While many of us are waking up this morning from the party that was the 2009 NFL regular season, one of the silly sentiments circling the Internets is that the potentially devastating knee injury to Patriots receiver Wes Welker during his team's "meaningless" game against the Texans vindicates Bill Polian for resting key starters against the Jets despite fan, media, and player outcry. Gary Lawless at the Winnipeg Free Press shares this sentiment, but does a poor job defending it with logic:
New England entered the game with far more to lose than to gain and those possibilities were realized when Welker went down. New England was guaranteed a home playoff game heading into the game and with a win could have moved up a seed. Big deal.
Now they have to play without one of their key offensive weapons and the word "crippling" was getting tossed around following the injury by the talking heads.
You cannot tell me, and if you did I wouldn't believe you, that fans would not have raged at Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell had they left Peyton Manning in these final two games and he'd been hurt.
Like all simplistic opinions that don't take into account all the facts (gee, I just sounded like Polian with that remark), Gary Lawless just doesn't know what he's talking about. The Patriots v. Texans game very much meant something. It affected the standings for both teams, and could have significant ramifications down the line in the playoffs. Again, the definition of a "meaningless game," according to Gary Lawless's patron saint (Polian), is a game that does not affect the standings (and whose historical significance is only made "important" by Colts front office brass; not fans, media, players, rest of human kind).
Had the Patriots won the game and secured the #3 seed, it could have benefited them down the line if the Colts and Chargers failed to win their first playoff game. Based on the recent history of those two teams, not having both in this year's AFC Championship Game is a very real possibility. And of all teams, I'm sure the Patriots realize the importance of the #3 seed over the #4 seed. In 2006, the #3 seeded Colts defeated the #2 seeded Ravens in the playoffs. The next days, the #4 seeded Patriots defeated the #1 seeded Chargers. This meant the AFC Championship Game would be held in Indianapolis, not Foxboro.
We all know what happened in that game. Maybe Gary Lawless forgot.
The bottom line here is Welker was hurt playing in a "meaningful" game by any standard valued. The fact that Welker was hurt without being hit or touched adds to the notion that this is not an example of a significant player going down in a "meaningless" game. This is football. Injuries happen, and they are never convenient. And if Gary Lawless, or anyone else, is advocating that teams sit players in meaningful games now, then why even bother playing the Week Seventeen games in the first place? Why bother playing football period? Let's remove the pads and helmets, give the players flags to tuck into their shorts, and call it a day.
And when another Welker-like player blows out his knee making a seemingly routine cut while playing this new National FLAG Football League game, I'm sure someone will scream about that as well.
Seriously, Welker's injury is no different than Bob Sanders going down after the second Texans game, or Anthony Gonzalez going down in Week One. Fluke injuries happen. This is a contact sport, and even when there is no contact, that does not guarantee an injury-free day at the office. Steve Krause at The Daily Item sums it up well:
The thinking on this goes that if you sit your players out, you'll save them from being injured. OK. Fair enough.
But Welker got hurt planting his left good so he could make a cut - something he probably does several times a day at practice. He just happened to do it in a game.
Fluke injuries know no pattern. They don't distinguish between games and practices. And this is just one more reason why you accomplish nothing by intentionally giving games away.
So please, save me the speeches about how Welker's injury validates Polian and his decision to quit on an undefeated season. If Bill Polian uses this injury as an example of why one should sit players late in the season, I might just lose my mind and take hostages.This would be just more double-speak from Polian, changing the goal posts to suit his own narrow view of things and save face after a week of consistently shooting himself in the foot. The only thing that will validate Polian's approach is a Super Bowl victory this season; nothing less.
According to Peter King, Roger Goodell was "angry" last week after he witnessed the Colts intentionally lose a game just about everyone on the planet (sans Polian) thought was important. Consider this, and then re-think how Goodell would feel if he saw the Patriots intentionally throw a game that actually meant something.
The Welker injury validates nothing except maybe that football injuries are as much a part of the game as the ball is, and playing scared is not a proven philosophy that wins.