Not everything was gloom and doom last night. There is a bright side to all this, several in fact. I decided not to post it last night, because I was angry too. The night was for venting. The day is for restoring. Before we close the book on Painter-gate a couple of final thoughts that were among the best I picked up from everyone out there:
1. It makes no sense to toss this game in the dumpster, but play Jacksonville all out. If the Colts had said, "4 days is too few. We are packing it in against the Jags." I would have defended that. Then they could have come back and played all out this week and then rested again next week. I'm sure the NFL wouldn't allow them to because the game was on their network. That stinks. I don't buy conspiracy theories, but that is the only explanation that makes sense. To play against the Jags was so foolhardy and this move was so over cautious that I can't reconcile them any other way. Someone else pulled the strings on that one.
2. The one question that I want someone to ask Caldwell point blank is: "Were you surprised the offense played so poorly under Painter?" If he says no, then we know he was trying to throw the game. If he says yes, then he's either a. a total moron (because NO ONE was surprised Painter was that bad) or b. he's trying to throw Painter under the bus. My guess is that he would refuse to answer the question and talk about how he was disappointed the team didn't execute. I want a straight answer. Jim: were you surprised?
3. The Colts didn't want to win this game. If they had, they would have signed a veteran 2nd QB weeks ago. No way they ever expected Painter to play with competence. They saw this day coming, and decided to lose.
Now, let's all calm down and be sane for a moment. It's time for the rule of law:
Law #1: Anyone saying Caldwell should be fired is an idiot. If that's your opinion you are welcome to it, but don't bring it in here. I don't have the energy to argue stupidity today. Save it and go somewhere where such thoughts are welcome. Polian is not a coward, either. It's fine to say these things when angry, but if you honestly believe them, then you damn yourself with your own mouth.
Law #2: Anyone who hopes the Colts lose in the playoffs because of some weird sense of vengeance and isn't named JC can go somewhere else. Last night everyone was mad. I decided not to police that. It was an important moment in Colts history and the rage needed to be documented. Last night is over. Take the crazy somewhere else. We've got enough of our to deal with.
Here's the good we can take from all this:
1. The '72 have effectively been neutered for all time. Seriously. The Colts declared that the perfect season is less than meaningless. They lumped it right up there with a 4-0 preseason mark. To win that game yesterday, it would have taken no more than two more offensive drives. Caldwell and company CHOSE to lose. They essentially stated that their team's greatness and legacy would be no better or no worse based on anything but the result of the Super Bowl. Wow. Do you think the '72 Dolphins are celebrating today? Hell no. They are angry. They just had a rookie head coach say that they aren't the greatest team of all time and that their accomplishment means so little that the Colts won't even fulfill the football equivalent of crossing the street to piss on them if they were on fire. It would have required so little effort to go 16-0, that by not doing so the Colts just stomped on their grave and called them frauds. Why should anyone bother interviewing Mercury Morris? He and his band of grumpy old men are irrelevant. We don't have to watch them line the field in Miami in February casting their geriatric hoodoo over the Super Bowl. We don't ever have to listen to them again. They officially don't matter.
2. The media has been told they have no power. The Colts don't care what anyone thinks. I do believe they should have cared more about what the fans think and done everything in a more sensitive way (but I covered that yesterday). This goes back to my piece on Kravitz yesterday. The Colts have just told the local and national media to shove it. That's kind of awesome. I hate the media (hence this blog that attacks pundits way more than the team). Indy's taking an "us vs the world" stance. I like that. Most writers act like an undefeated team would be the greatest ever. The Colts have openly told them they are wrong. If they win the Super Bowl (and I believe they will with surprising ease), Bob Kravitz will have to eat every word he's written. I relish that thought.
3. The Jets may well make the playoffs. They are far and away the worst team in the AFC mix. Indy will CRUSH them should they meet again. This felt like 2004 and Denver all over again. Right now, the Jets and Ravens are making it. That would set the AFC up with three really good teams and three awful teams (and trust me, the Bengals are AWFUL. I watched them yesterday against the Chiefs...they are NOT good). Seeing as how Indy has the one seed, that works out perfectly. Things are shaping up nicely with one week to go.
4. This team will be healthy for the first time in...well, all season really. You can't argue with the results. Imagine...Mathis and Freeney at full strength. Jennings only on the field in dime coverage. Brown and Addai splitting carries (although Brown...wow. Some great runs, some HORRID runs). This team is going to be better come the playoffs than at any time this entire season. That's a great thing.
5. The Colts have clowned the Patriots. They have officially announced that they believe what New England did in '07 was stupid. They are openly mocking them for playing hard against the Giants and losing the Super Bowl. They just gave the middle finger to Belichick and called him a moron. They are publicly declaring his decision a mistake. That's not a bad thing.
6. The pressure bomb will be diffused after the first playoff game. Yesterday, I said I hated the way they handled resting the players because they traded one firestorm for another. I stand by that. It was sloppy and inartful. They could have turned the noise down all the way by just admitting last week what they were going to do. It will create massive pressure right up through the first playoff game. I think the crowd will be nervous and ill tempered. But, if they win, it all goes away. There will still be pressure, sure, but it won't be nearly what it would have been if the team was still undefeated. Can you imagine the two week layoff before the Super Bowl at 18-0? It would be a mad house. No, I'm not crying about it.
7. No one has beaten the Colts. The feeling of being invincible is still intact. God help the Jets if we ever play again. This team is going to go into "eff you" mode in the playoffs. All that anger that people thought would become a mutiny is about to turn into white hot rage and will be taken out on the next opponent. Again, I think it would have been more effective to pull this stunt next week at Buffalo. That being said, I think we are going to see something special in the playoffs.
8. The "rhythm/rust" issue is off the table. The offense certainly played enough yesterday to still be in sync. No one can claim that sitting the last 20 minutes hurt the team's rhythm. We already know that momentum doesn't exist (2008 Cardinals being the prime example). The offense needs to play at least a quarter and a half (unless the weather is awful) on Sunday. More than one drive would be smart, but not too much more. Brown still needs more work with the first team (obviously). We still have NO idea what Vinatieri can do. But aside from those things, the offense trashed the #1 defense in football yesterday with three scoring drives as well as moving the ball past midfield with ease.
I never thought 16-0 was going to happen. I did sort of want 15-1. Curtis "Matt" Painter is not capable of delivering that. Ultimately, yesterday changed nothing. This is still the same team it was 48 hours ago. They are still going to win the Super Bowl. It will still be awesome. Now, they'll be forever known as the team that only lost when they wanted to. Again, I'm not changing my opinon from yesterday. This was a mess and poorly done. It'll go on the Painful Losses List. But there is plenty of good that came of it.