One of my prime responsibilities as an SB Nation writer is to post a game recap. We are given a lot of freedom as writers with this network, but one of the very few things that my bosses list as "mandatory" is a recap. Here, like at other blogs, we usually do "Quick Recaps" right after the game. Folks like shake n bake, Colt Homer, and myself often do the quick recaps. Then, usually during the evening or early the next day, I post a longer recap. This recap has some telling statistics, player quotes, and other detailed insights into the game.
However, for the abortion of a contest we witnessed at The Luke this past Sunday, it just seems pointless to do any kind of detailed recap.
What can I say that hasn't already been screamed in several other threads posted yesterday evening? I mean, as a football fan, as a Colts fan, it was difficult for me to even log into this site today and do anything Colts-related, especially after reading that the president of the Colts could give a rat's ass about what I or any other Colts fan thinks.
I've come to a rather sobering conclusion after listening to several post-game interviews with players, including this quote from Reggie Wayne on whether he and the players wanted to win the game and go for an undefeated season. The conclusion is that the players, like the fans, felt Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian's decision to bench people in the third was indeed horrible.
"Who wouldn't?" Reggie Wayne said. "I mean . . . who wouldn't? Doesn't everybody want to be a part of history? Not a season goes by that you don't hear about the '72 Dolphins."
The Colts are as "company" at the podium and with reporters as it gets. After the game, the players spewed the BS company line, even though they seemed not believe or support it in their hearts.The situation was very similar to how the Patriots players reacted after Bill Belichick's disastrous 4th and 2 call during the regular season. The Colts players knew the decision was crap, and in the quote above, Reggie let it slip a little bit.
Also, any notion that the Colts players knew this decision was coming is complete an total crap. If anyone from the Colts tells you that, they are spoon-feeding you a lie. Here is Kelvin Hayden after the game discussing Jim Caldwell benching starters:
"We didn't have a clue he was going to do that," Hayden said.
Reggie's slip, Kelvin's honesty, and Peyton Manning roaming the sidelines with his helmet on during the game, practically begging Tom Moore to put him back in while back-up Curtis Painter fumbled history away, tells me that the players did not agree with the decision. If you watched the game and listened to the fans at Lucas Oil Stadium, they did not agree with the decision either. All they did was pay hundreds of dollars and brave horrible winter weather to watch their team throw a game and a chance at football immortality.
Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell are fortunate they work in Indianapolis. If they had done this in New York or Philadelphia, they might not have made it to their cars alive.
How embarrassing is that? To make a decision that results in tens of thousands of people booing your team; a team that is the #1 seed in the AFC. It's not embarrassing to fans. We were robbed of something we thought was special. Every single NFL fan, regardless of the team, would boo that decision under those circumstances. To do this kind of spineless surrender at home, in front of paying fans? Why not do this last week on the road, or next week against the Buffalo Bills?
So, let's recap (which is the point of this story): The players, fans, and media all thought the decision to bench starters in the third quarter was asinine. The head coach and the team president thought it was the right decision in order for the Colts to win in the playoffs.
Colts management 1 - Everyone else 0
OK, now we move to the playoffs. The game against the Bills next week is absolutely and completely meaningless. In fact, why even play it? Why even sell tickets? Why ask good people to brave likely bad Buffalo weather to watch the Colts throw out their chumps for much of the contest? Why don't we just chalk the game up as the loss we know it will be, and move on?
There are no game balls this week. No key stats from the game. No analysis that is worth anything. All the things one tries to do to get people interested and excited in this football team have pretty much been spit on and tossed out the window by Colts management.
Can the Colts go on to win the Super Bowl? Yes, absolutely.
Will that make fans feel better about what happened this Sunday? No. No, it won't.
This loss will linger as long as this franchise stays in Indy, and the stench of it will forever be linked to Bill Polian. Even if the Colts go on to win it all, fans will always view the team as an under-achiever. "They could have been perfect if not for that Polian guy," they will rightly claim. I posed this issue in an earlier thread: Remember all the articles I've written where I attack players who quit during games, like Randy Moss? Tell me something, how is what Jim Caldwell did in the third quarter any different? When a player obviously quits and costs his team a win, coaches bench or cut him.
Who holds coaches and management accountable when they quit? The answer is us, the fans.
And clearly, the Colts management does not care what we think. Remember that next time you consider buying a ticket to a game, a sweater with a big blue shoe on it, or decide to buy products from any of the Colts sponsors. Keep Polian's arrogant words fresh in your mind when he or the Irsay family ask you for more money to build improvements to the stadium, or when they ask you to come down and support the team during pre-season or other "meaningless games." And remember them if the Colts lose in the playoffs. Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell are now working to keep their jobs, whether they know it or not. Fans will never, EVER forgive them for what they did. The only thing that will mildly sooth the anger is winning a Super Bowl, and when that will ring a bit hollow and cheap.
Special thanks to Gang Green Nation for doing a great job blogging leading up to the game. As a Colts fan, I apologize for my team's unprofessional asshatery, even though it clearly benefited the Jets. It is because of incidents like this that make it very difficult for me, as a member of the media and as a fan, to defend this Colts team when people label them "losers."