NFL Teams, Sit Your Starters in Meaningless Games, Please!

Nick VennochiContributor IJanuary 5, 2010

HOUSTON - JANUARY 03: New England Patriots medical staff cart off wide receiver Wes Welker after he was injured on a play at Reliant Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The great Herm Edwards' quote "YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!" is true. But that doesn't mean you need to play to win with all your starters in the game. I don't get this debate at all...because I don't think there is one.

If we can all agree that everyone on a NFL team is a professional football player then the debate is over.

I know, I know...Peyton Manning is better than Curtis Painter and Carson Palmer is better than J.T. O' Sullivan, and a lot more fun to watch, but hey, they're still pros aren't they? So for one or two meaningless games the back-ups should be in there.

If the whole point of the season is to win a championship, then by playing your starters in games that won't help the team the coach is only hurting the team. Being rusty, or backing into the playoffs are concerns, but especially with proven veterans, if they aren't going to show up for a playoff game then there are two excuses: they had an off-game, or were just flat-out out-played.

I hate seeing starters playing in meaningless games, only bad things can happen. Yes, injuries can happen any time and they are part of the game, but having them happen in a game that is basically a fifth preseason game is a waste. We saw many examples this past weekend that could really affect the playoffs.

Besides Wes Welker's supposed torn ACL and MCL there were other big injuries. The Cardinals saw their starting CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie go down with a left knee injury and their starting WR Anquan Boldin injure his right knee and ankle.

These three injuries occurred when their teams were playing for nothing. These injuries could also have been avoided if the players were warming the bench.

Sure, the backup CB or back up WRs in those situations aren't as talented nor as fun to watch but you can't get me to believe that the backup wouldn't be working just as hard to win the game. Or that they would be putting out the same or even more effort to win that game. They would be playing with as much pride and love for the game as Boldin, Welker, or Cromartie.

So by playing them instead, how is that not playing to win? I am not asking Bill Belichick or Ken Whisenhunt to start 10 guys. I'm just asking them why, in the positions where there is enough depth to play bench players; they can't get and keep their main guys healthy?

There is no way Tom Brady of all people; who is reported to have 3 broken ribs and a fractured finger should be doing anything but holding a hot chocolate during the season finale at Houston. It is just flat out dumb to play him in a game that means nothing besides the No. 3 or No. 4 seed.

I applaud the Colts for sitting Peyton Manning and Joesph Addai among others because they were thinking of the ultimate goal: winning a Super Bowl. And Super Bowls aren't won in week 17 when you have clinched home field throughout the playoffs.

Bottom line: if a team has clinched a playoff berth and is playing essentially for pride, put the guys on the bench in where you can, you have earned the right to get healthy and plan for the playoffs.

And for the teams who complain (cough cough the Pittsburg Steelers) don't be 8-7 as the defending champs and then you won't have to worry about needing help to get in and defend your crown.