Welcome to Colts football, where it is a-okay to quit on a football game for no damn reason whatsoever other than fear.
For a team and an organization that prides itself in "playing the right way," here is the message they just sent to tiny Colts fans everywhere (from SpazMo in the comments):
I gotta go wake my kids up and teach them one of lifes most important lessons: ITS OKAY TO QUIT.
This game made me, and a lot of other Colts fans, sick. With a Colts offense seemingly dominating the Jets defense heading into the third quarter, and leading 15-10, Jim Caldwell may well have made the poorest decision we have ever seen in Colts history. After the Colts scored a TD to regain the lead, and after their defense stopped the Jets, forcing a punt, Caldwell decided to pull quarterback Peyton Manning for rookie Curtis Painter. The move elicited a strong wave of boos from the Colts faithful in the Lucas Oil Stadium stands.
During Painter's second series, after a horrible three-and-out, he was sacked by Calvin Pace, forcing a fumble. The Jets recovered the fumble in the endzone for a TD. Down rained more boos as the camera zoomed in on a Colts head coach who not only blew a chance to go undefeated, but might have lost his locker room in the process.
After Manning was pulled, Caldwell started pulling more starters. Gary Brackett, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and others were pulled. On the sideline, a very animated Peyton Manning continued to lobby the coaches to return, but they refused to let him back in. From the third quarter onward, the Colts (with backs-up in the game) were outscored 26-0. The tragic figure in all this is rookie Curtis Painter. Every time he stepped on the field, the crowd booed. The reality is they were not booing at Painter.
They were booing Caldwell, and by extension, the coward that is Bill Polian. Yes, I said it. It is cowardly to sit players in a situation like the Colts did against the Jets. 18to88 sums it up perfectly:
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.
Basically, Caldwell's decision was a gigantic middle finger to the fans.
I feel so sorry for the thousands of fans who braved a near-blizzard in Indianapolis only to see their coach and management throw a game this team should have won. On the sidelines, players from all sides of the ball looked dejected, frustrated, and upset. I don't think a decision like Caldwell's is one that instills trust in the players. Caldwell may very well have lost his locker room with that decision.
We've all seen some horrible loses as Colts fans. This one might be the worst of all. Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian will get absolutely roasted by the press after this game, and they should. They might have lost the faith of their players, and they certainly have lost the faith of the Colts fans. Just an awful, cowardly, bone-headed decision by the Colts. I'm actually somewhat ashamed to be a fan of this team right now.
The reality of Caldwell's decision is, right now, I can't tell people that the Colts play to win, because they don't. Look for the Colts coaching and management to go in full lock down mode, shutting out all the people who are (rightly) bashing them. Eyes covered. Hears covered. Mouth shut. Whatever. During this game, I lost a lot of faith in the Colts, and I know a lot of other fans did too.
Boo Jim Caldwell. Boo Bill Polian. Boo. Boo. Boo.