It's no secret that Roger Goodell was none too happy about how Bill Polian and the Colts handled Week Sixteen of the 2009 NFL season against the NY Jets. Perhaps the reason he was upset with the situation had to do with the tens of thousands of fans booing Curtis Painter when he entered the game in the third quarter for no reason other than the Colts coaches quitting on the game. When asked about Week Sixteen back in January, Goodell suggested he would look into ways to dissuade teams from tanking the last two or so weeks:
"It is something we'll look at," Goodell said Sunday. "We heard the fans loud and clear. It's something our competition committee has looked at in the past, but we're going to ask our competition committee to look at it again in the future. We want every game to be competitive."
One interesting thing about Goodell is he doesn't tend to give things a lot of lip service. When he says he will look into something, chances are he will come up with a pretty decent solution. On the subject of teams like the Colts resting starters down the stretch, and thus ripping off the thousands of fans who paid hard-earned money to watch glorified pre-season games, Peter King (via Twitter) got this little nugget from Goodell:
Whoa. Goodell said all week 17 games likely to be division games--and maybe all wk 16 games as well this year.
Well, if you want to send a message to Bill Polian that he should not instruct his coaches to pull starters in a winnable game, this is a good way to do it.
The reason the Colts played their starters in Week Fifteen against the Jaguars was because it was a division game. While that game was just as "meaningless" as the Jets in Week Sixteen and the Bills in Week Seventeen, the fairly obvious reason the Colts kept Peyton Manning and others in the game for four quarters is because the Colts intensely dislike the Jaguars. So, if Week Sixteen of the 2010 Colts season is against the Titans on the road and Week Seventeen featured the Texans at home, um... yeah. Resting starters then would be even more unacceptable than it was in Week Sixteen of the 2009 season.
Oh, and before you all jump all over because I said this back in January:
If anything, [the Divisional Round Playoffs] gave a small measure of vindication to Bill Polian, who stated way back on December 8th that "momentum is over-rated." People like me laughed off his claim that practice would help keep a team from accumulating "rust" just as well as another team who was playing a real, live NFL football game. I still think there is some truth to the notion that practice cannot simulate the value of a real game, but in the case of momentum v. rest, Bill Polian won the weekend.
Remember, my issue was not with resting starters. My issue was how they went about doing it; how their logic was flawed, their reasoning full of holes, and their overall communication confusing. In fact, Polian and Caldwell talked out of the side of their mouths so much on this subject, it even seemed to piss off Jeff Saturday. Week Sixteen was a public relations nightmare, especially when you consider how Polian acted on his radio show the day after the Jets game. Make no mistake, Goodell' s idea is prevent "Poliangate" from ever happening again. It was an embarrassment to the NFL and the Colts. Anyone who denies that or dismisses that isn't facing up to reality.
Personally, this is a pretty good way of making the games late in the season "meaningful." From a fan standpoint, division championships could come down to those last one or two games, making the season more exciting. From a fantasy football standpoint, it makes it easier to select the players you want to start in your league's playoffs. All around, it seems like a winner.
The only person who might grumble at it is Bill Polian, but I don't think he will. The last thing Polian should want is more audio used against him on this subject. He should stay quiet and just accept whatever the commissioner wants here. Smile and nod, Bill. And when you are done doing that, ask Mike Holmgren what's up with his pot leaf shirt.