So there's no way to really know whether Jim Caldwell, Bill Polian and the Indianapolis Colts' decision to pull starters Sunday was the "right" decision. Certainly there has been a ton of backlash from fans and the media as their decision resulted in the first loss of the season and ended any chance of a historic 19-0 season. A feat, by the way, that the Colts management says they don't care about.
While the Colts party line has been that they were putting the team in the best position to achieve the goal they do care about of winning the Super Bowl, fans and media alike believe their behavior was flawed for many reasons. I'm not going to rehash what has been written about the Colts' responsibility to fans or other NFL teams instead I'm more interested in is the psychologically of what I consider to be a gutless decision and what it might mean going forward.
When we played blackjack, we used to joke that the cards knew when you were scared. And if you played that way you would lose. Of course the idea that the cards changed based on your psyche is ludicrous but what can change based on your psyche is your aggression and therefore, your effectiveness. Blackjack, at least the way we played it, was a game of aggression. You had to step on the throat of the casino when you had the advantage. Even if you were way up in a weekend you absolutely could not rest on your laurels.
Similarly to an earlier post about splitting 10s, the idea of playing conservatively or cautiously, would have spelled disaster for us.
Football is likewise a game of aggression and I do believe that the Colts decision on Sunday was one of caution that could have ramifications on their psyche going forward. Of course this is all supposition and because of the small sample size and countless other factors it's impossible to know whether resting players is ultimately the "right" decision but there is one interesting fact that I haven't seen mentioned yet in this discussion.
During the Peyton Manning, or more likely the Bill Polian era, the Colts have followed this philosophy of resting guys when the games are "meaningless" and each year they have done that they have failed to win the Super Bowl. In fact, in a few years they have been prohibitive favorites and have bowed out to much lesser opponents.
In 2006, when they won the Super Bowl, they played their starters to the bitter end in a week 17 victory over Miami, hoping for a win that would have pushed them ahead of the Baltimore Ravens and given them a first down bye. That coincidentally was the year that they won their only Super Bowl of this era.
If the Colts rest their starters again this week, combined with the bye week they have earned as the top team in the AFC, they will have had nearly a month since their starters played in a full game. I imagine there will be some rust when they take the field again in mid January.
So my conclusion from all this controversy is simply that the Colts will not win the Super Bowl. I actually wouldn't be surprised if we see another early exit. Playing scared never leads to success.