Just a special note to congratulate our 18to88 fantasy winner:
Demond Sanders and his team 2Cool4School and 4U!
Demond dominated the league as the #1 overall seed, but squeezed out a narrow semi-final victory by just 0.7 points.
A big congrats to league runner up Eric Frohiep's Triple Threat team and third place winner K Michael McCammack's Black Knight.
Thanks to everyone who played in the 20 team league.
Some disclaimers before I begin:
- My brother and I are season ticket holders for the Indianapolis Colts. Currently, I live overseas and Demond attends all the games, but my name is on the tickets too.
- We sold our tickets for Sunday's game for a decent price. Ours is a working family. We knew the Colts were probably going to pull starters at some point. It's Christmas. We needed the money. I make no apologies for that.
The outrage over Sunday's debacle continues to wash unabated over Indianapolis. It is starting to drive me insane. Before I address the solution, let me make a couple of points:
1. Fans should not be allowed to run football teams. GMs and coaches SHOULD NOT EVER take fans wishes into consideration. That is not their job. Anyone who suggests that Bill Polian or Jim Caldwell should give two flips what any fan thinks is building a recipe for a losing franchise. Stuff your anger at them. They don't care what you think. They are smarter than you are. Bill Polian is one of the smartest front office men in the history of football. Jim Caldwell has a 14-1 football team. They know better than you. Accept it. I'm considered a knowledgeable Colts fan. I would take any one of you and anyone in the media in a throw down about Colts knowledge right now and beat you silly. I'm actually writing a book about the complete history of the Colts in Indianapolis. When it comes to football, I am a moron compared to those men.
2. The Colts made a purely football decision. They only considered the football ramifications of the decision. Good. That's what I want from my coach and GM. Ask the Jags what it feels like to have to make football decisions based on the crowd. They are going to draft Tim Tebow and ruin their franchise forever. We can debate the football merits of the decision. That's fair. Personally, I believe the decision had precious little football merit. There was some merit, which I tracked yesterday, but I will be annoyed for the rest of my life when I talk about Sunday's game. That being said, it was a football decision, and I trust those men to make good ones because they have for a decade now.
3. Only one thing matters. The problem, at its core, is that too many of us have started to believe the media. Here's a list of meaningless things:
- Team of the Decade!
- Greatest Team of All Time!
- Franchise rankings
- Most anything on ESPN voted on by writers
- Everything written on SI.com
- The '72 Dolphins
Most of us saw this season as a chance to get a leg up on the Pats. They have three rings. We have one. A perfect season, according to some, was worth two or three rings. I said so myself.
The Colts have said, "Nothing is worth a ring but a ring". Nothing matters but the Super Bowl. There is no value in the rest of it.
They are right.
You care more about Indy being the "Team of the Decade" than Polian and Caldwell because they know the truth:
The decade is an arbitrary (and wrongly calculated) time period. What matters is that the Pats have three rings, but none since 2004. They want another. So does Indy. The Chargers have no rings and would kill for one. Team of the effing decade?
They just want to be team of the year.
So does everyone else.
The Colts have thumbed their noses at "history" because they know that today's history is tomorrow's afterthought. The only thing that matters is the hardware on your finger. That you take to the grave. Anything else, and the media will just yank it away when the next flavor of the month comes along.
4. Colts fans are spoiled. You want meaningless games? Go to a game when your team is 1-14. That's a meaningless freaking game. That's a waste of money. I've done that. Before 1997, we paid for my grandparents tickets and went to the games. We bought our set in June of 1997. We started that year 0-10. I never want to hear anyone bitch about having to watch a 14-1 team. I know seats are expensive. I know it's real money. It was real money when the team sucked. I went to plenty of those meaningless games and watched first stringers worse than this team's backups. About 26 other fanbases would trade places with you RIGHT NOW. Bill Polian has given you more wins this decade than in the first 15 years of the franchise combined. Before Polian:
- We had won one division title. Now we have seven.
- We had won two playoff games. Now we have a Super Bowl.
- We had been to the playoffs three times. Now we go every year.
- We had three Hall of Fame Players (Dickerson, Faulk, Harrison and not all at the same time). Now we have Manning, Freeney, Wayne, and Saturday all at once.
Now, none of that is to say there is no problem. There is a problem. The decision to rest players was handled as sloppily and poorly as possible. People are angry. I don't blame them. I'm angry about it too. No matter how over the top and out of proportion the reaction is, the Colts have to recognize that it is a real reaction. The football side of the operation did not anticipate just how much the rest of the city wanted 16-0. They had no clue what a fire storm they had touched off. Why? It's not their job to worry about the fans.
It is Mr. Irsay's job.
Jim Irsay is a great owner because he stays hands off the football side. He should NOT have stepped in to mandate the Colts play their players. That would be a violation of every thing he stands for as an owner. He SHOULD have demanded they tell the fans up front they were doing it though. Listen, don't give me any bunk about "competitive advantage". The Colts went into the game with Curtis F. Painter as their #2. They intentionally lost that game. When you are trying to lose a football game, you don't get to claim the right of secrecy.
IT WAS TWO DAYS AFTER CHRISTMAS. There were scores of people who spent good money to take kids to games. That was a big event for a lot of families. They had a right to know up front was happeneing.
I have no sympathy for season ticket holders. We know the drill up front. We pay for 10 Colts games. We get 7. We pay for two preseason games and a meaningless last home game. That's the deal we've made for 10 years now.
But anyone who spent money just on this game as a single ticket, and didn't realize what was going to happen, you have my sympathy. The Colts were way too cagey about the decision. They did it for football reasons, but Mr. Irsay has to realize that his team was watched in a public stadium by people who paid real money and gave gifts of tickets. Those people had a right to know what they were seeing. The football people wanted to lose the game. That's their prerogative, but should have warned the rest of us. By the way, I don't buy the retarded conspiracy theory that they did it to sell concessions. That stadium was going to be full no matter what. The Colts had already sold all the tickets.
So now it happened. It's done. Polian is mad as hell because he doesn't think he should have to explain and justify a football decision to the fans. He shouldn't. They aren't his problem. Mr. Irsay on the other hand DOES have to worry about the fans.
Mr. Irsay needs to come out and apologize for the way the franchise handled the weekend. He doesn't have to apologize for the decision, just for the fact that they didn't give paying customers a heads up they weren't going to make an honest effort. And it was NOT an honest effort. An honest effort means a team does not:
- Run a practice squad caliber rookie QB on the field against the #1 defense in football deep in his own territory and ask him to drop back and throw passes
- Punt on 4th and 3 from the 47 knowing the offense only has two more possesions the rest of the game.
Right or wrong as a football move, it was a PR disaster and no amount of self justifcation is going to correct that. People don't care about the Super Bowl. They've listened to Deion Sanders and Keyshawn Johnson and Don Banks and Peter King and Rodney Harrison and now they want MORE. Right or wrong, that is the case.
Mr. Irsay needs to step in as a businessman and apologize that people weren't notified. He needs to show that he cares that people are mad.
Because I don't think this will just blow over come January.
Say you are sorry, Jim.
Even if you don't mean it.
No arugments. Just numbers.
Since 2004, teams entering the playoffs with a winning streak of at least three games are 15-16 in the playoffs.
The 2005 Steelers are the only team with a winning streak of at least three games that has won the Super Bowl in that stretch
Only one other team made the Super Bowl (2007 Patriots).
Only three teams have won two playoff games (2006 Pats, 2007 Chargers, 2007 Patriots).
The last 10 Super Bowl Champions win streaks going into the playoffs:
2008 Steelers: 1 Game
2007 Giants: 0 Games
2006 Colts: 1 Game
2005 Steelers: 4 Games
2004 Pats: 2 Games
2003 Pats: 12 Games
2002 Bucs: 1 Game
2001 Pats: 6 Games
2000 Ravens: 7 Games
1999 Rams: 0 Games
The hottest team (most consecutive wins) going into the playoffs each of the past 10 years and their final record in the playoffs:
2008: Colts (0-1)
2007: Patriots (2-1, lost SB)
2006: San Diego (0-1)
2005: Washington (1-1)
2004: Pittsburgh (1-1)
2003: Patriots (3-0, won SB)
2002: Titans (1-1)
2001: Patriots and Rams (Met in SB, 6-1 combined)
2000: Ravens (4-0 won SB)
1999: Titans 3-1(lost SB)
Sometimes the hot team wins. Usually they don't. Teams with a 1 game or zero game winning streak are as likely to win a Super Bowl in the past decade as teams with a longer winning streak.
There is no such thing as momentum.
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.
They had to pull Peyton.
If anything happened to him, we'd probably not pick up another first down the rest of the season, let alone win a game.
Curtis Painter is NOT an NFL quarterback. No team in football has a bigger drop off from #1 to #2 QB.
If anything, Manning won the MVP award today by not playing.
Jim Caldwell is a brave man. He just promised Colts fans everywhere that the 2009 Colts are going to win the Super Bowl. And woe unto him if he doesn't fulfill that promise. Unfair on our part? Yes. Caldwell was just doing what he thought was best for his team. Unwise on his part? Yes, I think it was terribly unwise.
What we saw today at Lucas Oil Stadium was political suicide. Fans aren't fair. Fans aren't rational. Fans don't care if you start your head coaching career 14-0. In Indianapolis that generates less goodwill than you might think... especially when you willfully throw away a chance at a perfect 19-0 season.
20 minutes to play. A 15-10 lead. An all-pro quarterback who is torching the best pass D in the league. A rookie quarterback on the opposing sideline who has no chance of beating you. What the hell were you thinking, Jim Caldwell? You brave son of a bitch.
Me? I'll get over it. I was emotionally prepared for this decision. I sent DZ a stream of IM'ed profanities, for which I apologize.
The fans of Indianapolis? Some will get over it tonight. Some will get over it by the kickoff of the divisional round. But some will never get over it. Some fans will never forgive Jim Caldwell. That's just the nature of being a fan.
I've been pro-rest from the beginning, but Caldwell BUTCHERED this call.
1. If you are going to rest players, you tell everyone ahead of time. The air of disappointment that hung over the stadium was palpable. It felt like quitting.
2. Don't pull Manning when he hasn't been hit but once or twice the whole game. There was no point to it.
3. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, if you are going to pull your starters DON'T PUNT ON FOURTH AND THREE in the first half! What sense does that make? Why give up on one of the few offensive possessions you have left when you know you can't play a stupid field position game because you have to put up points fast.
4. Don't do that to a rookie QB. It was inhumane and foolish. You have to tell people ahead of time that he's going to be playing so the crowd knows it. I predict he never becomes a quality NFL backup after what he's going to go through emotionally after these weeks. Curtis Painter is a third string emergency QB. He has zero business playing meaningful snaps in the NFL.
5. If you rest players, you do it from the start. Don't pull the rug out from the crowd. Make it a blow out. Don't taunt them with how attainable the win is and then yank it away. That just pisses people off.
6. Don't do it in week 16. You want to pull people in the finale, fine. They can channel the frustration and anger into playoff prep. As it is, it will just fester for the better part of a month.
7. Don't do this in a way that will create MORE controversy and distraction than 16-0 would have. Whatever the Colts gained by removing the pressure of 16-0, they lost in the firestorm to follow. Stupid.
This was poorly handled in every possible way. Again, I have no problem with the decision to rest, just the timing and execution of the plan. This felt like an "EFF YOU!" to the fans because of the way it was done. People are going to have a hard time getting back behind this team, and the effects will be felt in the crowd in the playoffs. There are going to be consequences for handling things this poorly.
I can only hope the team bails them out.
Word is that the DEs are playing on a pitch count. That's a good sign.
The Pats and Bengals both won and clinched their divisions. The Steelers, Ravens, Texans, Jets and Broncos are all still alive for the final two spots.
- Indy opens the game with the ball at the 20. They convert a first down, but on third and 3, a great play by the corner breaks up a pass to Clark. Indy punts, and McAfee hits a beauty that hits inside the five and backs up, where Jennings easily downs it. Time for the Defense to force a quick punt.
- The Jets elect to pass three times, and two are incomplete. Edwards dropped a ball that hit him in the chest on third down. Indy forces the three and out, and the Colts will start at their own 46 with excellent field position. So far, so good.
- After a completion to Collie, four straight runs by Brown fail to produce a first down, but the Colts catch a break as Bart Scott trips Brown and gives the Colts a first. Then on second and 10, Manning calls a draw against a blitz and Addai BLOWS through the line virtually untouched for a 20 yard TD. Unfortunately, AV's return to action doesn't go very well and his extra point is blocked. 6-0 Colts.
- FYI: Mathis is inactive today. The earlier report was incorrect.
- Indy allows too much time on an early third down, and the Jets convert on third and 5. Then Hayden picks off a ball, but gets called for illegal contact before the pick. Then the Jets get into a giving mood. They try to run a true reverse on the Colts, violating the chief rule of playing the Colts (Don't run wide sweeps and reverses on the Colts! They are too freaking fast!). Wheeler blows up the play for a loss of 15 and the Jets drive ends in a punt. Indy takes over just inside their own 10.
- The first quarter closes with Indy facing a big third and medium at midfield after a long completion to Collie helped get them out of the shadow of the endzone. Given that they've changed field position on the Jets at least, this was an effective drive. 6-0 Colts after One
- Manning hits Brown out of the backfield for the first down, and then Collie picks up a big pass interference flag from Lito Shepherd, moving the ball inside the 20. A Clark catch moved the ball to the five, and two no where runs set up third down. Manning had Wayne open on third down, but threw wide. AV converts the short field goal, and the Colts turn a possession at their own 10 into 3 points. That might not have been the result we wanted, but it's still a great drive. The Colts are moving the ball virtually at will on the Jets. 9-0 Indy.
- The Jets get tricky and fail. On third and 5, they try to run a draw, but the Colts sniff it out perfectly. Three and out, and the Colts will start at the 21. This game has gone perfectly according to script to this point.
- The Colts drive starts inauspiciously as Manning just overthrows a wide open Wayne on a deep ball. Brown then runs for a big loss, but on third and long, Manning steps up and hits Collie across the middle for 22 yards. The line continues to give Manning solid protection, and on third and three he has Clark wide open deep, but lays it just off his finger tips. The Colts then go for a pointless punt which nets 27 yards. Frustrating in one sense, but the Colts are having their way with the Jets early. The deep ball is there, Manning just has to shorten it up by 6 inches or so. Meanwhile, Brown's inability to get back to the line of scrimmage is getting ridiculous. He has just 3 yards on 8 carries.
- The Jets manage to bang out a first down on third and inches, and after just 5 plays the Jets pass the 47 (real nice punt there). The Jets then slam the ball down inside the 20, but Freeney comes up with a huge sack to force third and long. The Colts D allows a field goal, but there is still plenty of time for the offense to answer it, and the Colts have two timeouts. The Jets get the ball to start the second half, so it's imperative that Indy scores here. 9-3 Indy. Man that missed XP hurts.
- Chad Simpson rips off a dangerous and long return to set the Colts up nicely across the 35. A penalty and a pass to Wayne moved the ball inside the Jet 45. Unfortunately, Manning launches two balls over Wayne and Clark instead of taking anything short, and the Colts come up empty. It seemed like a short pass was in order on 2nd or 3rd down that could have given them a chance to go for it on fourth down. Manning is just sailing his passes long today, and the result is just two scoring drives despite moving the ball well
Frustrating half. It felt like the Colts let them off the hook by punting on fourth and three. The defense played well, and the offense moved the ball effectively, but couldn't convert yards into points. A missed extra point makes the game feel much closer than it should. I see no reason Caldwell won't stick with the starters in the second half. Manning has barely been touched.
- Folks, the special teams improvement is a total mirage. It's the most overplayed story of the year in Indianapolis. Whatever improvement there has been has everything to do with deep kicks. The Jets just rip off a 106 yard return and now lead 10-9. Awful. McAfee crushed the kick and made Smith think about a touch back, but he just ran straight up the middle and down the sideline for a score. Horrific. Since punting on fourth and three, the team has come apart at the seams.
- Simpson can't make the 20 on the kick off. Quick throws to Wayne and Clark picked up first downs, and then Manning hit Collie along the sideline for a nice gain down around the Jet 30. Brown makes a stunning block as Manning hits Clark inside the 10. Brown pounded it down to the goal line, and on second down has a punishing run bouncing off several Jets for a touchdown. The Colts foolishly try a two point conversion, eschewing a six point lead. The result is a nowhere draw to Brown. Indy leads 15-10. It felt too eary to try for two there. The Jets are going to be kicking FGs today, so why not put them down 6? You only do that if you plan on pulling the starters and that is the last real chance to score.
- The Jets start at the 20. Sanchez hits Edwards on a quick out to pick up a third and 2. Then on third and seven, he makes a nice throw on the run for another third down. On thie third straight third down, Freeney comes unblocked (again) and DESTROYS HIM. It forces a Jet punt.
- It doesn't matter as Indy decides to lose the game by playing Curtis Painter against the #1 pass defense backed up inside his 10. I'm all for pulling Manning at some point, but that point is NOT now. Manning has been barely touched all game. The Colts are about to ruin Curtis Painter. Everything he does the rest of the day will be booed, and he'll be forever known as the guy who threw away the perfect season. It's not the decision, it's the timing. This will not end well. If this was Sorgi, I wouldn't be as upset.
- Painter throws a high risk pass to Baskett who comes down with it just shy of a first. Brown runs for a loss again, and the Colts punt. Get used to it. That was the best case scenario for that drive.
- The air has gone compeltely out of the defense as they get repeatedly gashed with the run for the first time today. They manage to make a nice stand and force another Jet punt, which is a terrible decision by Ryan. The ball winds up in the endzone and nets just 19 yards. Awful coaching.
- Painter fumbles. Touchdown Jets. The only surprise is that it took him 4 plays to do it. Caldwell compounds things by issuing a terrible challenge. Wow. This game is the most "over" three point game in history. The Jets convert the two point conversion for a three point lead. If the Colts had kicked the extra point, the Jets would have as well and would be up just one. This is going to end very badly.
- Chad Simpson fails to get to the 20. Painter is still in. He has to be. You can't pull Manning and then put him back in. Indy is committed to this strategy, and they have announced they want to lose this game. It's a done deal. Another three and out. The Jets get the ball at the Colts 45. This game is over, so I'm done blogging. Good night.
I woke up this morning excited about the possibilities of the Colts going 15-0.
Now, I don't really give a crap.
I want to thank Indy's local columnist, Bob Kravitz, for utterly destroying my enthusiasm for the quest with a vapid nonsense piece this morning.
You see, I realized something while reading it:
If this is what a perfect season is all about...it's not worth much.
The Keyshawn Johnsons, the Skip Baylesses, the Bob Kravtizs get all up in arms about "a perfect season" arguing and punditing and spewing opinions at every turn, but it seems to me that the Peyton Manning's don't really give a crap. Archie Manning did a radio interview this week in which he said that he'd had numerous conversations with members of the Saints organization about the allure of perfection, but that Peyton hadn't mentioned it once. If 18 doesn't care, why should I?
So today, Kravitz implores the Colts to let Manning make the call himself. He says:
This ought to be Manning's call, because this is his team, his decade and, ultimately, his legacy. While other men have played a role -- notably Polian, the team's architect -- this run of excellence, this pursuit of perfection that is close enough to touch, this is all about the once-in-a-lifetime quarterback who runs the show. He is this close to passing Tom Brady for the mythical Quarterback of the Decade. He is this close to being part of the conversation as the Greatest of All Time. He is on the cusp of a record fourth MVP.
Ask his opinion. Get his opinion. Then play to win this game.
Because that's what he wants, because at this point, that's the opportunity he deserves.
I read that, and I wanted to puke. It violates every notion of team and unity the Colts are founded on. You see, I've been around long enough to know certain things:
1. The Colts are more than Peyton Manning.
2. Peyton has been trying to lug this team around for a decade, and he's done a damn fine job of it, but when it comes to January, he can throw for 400 yards, complete 16 straight passes, and three TDs and the Colts can still lose. We need a TEAM to win a title, and arguing that one player should make a decision like this is unsavory.
If the article had said, "Poll the captains. Ask Saturday. Ask Freeney. Ask Wayne. Take seriously their wishes." I could have bought that angle. But just do what Peyton wants? No way. That's perverse.
Kravitz goes on to make some rather strong gloom and doom assertions:
There is a risk here because if Caldwell doesn't give his players their best chance to win today and next Sunday, how do they react? Do they become embittered? Is there a small-scale mutiny? Does he lose some of his players?
Even on a veteran team that is known for its relentless professionalism, I'm not sure Caldwell wants to take that chance.
What? Seriously? He's going to lose some players? The Colts have so little character that they would turn on their coach for doing his best to rest them and help them win a Super Bowl? Such a hypothesis is absurd. This team is the most toe the line, in step, one message bunch I've ever heard of. You think Peyton is going to turn on Caldwell? You think Freeney is going to bitch? You think any man in that locker room would cross either one of those two? Please. If this is what 16-0 is all about...power plays and mutinies, you can keep it. I don't want it anymore.
Then Kravitz stages and imaginary conversation between Manning and Caldwell:
There is no way, none, that Caldwell could keep Manning off the field in that situation. Can't you see it now? Close game, and every eye, every camera, will be focused on you-know-who on the Indy sideline.
"I'm going back in.''
"No, you're not.''
"You'd better call security because I'm going in.''
You think Brett Favre and Brad Childress had issues?
Wow. I'm not even going to dignify that with a response. Peyton is the anti-Favre. All the greatness, none of the painkiller additcion and middle school productions of Hamlet. That conversation would never take place. Not in a million years. Nor should it. Nor would it reflect well on Manning if it did.
Here's what's really behind Kravitz's piece today: he's setting Manning up for failure.
He loves to do this. He did it before the San Diego playoff game last year, painting a road game where the Colts were underdogs as some kind of cake walk in which a loss would destroy the legacy of Manning and Dungy. Then they lost, as anyone with a brain thought they would, and he attacked.
Now, he's putting 16-0 on Manning's shoulders. If they lose because he comes out, then Kravitz has an angle:
Manning is weak. He shirked away from history. He didn't show spine. He's a loser. He should have fought to stay in the game! He didn't show the kind of fire and passion necessary to be a winner.
Then, if the Colts lose in the playoffs, he has a pre-written column to place the blame. It doesn't matter what happens in the game. If Indy loses, regardless of the score or the events, it will be traced back to this moment. Manning wouldn't fight to stay in against the Jets, and the Colts lost because of it.
It's so disgustingly predictable that now I hope Manning does sit three quarters today. I hope Indy loses by 40. Then I hope we freaking blow the doors off of every effing team in the playoffs just to ram it down the throat of every talking head and pundit who writes about the NFL. Telling the media to shove it would be sweeter than an undefeated season in my book.
Do I mean this? No, probably not. I doubt even Bobby K can ruin a perfect season for me. Still, I won't shed any tears if the run ends this afternoon.
One thing is certain: I won't lose any sleep over locker room mutinies.
Demond Sanders comments: I had a nearly identical reaction. This column is nothing more than a set up to kill Manning down the road. Anyone familiar with Bob's work spotted this ploy immediately. One slight problem, Bob: This really isn't about Manning first and foremost. Peyton could never play another down and still be remembered as one of the best quarterbacks ever. In my opinion, the pursuit of perfection is way more important to guys like Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Jeff Saturday, and Bill Polian. If Caldwell is seeking input it should be from those guys. These four are border-line Hall of Famers. Their legacies would be cemented in Canton if they managed to go 19-0. This is especially big for Polian. Remember: GMs generally don't make it to the Hall.