Now that the Indianapolis Colts have secured their place in Super Bowl XLIV, some will say that their decision to rest starters down the stretch is justified.
Don't count me in that group, even if the Colts emerge as world champions.
They have the chance to prove they are the best team in football this year. If that is the case, then it is reasonable to believe they would have been capable of playing for the perfect season.
Every NFL team begins the year with the goal of winning the Super Bowl. What if the team is capable of more?
The first fourteen games of the regular season and the conference playoffs suggest the Colts may have been capable of more. A Super Bowl Championship would no doubt represent a great season, but great is the enemy of the perfect.
The Colts' decision to rest many of their starters in the final two weeks of the regular season limited their ceiling to great at the cost of the perfect. The Colts could have distinguished themselves from all teams in football history but are now limited to distinguishing themselves from the other 31 NFL teams.
The fact that the 1972 Dolphins are so widely talked about highlights the significance of their accomplishment. Who won the Super Bowls before or after the '72 Dolphins? It's not on the tip of my tongue either.
Much has been discussed about what the NFL should do to discourage teams from resting players near the end of the regular season. I don't like the idea of awarding draft picks or other competitive advantages, but perhaps an additional cash reward for a perfect season is warranted. Setting up the reward as a jackpot-type account that builds over time will further incentivize the pursuit while maintaining the freedom to focus on the team's health.
Reward or not, the chance to go down in history as the greatest team of all time seems like motive enough to pursue a perfect season.
Apparently it wasn't for the Indianapolis Colts and a Super Bowl victory will only begin the "what ifs."