Resting key players late in the season in games where there are no playoff implications has become a trend of late, with mixed emotions from both the media and the team's fan base.
From one viewpoint it's hard to disagree with a coach's decision to rest his star players when nothing is on the line. It has been said that the football gods favor the bold, but then again you can't go wrong with playing it safe and preparing for the long run, can you?
This is often times is a lose-lose situation for the head coach. Rest your players, and face the heat from the media and your fanbase, but play the players and risk injury.
Coach Jim Caldwell of the Indianapolis Colts chose the first route, resting quarterback Peyton Manning in the second half of their game against the New York Jets. Manning would watch from the sidelines as the Colts lost their five-point lead and would go on to lose by two touchdowns with backup quarterback Curtis Painter in the game.
The Colts entered the game 14-0, seeking to become the second team in NFL history to go undefeated in a 16-game regular season, and the first team to ever go undefeated throughout the playoffs and Super Bowl and finish the season 19-0.
Caldwell knew he would take the heat, and did so accordingly. It was obvious by the look on Manning's face, as he watched the Colts quest for perfection from the sidelines come to an end, that he did not want to give up on rewriting the history books.
By resting his key player did Jim Caldwell help prepare his team for a run at arguably the most glorified and respected feat in sports, winning the Super Bowl, or did he just kill the momentum and emotion of not only the Colts organization, but their fan base and supporters as well.
It doesn't take much to satisfy the average NFL fan. Win, consistently, but more importantly give them a reason to show confidence in the team and organization. Go hard every week and show your fans that you want to not only win, but dominate every week.
This brings up the question, does resting players translate to alienating fans? After winning the first fourteen games of the season, it will be hard for Colts fans to think of anything else but losing again, with the next loss coming in the playoffs.
Are the Colts instilling confidence in their players and fans heading into the playoffs? I think not.