Peyton Manning and Colts Last To Lose: Is Perfection Really Worth It?

T.J. DoneganCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 27:  Jim Caldwell the Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts is pictured during the NFL game against the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 27, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In many ways, it's all the Dolphins' fault.

It's the Dolphins—those pesky, perfect Dolphins—who maintain their hold on the national consciousness every year and deprive great teams of the rightful place at the top of the heap.

It's those champagne-soaked Dolphins that have skewed the perspective of fans league-wide as to what constitutes a "perfect" season for the better part of four decades.

Is it winning all your games? Is it winning the Super Bowl? What is perfection really worth when you can win 18 straight and lose the one that matters?

Every year it's the same thing: Team X goes on a run to begin the year, stretching their perfection into December, and every year they lose it as the bogey of perfection finally pulls them down.

Utter tripe.

The Colts will go into the record books, in all likelihood, with only a one or two in the loss column. But does that make them any less of a great football team?

The 1985 Bears crushed all comers in the playoffs, embarrassing team after team of professional football players who didn't belong on the same planet as them.

Their defense was ferocious, their offense nearly unstoppable (they had three games all year where they finished with less than 300 yards of total offense). They had six games where they got five or more turnovers, including six in the Super Bowl. 

They were undone by one special performance by one of the all time greats, on Monday Night Football.

If it weren't for Dan Marino playing one of his best games of all time, the idea of a perfect regular season would be demoted to an interesting statistic rather than the main December talking point each year.

It's all a rather meaningless hiccup in the percentages, anyway.

The 1972 Dolphins were really no better that year than they were in 1973. They were no better than the Bears in 1985 or the Patriots in 2007 or the Colts or Saints in 2009.

They were among the greatest. Among.

How many casual fans can name a single player not named Csonka on that 1972 team for what they did in 1972 and not what they said in 2007?

I don't want to discredit the 1972 Dolphins. That would be impossible. But they shouldn't be famous simply because of the fact that they didn't lose. They won the Super Bowl in true style and did so again in 1973.

They were back-to-back champions. They were the first Super Bowl team to sport the 3-4 as their base defense. They are one of the greatest exemplars of the power running game yet seen.

Perfect in the NFL isn't winning all your regular season games. It's winning all your playoff games. Ask any player if they'd rather be the 2007 Giants or the 2007 Patriots.

That the Colts players and coaches won 14 1/2 games this year, clinched a bye in the playoffs, the inside track to a Super Bowl title, an MVP for their quarterback, and then were booed by their own fans because they had the audacity to commit the sin of perspective is among the more ridiculous things I've heard this season.

That the Colts didn't pursue perfection at all costs should applauded, rather than booed. That some fans can still be so short-sighted when such a fitting parable of what chasing tough wins against playoff-hungry teams late in the season can do to your Super Bowl chances is so readily available is remarkable.

The New England Patriots went at the New York Giants in the final week of 2007 and pulled out a tough win. The Giants didn't push hard for the victory, and they didn't pull out all the stops.

They kept a lot in the playbook; they studied, and they waited. In the Super Bowl, they out-schemed the Patriots en route to their eventual upset victory. This wasn't an aberration, this was football. The Patriots let the idea of being the perfect team go to their head and lost everything when it mattered.

In truth, the Colts are not a perfect football team. Neither were those Patriots and neither were the Bears or Dolphins before them.

They're young, they have holes, and they have injury issues. This is a team that has won some very lucky games. They're only fifth in points scored and only fifth in points allowed. Their expected win-loss, according to Pro Football Reference, was just 10.5-3.5 after 14 games.

This is a team that should be glad to be rid of the weight of perfection, and can now use the next few weeks to great advantage as they prepare for the playoffs.

I say rest 'em all next week, perfection be damned.

At least you know Buffalo fans won't be booing.


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