Caldwell Follows Dungy's Lead with Colts...Because It Worked So Well Before?

Matt Wells@@matt_wells16Correspondent IDecember 28, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 13: Jim Caldwell the Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts is pictured during the NFL game against the Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 13, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts won 28-16. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

So, the last of the unbeatens fell. Unlike last week, this time the head coach seemed to almost rather have it that way.

Jim Caldwell pulled his star players (at least on offense) out of the game halfway through the third quarter with a 15-10 lead over the Jets. And thus, Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, and Reggie Wayne watched as rookie Curtis Painter's fumble returned-touchdown gave the Jets an 18-15 lead, which turned into a 29-15 loss.

And why not? Caldwell said weeks ago that he would continue that strategy of Tony Dungy, resting his players before the playoffs after they've clinched the top seed. That didn't surprise many people, and therefore this didn't surprise anybody.

Except in this case, I do have to ask, "Why?"

All decade we've seen the Colts dominate the regular season, only to fall short of the ultimate goal. Coach Tony Dungy played the same tune every year, clinching the top seed and resting Peyton Manning and Co. in the last week or two.

But no one every questioned it, because it was the accepted thing to do. Rest your players for the playoffs: the games that actually matter.

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There are two advantages to resting players: getting them some rest to recuperate from the long season, and keeping them injury-free.

And this is why I don't get the decision to sit the stars. Rest? You'll get that during the bye. two weeks is plenty of rest: anything more than that and players start to lose their edge.

Keeping from injury is the part that normally I'd understand. As we've seen so many times, an injury to the wrong player can cripple a team (Tom Brady in 2008, Bob Sanders in 2006).

That being said, I think there are only two players that are valuable enough to be rested to be protected from injury: Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark.

That's not to say other players aren't important, but injuries are rare enough in the NFL that i don't think its worth throwing away an undefeated season to protect anybody else from injury. Reggie Wayne? Borderline. But Peyton Manning makes everyone around him good enough he wouldn't be as missed as he would on another team.

Dwight Freeney? Also borderline, but as long as they have either him or Robert Mathis on the field, they're going to get pressure. But I wouldn't object to resting either of those two. I don't object to the resting of Dallas Clark either.

But Peyton's a different story. As long as he's on the field, the Colts will be the better team. He's that good. So i would understand resting him except for one thing: Calvin Pace's sack of Curtis Painter on his first drive was the first the Colts had allowed in over 150 dropbacks. That's the equivalent of three, maybe four, maybe even five or six games.

So with Peyton barely taking any hits during the course of a game, where's the injury risk? Why not go for the undefeated season?

It's the only thing this Colt's team hasn't achieved during this Manning era, and therefore, it will be considered incomplete. Because Brady and the Patriots were able to do it, so should Manning and the Colts. I just don't get the lack of desire to do something only two teams have ever done.

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