Colts’ Caldwell not second-guessing choice to sit stars
Colts coach Jim Caldwell will not second-guess the decision to
rest his starters Sunday.
He’ll let everybody else do it for him.
One day after Indianapolis pulled the plug on its perfect season
by sitting Peyton Manning and others with 5:36 left in the third
quarter of a 15-10 game, the great debate raged in
NFL purists expressed disappointment that the Colts sidestepped
their shot at perfection. Other analysts suggested the Colts had an
obligation to play it straight, and hometown fans expressed their
anger with strong critiques on local radio shows.
None of it fazed Caldwell.
“I’m one of those guys, it’s probably my greatest strength and
my greatest weakness, I can focus in, I can narrow my scope, and
once you make a decision you have to live with it,” he said.
“Certainly you weigh all the options before. You take a look at
all the things that could occur, but once that decision is done you
just keep moving.”
Indy fans aren’t ready to move on just yet.
After celebrating record after record during an unprecedented
23-game winning streak and feeling like they had a personal stake
in the pursuit of perfection, they showered Lucas Oil Stadium with
boos over the final 20 minutes Sunday. Pro Bowl receiver Reggie
Wayne joked to a local television station that Indy might be the
first 14-1 team to get booed at home.
In time, fans will likely calm down, and if the Colts win the
Super Bowl, all will be forgiven.
“Ultimately, what matters the most is what happens in the
postseason,” Denver coach Josh McDaniels said. “So, I think their
season is going to be determined by what they do once the playoffs
start, not what happened yesterday.”
The controversy has stoked passions among Indy sports fans and
on the national stage unlike anything this community has seen since
the firing of Bob Knight in 2000 or The Brawl in Detroit in
Yes, everybody has an opinion, but the only ones that really
matter are voiced in the locker room – and they support
“You get people who think you should have gone for it and
people who think we did a disservice to the NFL by not playing our
guys,” said left tackle Charlie Johnson, who was deactivated for
Sunday’s game because of a foot injury. “But I think you have to
look at the decisions coach Caldwell has made up to this point and
The decision also could have ramifications on the playoff
The Jets now have control, thanks to Sunday’s victory, and teams
such as Pittsburgh or Houston could end up missing the postseason
because the Colts rested key players.
“Obviously I would have loved to have seen them win that
game,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. “But for us it really
doesn’t matter. We have to worry about taking care of our business.
… They’ve got to do what they think they got to do. But we’ve got
to worry about ourselves.”
Caldwell and team president Bill Polian, the architect of the
Colts, insist they did what was best for the team. Their goal,
Polian and Caldwell continue to insist, is to win the Super Bowl
— not go 16-0. And the best way to accomplish that, they
believe, is to be healthy.
So they sat the starters for the final 20 minutes, allowing the
Jets to rally for a 29-15 victory. They’re likely to sit even
longer this weekend in Buffalo.
“The perfect season was never an issue with us,” Polian said
after the game. “We’ve said it time and time and time again. It’s
somebody else’s issue, but not ours. That was of no concern.
Football logic has to come into play, and that logic is it makes no
sense to have guys out there with the potential for injuries.”
Fans didn’t buy Polian’s contention.
Callers to radio shows repeatedly questioned Indy’s tack. Some
asked for refunds. Others described Polian as “arrogant” and one
fan said the team “spit in our face.” One talk show host read an
e-mail on the air that said the Colts didn’t lose Sunday’s game,
they forfeited it, and many brought up the Colts’ previous
In three of the last four years, Indianapolis has not won a
playoff game. The other time, the Colts won the Lombardi
It’s a tricky question.
Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who played on the
perfect Patriots in 2007, and Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who had the
last team to lose a game in 2008, believe organizations have to
make the decision that is best for them, even though Fisher said he
would play his starters if he were 14-0.
So will Caldwell’s decision be worth it? Maybe.
“I think everybody really had the sense that if they played
their players they would win the next two games. They didn’t,”
Fisher said. “But I think we have to wait and see and then go back
and ask yourself that question. Just wait and see what happens in