THE LOOK ON QB PEYTON MANNING’S FACE SAYS IT ALL
On Sunday, the 14-0 Indianapolis Colts had a 15-10 lead over the New York Jets with just 5:36 left in the third quarter. Thats when Colts coach Jim Caldwell decided to play it safe. With his team already having clinched the AFC East and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, Caldwell pulled many of his starting players from the game. That included star quarterback Peyton Manning.
As Indianapolis’ own fans booed, Manning was replaced by rookie sixth round draft pick Curtis Painter from Purdue. Painter had never taken an NFL snap in his entire life. The results were predictable. Painter was horrible. He literally fumbled away the lead and had a quarterback rating of 11.2. The Colts failed to score the rest of the game and the Jets came back to win 30-15.
Caldwell had decided to forego short term glory (the chance for a perfect season) in exchange for long term safety. He wanted to avoid any chance of injuries to his key starters-especially Manning. In 2005, Caldwell’s predecessor and mentor, former Colts coach Tony Dungy, made a similar decision. The Colts started that season 13-0. Like Caldwell, Dungy seemed to WANT a loss to avoid the pressure of an undefeated season. The Colts did indeed lose to the San Diego Chargers in Game 14. The following week, Dungy pulled Manning in favor of career backup Jim Sorgi. The Colts lost again. In fact, the Colts never won a single playoff game that season. They were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first playoff game.
So much for playing it safe. Besides, far from avoiding the spotlight, Caldwell’s decision has invited national ridicule. Ever the good soldier, Manning has publicly backed his head coach’s decision. However, one look at Manning’s face on the Colts sideline Sunday tells you everything you need to know. The Colts decision to spit in the face of history and not even TRY for perfection was just wrong.