'Coltsthink' Spoils Indy's Shot at History
Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell and president Bill Polian had colluded to take perfection away from their own team, and from Manning's legacy. And he wasn't coming back in. So why the helmet? Just to hear the plays being called? It looked like more than that, an unwillingness to give up, a non-acceptance, maybe even a subtle protest over his own organization deciding it was best to throw a football game and a special spot in history.
The Colts lost to the Jets 29-15 Sunday, ending their chance to be the first team to go 16-0 and win the Super Bowl. And for the final 20 minutes, the Colts stared off into nowhere. Reggie Wayne just sat there. The fans booed. Manning kept his helmet on.
And now we know what it looks like when history is being unmade.
"We are followers of our head coach and the organization, people who give us direction,'' Manning said. "That's what our job is, to take instructions and follow those instructions. ...
"There was no head coach-quarterback argument of any sort.''
To correct one thing, history actually was made Sunday. The Colts became the first 14-1 team to be booed off its home field.
Caldwell said the goal was to be fresh for the playoffs. Polian said a perfect season was never an issue.
They have been dropping warnings. Then at halftime, with the Colts up 9-3, Caldwell decided that because they had the lead, it was best to rest the starters. He told them they would be benched, likely after one drive. No one responded.
Then New York's Brad Smith ran the opening kickoff 106 yards for a touchdown, and the plan was blown. Manning responded with a touchdown drive to put the Colts up 5, but the safety net was gone.
Manning and others were benched. And rookie QB Curtis Painter played for the first time of his career in a stadium full of people who paid to watch their team try to win.
Quickly, a third-string tight end missed a block, and Painter, with a long, slow delivery, was stripped of the ball. The Jets fell on it and rolled into the end zone.
"Like I told these guys,'' Caldwell said, "it was more directed at me and my decision.''
His players already knew that. Inside, they were booing him, too. Later, they followed the company line, saying they preferred resting to working. Stuff like that.
They lied. These players wanted history. They worked for it. They earned it.
And their coach and president threw it away.
Polian said he understood why the fans were booing: "If I were in row 20, I would probably be rooting for that, too. Football logic has to come into play at some point in time.''
Did you hear that, Colts fans? You are too stupid to understand football.
'Coltsthink' knows better.
Polian said the loss wasn't frustrating. He also said things such as, "This one got away early,'' and "We weren't quite in sync,'' and "We were just off a hair. That plus the kickoff return, which was totally on us, was really the story of the game.''
No, it wasn't.
It was a boneheaded decision for so many reasons. As a rule, it's not acceptable for teams or athletes to lose on purpose, and the Colts altered the playoff race. The Jets will probably make it now.
Manning kept citing the organization, so clearly separating the decision from the players' wishes. It's a trite mentality, but it exists in football: Players follow their coach into battle.
And it is pure betrayal when he orders them to turn and run.
The question now is whether this will help the Colts to win the Super Bowl. But Coltsthink has failed by pushing these same buttons before.
The Colts tried shutting down like this in 2005 and 2007, and then lost their first playoff game. In 2006, they were forced to fight to the end. That's when they won the Super Bowl.
Polian wants to force his theory to be right, no matter the results.
And Caldwell mysteriously just goes along with it.
Dolphins, the last perfect team, who went 14-0 before winning the Super Bowl. Some of those old Dolphins have admitted to popping champagne corks each year when the last undefeated team finally loses.
"While the Jets' win today ended Indianapolis' streak and showed once again how difficult it is to go undefeated,'' said Don Shula, coach of those Dolphins, "I want to congratulate the Colts on a great run ..."
I might be sick.
One problem with 'Coltsthink': Painter came in with just 5:36 left in the third quarter. So I asked Caldwell why he chose that moment to pull Manning.
"We had a lead,'' he said. "It might not have been as wide a lead as you would like.''
If the goal was to rest players, then what difference did the score make? And how much rest do Manning and others get by sitting out such a small amount of time?
In the end, this won't help the Colts win the Super Bowl. I'm not sure it will hurt much, either, though momentum has been lost, and maybe a little confidence in leaders.
Mostly, this was just about ensuring that 'Coltsthink' was instituted.
That required the losing of a football game. It required the unmaking of history just to prove a point.
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