Former Jets and Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards famously had a press conference meltdown where he exclaimed, "You play to win the game!"
It's a novel concept. Playing to win the game. The Indianapolis Colts honestly took a brief hiatus from playing to win the game on Sunday and detoured into playing not to lose a potential shot at a championship. Against Edwards' former team, the New York Jets, and up 15-10, Colts coach Jim Caldwell benched Peyton Manning and most of the rest of the starting lineup. The Jets scored 19 straight points and went on to a 29-15 win over Indy ending the Colts hopes for an undefeated season.
After the game, Colts Vice President Bill Polian told reporters that an undefeated season never actually entered the discussion at the beginning of the year, and I honestly believe he is right. We can sit here and debate the wisdom of the move by the Colts or not, but I could hardly stomach what happened as the Colts bandwagon of fans quickly lost its wheels and fans got nasty.
As I listened to the radio yesterday to both sports and news call-in shows, they were mostly filled with seemingly near-suicidal Colts fans griping about ticket prices and stadium taxes. They were griping about how the dynasty had ended and the impending doom to come forth upon the team. Some called for Polian or Caldwell's heads over the whole incident. Before we do something rash, let's expand this discussion.
To all those fans calling for Polian's head: where were you when this team was 1-15 in 1991? I was there driving the bandwagon, and I can remember when you couldn't pay people to take Colts tickets. It's the leadership of Jim Irsay and, most recently, Bill Polian that have taken this team from a poor to mediocre bunch to the team that WON THE MOST GAMES THIS CENTURY! It's Polian's football mind that brought together the talent to deliver this city's first major league sports championship since the Pacers won the ABA titles in the late 60's and early 70's.
What has Polian done to you? Did he kick your cat? Spank your pet newt? Steal your Christmas presents? Break your yard gnomes? I mean...come on people! Bill Polian is one of the best football minds in the history of the NFL. I'm not going to turn my back on him or, by extension, Jim Caldwell, because they decided not to play to win a game in hopes of instead WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP. That's the big picture folks.
YOU PLAY TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP! The Colts have won enough games to decide how to play these last few games, and we clearly saw what would happen if Peyton Manning breaks an arm or a leg or blows out a knee (see Tom Brady's injury last year), or gets turf toe or whatever. Curtis Painter will not deliver a title. Plain and simple. That's not a knock on him (Colts fans owe him a big drink), but it's simply that Curtis Painter is no Peyton Manning. There's only one Dwight Freeney. There's only one Dallas Clark or Reggie Wayne. Without those people, we, as Colts fans, lose the chance for a Championship. I felt your pain yesterday, but the big picture isn't to be undefeated. The big picture is to be Super Bowl Champions.
Sure, the Colts blew it yesterday, but the chance to win another Super Bowl should excite fans. Instead, our fans, for the most part, acted like spoiled little children yesterday. I am ashamed of those fans that booed. As I said, I wasn't happy, and I think the timing could have been better but my goodness! You would think that Bill Polian was Art Modell and just announced he was taking the Browns to Baltimore here.
So, Colts fans...dry your tears...put away the hankies...it's over. The dynasty is still here. We have a locker room of professional football players and one of the best franchises in football. It's here in our city.
Yeah, and I don't want to hear anything about the Lucas Oil Stadium mess and how the Colts should be paying every city expense and changing your baby's diapers because we funded that stadium for them...blah blah. That's old and it has nothing to do with this particular argument. The Colts are doing what they believe is best to win a Championship for this city. That's the big picture!