I feel really sorry for all the Indianapolis Colts' fans who paid good money, well over $60 a ticket in many cases, to see their team punk out like whipped dogs in yesterday's contest against the New York Jets. Those "Jests" - who otherwise would surely have lost and been eliminated, but who were the beneficiaries of a Colts' higher management decision to rest starters like Peyton Manning, barely into the 3rd quarter. With Manning and other key Offensive and Defensive starters shelved (like LB, Dwight Freeney) the Jests stampeded and racked up 19 unanswered points to win 29-15 and stay in the AFC playoff hunt. Even as the Colts took their best chance of perfection and flushed it into one of the toilets at Lucas Oil Stadium.
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Was this really the right thing to do? The Colts had a legitimate chance to be the only team to make history and best the 1972 Miami Dolphins' Perfect season, but they chucked it to the wind out of safety concerns. Left in the dust were also justice concerns, which evidently the Colts brain trust could care less about.
Consider: the Jets that faced the hollowed out Colts on Sunday had a gimme win that earlier teams, like the Dolphins, Ravens and others didn't have. Because in those earlier games the Colts were playing all out and full tilt. Leaving nothing on the field. But the Jets, who shouldn't be in the playoffs at all, are now sitting pretty because Colts operator Bill Polian and coach Caldwell pulled the competitive plug.
And meanwhile, tens of thousands of Indy fans at Lucas Oil Stadium- who paid out good money to see a contest, left home bitterly disappointed: not only at the team's capitulation to history, but that they essentially tossed a game in front of this paying crowd. Because leaving a slim 15-10 lead in the hands of a rookie, untested quaterback named Painter is no way to compete.
Meanwhile, the playoff picture has been suddenly muddied, while the early teams that played the REAL Colts are livid at the Jets' undeserved easy win at the hands of veritable scrubs. Of course, Rex Ryan, head coach of the Jests- had said openly that: "Indianapolis is justified to play the game however they want".
But what exactly would you expect a beneficiary of a freebe game to say? Especially as he will likely collect yet another freebe next week with the Cincinnati Bengals - who will plausibly also "rest starters"
Forty years ago, when real football was played - and NFL defenses had not yet been spayed by rules favoring the offense, resting players to spare them injury would have been unheard of. Resting players when a team was in pursuit of a perfect season would have been an abomination, ask Don Shula of the '72 Dolphins, or Mike Ditka who rang up 12 straight wins with the '85 Chicago Bears.
Here's a suggestion for the NFL Competition Committee, apart from one I already gave for removing a lot of the anti-D rules that hamstring defenses:
1) Playoff contending teams may not rest their most competitive (first string) players against other contending teams until the final five minutes of the 4th quarter.
2) Playoff contending teams may rest as many competitive players against a non-contending team as they wish, but if they choose to do so, they must accept one demotion in the seed order for the playoffs. If they rest competitive players for two consecutive games against non-contenders, they will have to be dropped two seed levels. Thus an ostensibly No. 1 or No. 2 seed, could end up No. 3 or No. 4 with no home field advantage.
In this way, some semblance of justice may be reinstated, for all contending playoff teams, and especially for the fans who expect their teams to do more than roll over when they must shell out their hard earned dollars!