With a 5-point lead against the New York Jets, coaching genius Jim Caldwell pulled Peyton Manning in favor of Curtis Painter. This was incredibly confusing to everyone else who was watching the game, Indianapolis fan or not.
The Colts had already clinched a playoff spot, their division, and home-field advantage, so this game was almost meaningless. “Almost” being the key word, because unless you live under a rock or don’t watch football, Indianapolis was 14-0 and two games away from achieving perfection and being only the second NFL team in history to win all 16 games in the regular season.
The ultimate goal in the NFL is to win every game. Obviously it is very unlikely to win every game, but that mentality of wanting to achieve perfection is necessary for a good NFL team and morale. If you have gone 14 games without losing a single one and feel like resting your starters after one half of a game, you are not a good coach. There have been 43 Super Bowl winners, but only one team that has had an undefeated season.
The New York Jets were very beatable today. Next week, the Buffalo Bills are very beatable. The prospect of 16-0 was in the Colts’ grasp. They decided to let it slip away for something that had a less likely chance of succeeding.
This stupid decision shows that Caldwell and the organization are not interested in making history, but letting their best players sit on the sidelines so they can be healthy for their first playoff game. I would argue that it’s a bigger gamble on success than playing your starters all the way through the regular season. Nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs. You lose one game and you’re done. If Manning and all the regular starters had played all 60 minutes of that game against the Jets and had lost, one could at least say that the Colts tried to win, and now that they have no chance at being undefeated, they can rest their starters in Week 17 for a truly meaningless game and then start to focus on their first playoff game.
But, for a second, imagine if they lose their first playoff game? Wouldn’t it be absolutely incensing to know that you could have at least had a perfect regular season, even if nothing happened in the playoffs? And, for a different scenario, say that they win next week’s game, go all the way and win the Super Bowl. They’ll look back on that one game they could have won, that one game that could have cemented them in history books as the only team to go 19-0.. but instead, Curtis Painter was chosen to stumble and fumble his way to ruin their potential perfect season.
Losing this game while your best players stand on the sideline is much more demoralizing than having them play and lose. At least they can go for the next best thing if they lose, but not allowing them to play their best football will make them deflated and out of sync with how they are usually accustomed to playing. Watching Manning’s press conference, he kept it minimal and said nothing unexpected, but you could tell that watching his perfect record this season vanish while he was helpless on the sideline had some kind of effect on him. It probably had about the same effect on other players such as Dallas Clark or Reggie Wayne, too.
People have been calling for Caldwell to get “Coach of the Year” this season. After this show of arrogance and counting chickens before they hatch (to use a terrible cliche) there’s no way he should receive it. If you still believe Caldwell should get it, remember that he stepped into a very fortunate situation, and the coaching skill is not really him. Tom Moore and Larry Coyer have been responsible for the offense and defense, respectively, and should get much more credit than that puppet Caldwell should.
This was on Deadspin a while ago, but former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin had some thoughts relating to the Colts and Saints, the two undefeated teams at the time. He said that he would trade in his Super Bowl rings for one 19-0 season. Compare the amount of people who will remember (or even saw) the Super Bowl between the Patriots and Giants in contrast to, say, the Steelers and Cardinals.
Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion, and making a big deal about nothing. The Colts could go and win the rest of the games that they play and be Super Bowl champions. As a Patriots fan, I despise the Colts, actually, and nothing makes me happier than seeing them fail. As a football fan, however, this decision to put history on the back-burner and look too far ahead makes me incredibly angry, and I honestly feel that the decision that this Colts organization made on Sunday to opt not to go for history will come back and bite them in the ass in the playoffs, and the chances of their presence in the Super Bowl are more slim now.
Leave any opinions you have in the comments or shoot an email telling me why I’m wrong.