As many of you are well aware of, I tend to take a rather (oh, shall we say) aggressive stance against big media outlets treating me, and other fans, like idiots. For some of you, my opinions on these kinds of issues have gotten old, tired, and predictable. I guess that is the price one pays for trying to be consistent.
However, on the subject of resting starters v. "GO FOR GLORY!" it is disappointing to report that, once again, the debate is getting watered down into two very silly, very unrealistic (and, in many cases, just plain stupid) opinions.
- One option is to play all your starters, even those who are hurt, as if you are in a fight-for-your-life deathmatch for the last and final playoff spot. This is seemingly what the Patriots and Giants did two years ago, and both those teams played in the Super Bowl that season.
- Another option is to completely shut your starters down until mid-January. Don't expose them to any kind of contact at any time. Let them rest, heal, take a vacation, and re-energize for the playoff run. Shutting it down completely is (supposedly) what the Colts and Titans have done the last few years as high seeds in the playoffs, and they did not win playoff games in those years.
If you watch debates like this on NFL Network, or listen to the demented ogre-in-retirement that is John Madden droning on and on, the points of view in this debate make about as much sense (and offer about as much insight) as debating over whether execution by firing squad or execution by Guillotine is preferred.
To have a true discussion on this topic, one really has to avoid and ignore anything and everything talked about at places like ESPN, NFL Network, and the like. They are dumbing down the discussion, assuming that you are a moron who only thinks in extremes and who knows nothing about what teams truly do when the games at the end of he season are "meaningless." I know this is hard to do, but for your own mental health, I implore you: Stop watching these networks.
We all know that, in the past, that resting starters did not cost the Colts playoff games. If you do truly believe they did, then I cannot help you. Facts and reality-based information have whizzed right over your head, and you have bought the junk bonds sold to you by entertainment networks disguised as news outlets. If you truly, deeply feel that resting starters cost Indy playoff games, kindly review the bulletins after the jump.
You can thank me later for blowing your mind wide open.
If the think resting starters was a big reason why the Colts have lost playoff games in recent years, well, that means...
- You've forgotten that back in 2002, the Colts played all the way through to the end of the season, needing a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars to secure a playoff spot. They won, and then promptly lost to the Jets 41-0 the next week in the playoffs.
- You've forgotten that in 2008, the Colts entered the playoffs on a nine game winning streak. They played starters for part of the game against the Titans in Week Seventeen, and beat them 22-0 (the first shutout for the Colts since 1997, which was pre-Peyton Manning). I mean seriously, it doesn't get much "hotter" than that going into the post-season! The Colts then played the Chargers in San Diego the following week in the playoffs, and lost in overtime.
- You've forgotten that in 2005, the then 13-0 Colts played their starters for the entire game against (you guessed it) the Chargers, then quarterbacked by Drew Brees. The Colts had locked up homefield the week before, and were playing the game despite it meaning "nothing" in the standings. Again, with the starters playing, the Colts lost 26-17. The next week, Tony Dungy's son hanged himself in his apartment, creating a horrible (but understandable) distraction for the team and then-coach. The Colts then lost in the division round to the eventual world champion Steelers.
- You've forgotten that in 2003 and 2004, the Colts played starters very sparingly in the final games of those two respective regular seasons, only to go on and win playoff games against the Broncos and Chiefs.
- You've forgotten that in 2007, the Colts entered the post-season sans Dwight Freeney, who was out for the year with a broken foot. They also had Robert Mathis, Raheem Brock, and Marvin Harrison all humbling with severe injuries. Playing these guys in meaningless games at the end of the season would have been damn near criminal. The Colts lost in the divisional round to (ugh, I'm starting to get sick) the Chargers.
Again, for an entertainment outlet posing as a news network, all these important details simply muddy the waters. They force people to actually think of multiple options (GASP!) when looking at this issue, not simply boil the argument down to resting starters v. "GO FOR GLORY!"
So, when you hear Bill Polian tell people the concept of late-season momentum translating into playoff success is a fantasy, he's right!
Look no further than the 2002 or 2008 Colts as examples. Look at the 2008 Cardinals, who almost won the Super Bowl last year. They looked like one of the worst teams ever to enter post-season play when the playoffs began. Three of their last five games in the regular season were blowout loses to playoff caliber teams, with their only wins in the month of December against the putrid Rams and Seahawks.
So, when some studio nit-whit is jerking your chain about how "momentum is everything" heading into post-season play, kindly take your remote and switch it over to something like Food Network (love that Chopping Block show), History International (I'm a sucker for history docs), or Boomerang (re-runs of Justice League are like small vials of crack for me). All these sports media networks are trying to do is dumb down the discussion and transform it into a "quitters v. winners" debate, which is (of course) not what it is about.
I know this is hard to do. I too have sometimes fallen under the spell of big media dimwittedness. But, the reality is health is everything in the NFL. Momentum is over-rated. Anyone who tells you different is either ignorant or lying to your face. And while I would very much like my team to go 19-0 and etch another notch in the annals of NFL history, any talk of a championship run goes out the window if the team is not healthy.
However, such realistic and nuanced discussion is not for cable media networks. Thus, you see schmucks like Skip Bayless hack their way through soul crushing morning shows, selling you on the insane notion that championship teams always play their starters the entire game, start to finish; even in games that mean nothing. Hell, they even play their hurt starters, but that's what it means to be a "tough guy."
Vomit meets mouth.
A better way to spend your time obsessing about the Colts is to read articles like this from NFL.com's Jason La Canfora, and to stop listening to stupid people who treat you like an idiot.
[UPDATE]: From dmstorm22, in the comments:
2008 – Steelers rested guys (Ben had his concussion on that first drive) won Super Bowl
2006 – Bears and Saints rested starters, met in title game
2005 – Broncos rested guys, beat Pats who were 11-0 in playoffs at the time. Seahawks rested, made it to the Super Bowl.
2004 – Eagles, Steelers and Pats all rest, all make it to at least the title game, two to the Super Bowl, and Pats win.
Resting is good, historically, and even recently.