Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles knows the college football season is a marathon, not a sprint. With Sunday's matchup against the SMU Mustangs already decided, Briles pulled his Heisman Trophy candidate and starting quarterback Bryce Petty after an injury to his lower back.
Petty could be seen showing the effects of the injury during the first half, especially after an option keeper late in the second quarter.
With the Bears already up 31-0 at the half, Briles made the decision to pull Petty for the rest of the game.
Petty had already thrown for 161 yards and two touchdowns and he'd run for another.
Baylor's offense is ROLLING! Last 3 drives: 8 plays, 3 touchdowns (Bryce Petty 2 TD passes)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 1, 2014
That's the half. Bears have dominated every phase and lead SMU 31-0. Only concern for Baylor is Bryce Petty's health.— Brice Cherry (@BriceCherry) September 1, 2014
Baylor went on to hammer SMU 45-0. After the game was over, all of the attention and concern shifted to the health of the Bears' star. Per the program's official Twitter account, Petty assured everyone that the injury wasn't serious.
"It's nothing that serious. Everything's good." -Bryce Petty on his back— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) September 1, 2014
Perhaps in a more pivotal game that was still in doubt, Briles could have kept his star in the game and been more conservative with play-calling to protect him.
The luxury of a 31-0 lead created the opportunity to rest Petty.
This might seem like a bit of a no-brainer move, but not every coach makes the right decision in these situations. Some Chicago Bulls fans may never forgive head coach Tom Thibodeau for having Derrick Rose on the floor during the 2012 NBA playoffs when the star tore his ACL.
Rose had battled injuries all year and the Bulls were up 12 points with just over a minute left in the game. For all intents and purpose, the game had been decided.
As NBA analyst and Hall of Famer Reggie Miller mentioned in the video of the broadcast that is linked above, criticism of Thibodeau began almost immediately.
Sure, that's a different sport, but it's a similar concept.
Imagine what would have happened had Petty been put back on the field—even for one play—in game where his team led by 31 points with a half to play against an overmatched SMU team.
Briles would have been pelted with criticism, and deservedly so.
Because of Petty's competitiveness, there's no doubt he probably wanted to get back on the field, but this appears to be an example of a head coach and his staff making an executive decision in the best interest of the player and team.
With Petty saying the injury isn't serious, Bears fans can be optimistic about the quarterback being available for the team's next game against the Northwestern State Demons on September 6.
Truth be told, the Bears could probably afford to rest Petty in that game as well. The No. 10 team in the nation should be able to handle a squad from the Southland Conference without their No. 1 quarterback.
We should know more in the next few days about Petty's availability, but it seems clear Briles will make the right decision either way.