There’s been a lot of talk this week whether it was fundamentally wrong for the Indianapolis Colts to pull their key starters in the third quarter against the Jets with a 5 point lead. Entering the game, the Jets were on the low end cusp of playoff picture, while the 14-0 Colts had already secured clinched the Division Title, a first round bye in the playoffs, as well as home field advantage. Only the Jets and lowly Bills remained in the way of being the second team in NFL history to go undefeated through the regular season. Regardless, Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Dwight Feeney were all pulled, among others. In stepped rookie quarterback Curtis Painter, yielding an 11.2 QB rating, in part to a fumble, three “3 & Outs” and an interception. The Jets continued to pound away at the second-stringers adding 19 unanswered points, eventually winning by a final score of 29-15 The decision to bench the starters, under the given circumstances, raised a lot of questions (all of which I will not attempt to answer):
Was it the Colts’ duty to chase history? Was it their right to preserve the health of their key players having clinched just about everything they could? Did they upset the competitive balance of the National Football League and alter the playoff destiny of other teams in the playoff race?
Yes. Yes. And, Yes. But here’s my take on it, unique from what you hear about on ESPN or the web.
But first, let me say this. Having been in or around the league for the last 18 years, I GET it…the National Football Business, err, I mean League…National Football League. It used to be about a pitch of grass where gladiators would slay at the delight of a crowd. The remarkable growth of the crowd (attendance, fantasy football, television viewer audience) in the last few decades has transformed the NFL into a multi-billion dollar business. Hell, the payroll alone per team is at $127 million per year…just for the players! Incredibly, the one single goal for each of the 32 teams has withstood the change and test of time: WIN THE SUPERBOWL.
So I ask you – What kind of happenings would you expect in a back office of a multi-million to billion dollar company? Loss control and risk-analysis. Every team’s has them. Their guidance filters directly to the franchise owner’s ear, and the subsequent decision is radioed to from their luxury box to the field. And that’s the way it goes.
Going undefeated in the regular season doesn’t guarantee a Superbowl victory. In fact, it probably makes it more difficult. At 14-0, the Colts may have been questioning whether they could keep the streak alive until the end, especially after careful consideration of momentum change. Ending the season with two relatively easy matchups, followed by a bye week, in advance of then facing possibly one of their toughest opponents of the season, were surely factored into the decision mentioned above.
But this is the real deal, personally delivered from Chad Tate. That risk analysis office I was talking about earlier…the decision wasn’t about the health of the players (except Peyton Manning), they made the decision to keep the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the wildcard spot.
Now before you start spouting about me giving some undeserved love to an 8-7 team, at least here me out. The Colts are great, but the Chargers always seem to have their number. Fortunately, the earliest they’ll see each other is the AFC Championship. But their second round matchup will be determined somewhat by the quality of the wildcard. Of all those teams (Broncos, Jets, Steelers, Ravens, Dolphins, Texans, and Jaguars) still capable of making playoffs, right now in advance of week 17, the Steelers are the most underrated.
Of the Steelers’ seven total losses this season, six have occurred in games that strong safety Troy Polamalu has not started or played in due to a strained PCL injury. The other loss was the game in which he was injured in. The Pittsburgh Steelers are essentially unbeaten this season with Polamalu in the game. He’s practicing with the team, and possibly ready for action as early as this weekend. He’s basically guaranteed to be in the game if they make playoffs. A big “if” with the Jets’ win last weekend.
Also consider this. The Colts offense is lopsided. They are currently the #1 ranked passing offense with over 292 yards per game, but #32 – dead last – in rushing attack with only 84 yards per game. Last year’s Steelers with a healthy Polamalu were ranked #1 in fewest passing yards allowed, complemented by the second fewest rushing yards given up per game. It’s hard to make a case to compare using stats from 2 different years, but it’s one that makes sense – it reflects the team with a healthy Polamalu. Even without their anchor, the Steelers D ranks #3 in yards given by the rush, and #16 against the pass. More importantly, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the defending Superbowl champions, winning it all in two of the last four seasons. In the 2005 season, they were the first wildcard team to ever win the Superbowl.
The Steelers are starting to roll, with big wins over the Ravens and the Packers. If they can take down Miami on the road, they still need multiple cards to fall into place just to get into the playoffs. But the reality is, their journey will most likely end not because of the on-field absence of Polamalu, but because of the Colts decision to bench their starters. Every single person in the organization knew that a Colts team with rookie Curtis Painter at quarterback and second stringers would inevitably lose to the Jets.
So why pull the team so early, so close in score? Was it simply to ensure the health of the starters going into playoffs? Was it a matter of getting a loss out of the way so they could get back to winning and execute the organization’s goal, not short term objectives? Was it a play by the Colts’ organization to keep the predator capable of the most damage as far away from interfering with their pursuit of one more Superbowl Championship?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Thanks for checking out my inaugural blog with EXPO! I know. I’m that guy that used to be famous. I get it a lot.
But no worries, you know me…or knew me. Remember?
Franchise player – check. Cash money – check. Magazine cover boy – check, check. Playboy Mansion – check. Women – check, check, check, check….check, check…check, check.
Ahhhhh. The fame. I loved every last minute of it. But fame’s a bitch too.
I guess it has something to do with the fact that you’re typically not born with it (Royalty excluded), it hits you at what becomes the pinnacle of your life, and somehow or some way is lost, or lessens along the way. It’s usually hitched to beauty, money, power and success and crazy enough, they seem to be intertwined. You know what I mean. Do something great, get money. Got money, get power. Got money and power, you look a WHOLE lot better than you did without.
So when you get there, you always hear that voice. The one that tells you your 15 minutes and your seven figures are running out. And you do whatever you can to keep from having to go back to where you once were. Everyone’s got something to say.
“Diversify. Invest. Settle down.” Worst advice I ever took. All I ever knew was football. Should have stuck with it, but my face on anything could sell ice to Eskimos. My former manager got me hooked up with some of the easiest money I ever made. Name on the label. Cha-Ching! My “Gutbuster” was turning couch potatoes into Tyler Durden. Unfortunately, the product I endorsed made just as many dudes go limp than the post-pregnancy weight gain of their wives. But I get sued! Unless you’re deaf, dumb and blind, you know the verdict. Chad Tate: Guilty as charged! I lost most of my wealth and the ex took the rest.
Money gone. Power gone. Playmate-of-the-Year wife gone. And yes – fame, gone. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t ask myself how in the hell I got mixed up with the “Gutbuster” and Foreman got the grill! Regardless, the last decade hasn’t exactly been “good times” in The Life of Chad Tate.
I may not be able to march a team down the field like I used to, but I’m still a baller – I still know sports. That’s what I’m going back to with my new blog, exclusive to EXPO. Keep checking in for my two cents on whatever comes out of my head: rants, picks, fantasy advice or whatever. Feel free to drop me a line too at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, check out my NFL picks for week 17. CT
SF v. STL SF
IND v. BUF BUF
CHI v. DET CHI
NE v. HOU HOU
ATL v. TB TB
NO v. CAR CAR
PIT v. MIA PIT
JAC v. CLE CLE
NYG v. MIN MIN
WAS v. SD SD
KC v. DEN KC
PHI v. DAL DAL
BAL v. OAK BAL
GB v. ARI GB
TEN v. SEA TEN
CIN v. NYJ NYJ
Breaking first day sales records set by “Grand Theft Auto IV”, this week’s release of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” has reached over $300 million in sales within the first 24 hours of its release.
If everyone that bought the game completes the ‘Russian Terrorist Airport level’ by the time you’re reading this, the virtual body count will surpass the 1 billion mark! That’s more collective kills than we could hope for in all the Grand Theft Auto games combined!
I’m almost through the level…need to prepare the C-4.
It feels good to make history!