Monday, January 14, 2008

Dirty Pool

I know this entry is a little late, and I know that my one of the stages of loss is bitterness and I will keep that in mind as I write this entry with full confidence that its content and timing are perfect. But here is the idea.

The last game of the NFL regular season between the Colts and the Titans was not only played under shady circumstances, but there is more than enough reason to believe that the Colts lost intentionally.

Now, I don’t think that Dungy and the Colts went out with the intention to lose, but I do think that towards the end of the game, with winning a reasonable option, they decided against winning and folded on purpose.

The obvious claim is that with more than 30 seconds to go in the game and a 6 point deficit, the Colts could have called time out, and forced the Titans (on 4th down) to kick a field goal. This field goal could have resulted in a bad snap returned for a score, a block, a miss, or perhaps a game-icing dagger right down Main Street. We don’t know. What we do know is that whether or not he was resting his best players or not, Tony Dungy is paid to win football games, and one of the jobs of a head coach when attempting to win a game is to manage the clock. He DELIBERATELY and EXPLICITLY did not.

This was not resting players, or running the ball with a lead. By NOT doing what a coach has to do in that situation, he was making a statement. The statement was “we do not want to win this game.” Which is somewhat understandable. Well no, wait, it’s not.

“We do not want to win this game at the risk of injuring a key player” is reasonable.

“We do not want to win” is downright shady.

But wait there’s more:

I have read several places that the traditional method of “resting your players” really doesn’t make sense. You play the Peyton Mannings, Dallas Clarks and Reggie Waynes in the first quarter, when the game is not in question and there is no way to know how the other team will be reacting. This kind of gets them game play, but you would think that if they were going to play for 15 minutes – you would want them playing the final 15 minutes, for practice in pressure situations.

But Dungy gets a pass on this because it is the traditional method and he was just following tradition.

But the way they played that second half, allowing Kerry Collins to turn into Bart Starr. Why were they in soft coverage, in the second half of a one score game? Why were they giving Tennessee’s below average receivers big cushions like they were lining up against Moss and Owens? Even if you are resting your starters, you do want to give your backups real game experience right. What better time to break in young corners than playing against division receivers (who aren’t very good) in a playoff game for them, with no repercussions. To me this doesn’t make sense.

Unless you consider some more facts: The Colts benefited (albeit slightly) from losing the game.

1. I have read elsewhere and believe it to be true that the Colts considered their first opponent in the playoffs. The Titans would HAVE to be considered by anyone (including Dungy) as significantly weaker than the Browns. Indy considered Cleveland a better match up with San Diego and perhaps a better candidate to upset the Chargers. Had the Chargers been upset (by either team), The Colts would have met the red hot Jaguars (or the Steelers, a team built on defense and knocked out the Colts in their building 2 years ago) as opposed to San Diego. Therefore, putting the weaker of the two teams (Tennessee) in the playoffs instead of Cleveland, increases their chances of seeing who we had to believe was the weakest of their three potential playoff opponents.

2. Draft choices! A loss potentially moves them up one spot (despite not having a first rounder), but more importantly it significantly affects Tennessee’s choice. A Titans win brings their draft choice from potentially 19, up to 25. Indy’s division foe now has to watch 6 teams draft in front of them thanks to that loss. And when they will be losing their best defensive player (Haynesworth), replacing him becomes that much harder.

It no doubt benefits the Colts to lose that game.

But hey, they got what was coming to them. Look at the teams that rested their players significantly at the end of the year – Indy, Dallas, Tampa. How are they looking? Meanwhile, the other locked in playoff contender, New England, looked great and fresh despite a two week layover. Suits them.

But still, even with all of this “they got what was coming to them” I still think that intentionally losing a game, in front of 65,000 people who paid ridiculous amounts of money to watch you try to win, and when you are paid a lot of money to win football games is shady.

Remember when Pete Rose said “I never bet against my team.” And the response was “well if you bet on your team on Friday and Saturday, and didn’t on Sunday, then you were essentially betting against your team on Sunday.”

That’s what this Dungy thing is. If you didn’t try to win, that is – put your team in the position to win without risking the health of one of your key contributors – then you essentially tried to lose. Super shady.

And furthermore, in a 1 score game, against a playoff hungry foe, don’t you think Manning (who’s not exactly known as Mr. 4th quarter) could have used one more 2 minute drill. Maybe a little more work in the 4th quarter, pressure situation, would have helped him when he was put to that same challenge 2 weeks later. So Dungy again, did not do his job.

By not calling time out, and by not game planning to win the game (with whatever personnel was on the field) was a violation of what I believe to be Dungy’s integrity, and I believe that it cost him his season.

This game was bullshit, and I hate that we had to watch it.

One thing we did learn from this game though, is that Indy can use their improved draft position to draft a new backup QB, because I don’t think Jim Sorgi can cut it. Unless it was Sorgi who through the game….

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

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