I decided to not write anything about the Colts / Jets game until after a few days of letting the experience settle in a bit. But I have certainly read my fair share of analysis and reaction the past couple of days and I stand perfectly on the fence, continually rocking back and forth not being able to tell if I like or dislike what transpired.
To make my obligatory Enterprise 2.0 association in this post…I think the voices that the Colts brass are hearing from fans via various channels, clamoring that their opinion on going for 16-0 should have been considered…is something Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell did not anticipate. They obviously are not privy to the shift in People 2.0’s communication expectations from informed to consulted. Engagement and customer satisfaction are no longer just predicated on performance, but a willingness to accept and at a minimum acknowledge the views of the crowd, particularly a crowd that you depend on so much to exist ($$$$). This is another example of old-school thinkers not realizing the impact of ignoring this paradigm shift until it is too late and as a result having to face quite a bit of scrutiny. And as much as they want to ask fans to move on…this isn’t going away until they win the first playoff game.
Now back to football….
Why I didn’t like it:
As a fan watching the game live, I hated every second of it, and I didn’t even pay to see the game, I was just watching from the comfy confines of couches and HD. Yet even yesterday, more than 24 hours after the game, my wife said I still seemed grumpy while we were at Chuck E Cheese celebrating my son’s 3rd birthday with family. So I guess if I can’t be cheerful then, I really must not have liked it.
One bit of analysis/reaction to Sunday that I haven’t read yet, the lack of execution in the first 2.5 quarters that made Jim’s decision that much more painful. Putting myself in Jim Caldwell’s shoes as a coach that expects high levels of execution from his extremely efficient team, there were 3 plays in that game that could have made Jim’s life a lot easier while making the exact same decision:
- The blocked extra point after the first touchdown of the game actually ended up costing the Colts 2 points, not just 1 point. This is because the Colts later attempted a 2 pt conversion to make up for the miss and didn’t convert. Adjusted score at #ColtsGate: 17-10
- The Colts have been among the best teams this season at turning red zone opportunities into touchdowns. In the 2nd quarter they had to settle for a short field goal after getting into the red zone. You’ll recall the close call between Peyton and Reggie which is a catch we have seen Reggie make before (last season at Houston comes to mind). So not converting there cost the Colts 4 points. Adjusted score at #ColtsGate: 21-10
- I bet that kickoff return to start the 2nd half really honked off Caldwell and Peyton and here is why: Caldwell had told Peyton at halftime (I am speculating), “You’ll get one more series to turn this 6 point lead into a 9 to 14 point lead, two scores…then we’re resting you. So make it count.” Then immediately after kick-off, boom, that two-score lead is out the window. Had the Colts coverage team held, I would wager the best the Jets could have done there with starters still playing defense and not completely deflated from resting Peyton would have been a field goal. Another 4 points in the Jets favor. Adjusted score at #ColtsGate: 21-6
So how would we be reacting differently to #ColtsGate if they had pulled Peyton and the gang with a 15 point lead and just the 4th quarter to play instead of a 5 point lead (less time remaining because of a more sustained Jets opening drive instead of a kick-off return)? How much more would the crowd have supported Painter audibly instead of, as my wife says, putting negative thoughts into the universe? How much more conservative would the Colts play calling have been with a kill the clock mindset instead of trying to throw from inside their own 20 (likely avoiding the sack/fumble/TD sequence)?
Now I am not one to believe in what if’s, but it just goes to show how football is such a game of inches and how every play counts and how the impact of an inch here and an inch there completely changes the perspective of a decision.
Why I Do Like It:
On the other hand, there is still hope for a successful playoff run and the reality that the Colts are two home wins away from playing in the Super Bowl. I can’t imagine how grumpy I would have been yesterday had Peyton gotten hurt during the game and we were facing the reality of a Divisional Round game with Curtis “Blank Canvas” Painter. So from that side of the argument, I can’t fault the team for realizing that their greatest asset is going to win them games, not this imaginary concept of momentum or “mojo.”
But I do know if the Colts show up to their Division Round playoff game on Jan 16 or Jan 17 and lose, this decision will never be forgiven and Jim and Bill will never hear the end of it. So that one game will have a ton of pressure. The AFC championship game would be less impacted by resting players and more about who played the better game, although I am sure the really bitter followers would still blame a loss on losing momentum by resting, particularly if the fall behind early in that game. But if they make it to the Super Bowl and lose, there is no way you can blame that loss on resting starters, especially with an extra week between the Championship games and the Super Bowl. So I’ll deduce that this decision really only matters for 1.5 playoff games, then doesn’t matter any more.
Looking at history, it is hard to conclude that historically resting has had a direct impact on their one and done playoff losses. They rested in 2005 prior to the Pittsburgh playoff game and lost, but they also experienced the tragic death of Tony Dungy’s son during that period as well. Then in 2007 they rested and lost their first game at home to San Diego, but they were playing without Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis AND Marvin Harrison tried to play after being out for 3 months and fumbled following his first catch. And they actually came out of the gate really fast in that came (what rust?) and had momentum until Marvin’s fumble.
I am very glad (reviewing that history) knowing this year that the Colts 6 pro bowlers (Manning, Wayne, Clark, Saturday, Freeney, Mathis) will be healthy for the playoffs, and I think that combination will probably overcome any rust factor from resting. But will all this media attention of purposely disrespecting NFL history be distraction enough to throw things off? Even if they do win the Super Bowl, will the immediate reaction be “Colts make right decision to stay healthy for Super Bowl win!” OR “Colts win Super Bowl and willingly gave up 19-0”???? Only time will tell.
But oh how much fun would watching history have been? It will be bittersweet all the way through…watching the healthy stars giving it their best…3 weeks from now. Sigh.