraft's of the world and worrying about the "haves" resting their starters.

  9. I seem to recall this happening just about every year I have watched football. Many teams pull starters fr their last game, or after the first series. It's not new, it's just that some idiots on TV were getting ready to spew how great it is to have a perfect season! And they didn't get that. Their network didn't get to hype the history making game. So boo hoo to you poor networks and commentators, but coaches have pulled players from games since games have been played. Get over it!

  10. Here's my problem. If you are so worried about injuries, why were the starters in for three series in Buffalo, just to get Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark 100 catches? Are individual goals more important than a Super Bowl. In my opinion, Peyton should've handed off to Mike Hart, and then come out.

  11. yes teams rest starters all the time at the end of the season, but not when they're 14-0!!! Who remembers who won the Super Bowl the before or the year after the perfect Dolphins team?? This was the Colts' chance at being an immortal team, yet they chose to pass that up for simply a little better chance of being another one of the nearly 50 teams to have won a Super Bowl. Even if they win the SB, 30 years from now few will remember much about their 17-2 season. Way to seize opportunity guys.

  12. Some friends of mine are sorry you're off the air here in Rochester, NY, and, considering what they've replaced you with, so am I.

    Hope you like blogging. Hey, it's a living.

  13. Czabe,

    You're way off base here. The Herm Edwards school of philosophy applies here: "Hello! You play to WIN the game!". The Colts will have been shut down for 3 1/2 weeks when they play a 'real' game again. As they have proven in many years past, they crap out early in the playoffs when they do that. They year they had to play to secure the 3 seed in the Wild Card, they went all the way.

    Maybe the Colts will realize their 'big picture' and win Super Bowl 44, but they will just be one of 43 other teams to have done it. Only 1 has gone undefeated. While quite a few analysts and historians do not believe the 1972 Dolphins were the greatest assemblage of talent, they will always be at the top of the conversation because THEY NEVER LOST.

    The injury argument is specious at best. Wes Welker got injured in a non-contact manner. That could have happened in practice. It could have happened in the first quarter of the Wild Card game. It could have happened when he was still playing in the 59-0 blowout of Tennessee much earlier in the season. The bottom line is that injuries can happen anywhere, anytime and, if you played scared of injuries, your much more likely to incur one or play too cautiously. The Colts had many chances to 'protect and rest' their players late in blowouts during the season, but let Manning and everyone else play the full game.

    So, for the same weak, tired argument of 'resting' players because of staying focused on the 'big picture', the Colts went from the threshold of greatness to just another team. They also angered their fans and burned up their good will with other fans in the league.