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Jim Caldwell loses USA Today Coach of the Year award because of Jets game [UPDATED]

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Note: I realize this is not "the" Coach of the Year award awarded by Associated Press. However, based on what we discuss in the article, it is pretty clear that Jim Caldwell will not win that award either for the same reasons he did not win this award. Lots of media sources award "Coach of the Year" honors, from USA Today to AP to Sporting News. All are fairly consistent, and if Caldwell is coming in third in a USA Today tally, and only get two votes in a fan bloggers tally... yeah, he will not win AP Coach of the Year, and the reason will be the Jets game. --bbs

The 2009 USA Today Coach of the Year is the Chargers Norv Turner and not Colts head coach Jim Caldwell. Why did Caldwell not win the award despite setting an NFL record by starting 14-0 as a rookie head coach, securing the #1 seed in the AFC, and leading the Colts to their 23rd straight regular season victory (also an NFL record)?

Simple. He quit during the Jets game in Week Sixteen. From USA Today, which sponsors the award:

Caldwell, the third-place finisher, seemed to be cruising to the award when his Colts became just the third team to start a season 14-0. But the controversy surrounding the Colts lifting their starters in the two losses helped douse his candidacy.

Say whatever you want about the reasons why or why not to sit the starters against the Jets. The fact is the move was booed by fans at home. Voters saw that reaction, shared that reaction, and awarded CotY to a man (Turner) who many felt prior to this season had underachieved at his job coaching one of the most talented teams in the league.

As the article states, Caldwell was cruising towards winning this award, which is indeed an honor along with the AP CotY award. You don't scoff at CotY honors. Sitting Peyton Manning and the rest of the starters in the third quarter against the Jets cost him that award. Now, it remains to be seen if Caldwell's (and, by extension, Polian's) strategy of rest will pay off. If Caldwell loses early in the playoffs, or if he loses to the Chargers in post-season play (as his friend Tony Dungy did two times in a row), Caldwell's decision to rest starters will indeed go down as one of the all-time gaffs in NFL coaching history. Caldwell and Polian's theory that "momentum is overrated" would be forever dashed and dismissed. The Chargers have won 11 in a row entering post-season play. The Colts have lost two straight, and rested starters in both games. If they win and the Colts lose? Yeah, Caldwell and Polian would look like schmucks.

Again, you're sick of hearing about this, I know. But, Caldwell losing this award (which, prior to the Jets game, he very much deserved) just reinforces the sad, sorry, embarrassing fact that Jim Caldwell quit on a meaningful football game. There's no way someone like me can get angry or make a reasonable argument for Caldwell over Turner.

Caldwell quit. Turner didn't.

And while I am fully aware that the Chargers rested starters in Week Seventeen, that is very different from resting starters in Week Sixteen when you are winning. The Chargers also were not going for a 16-0 "perfect" regular season like the Colts were. Many people felt that 16-0 was important. Polian likes to debate whether or not it was "meaningful" (Hint: When the fans, media, and the players tell you it is, debate on the subject pretty much ends there). However, the powers that determine the CotY honors say it was. And it is not just stuffy, over-paid hack sportswriters and TV talking heads (aka, the people who vote for awards like this) who think this.

In our 2009 NFL Regular Season Studs and Duds, which is voted on by fan bloggers, Jim Caldwell received only two votes for coach of the year. One was from me.

I hope Caldwell is able to carry a Super Bowl trophy home this year as opposed to a CotY award. It would really validate his method, and it would help vindicate his decision. But, right now, it is very hard to defend a coach who quits on a meaningful game. That's why I am not against someone other than Caldwell winning this award.