You know if I were coaching in the NFL, barring injury or blowout, I would never sit my starters. That’s exactly what the Colts and Saints have done over the course of the last few weeks. Even if you have locked down a playoff position, I feel that it can take momentum away from your team.
When the Colts finally play a “real” again (weekend of (1/16), Payton Manning will have not played a full game in four weeks. Even the great Peyton Manning can get stale. Case and point; the Colts came close to a perfect season in 2005. Coach Tony Dungy rested Manning for one maybe two weeks. Manning went three to four weeks without playing. The Pittsburgh Steelers came into Indianapolis during the divisional round nine point dogs. The Steelers were on a roll winning their last six regular season games to make the sixth and final playoff spot. They then defeated the Bengals in Cincinnati during the wild card round.
The Steelers dominated the Colts. They had Manning out of kilter. The Steelers ended up winning the game by a field goal, and went on to win the Super bowl.
Now in my humble opinion, I think the players should play so they won’t get stale. But in saying that, I think the coach has the right to do whatever he feels is right for the team. The NFL needs to stay out of it. Many could argue that the New York Jets won their last to games because they were playing unmotivated opponents who already had their positions locked for post season. Even though the lack of effort by the Jet’s last two opponent knocked the likes of Pittsburgh (boo hoo) and Houston out of the playoffs; coaches should still have the right to make their own personnel decisions.
I must agree with something that Bill Cower once said. In 2004 entering week 17, the Ravens were 8-7. They needed a win, plus three other teams to lose to qualify for the playoffs. We needed the Steelers to beat the Bills. Cower was resting many of his key starters. He received much criticism for that. When asked about him resting players he said something like this: (I’m paraphrasing) “we put ourselves in a position to rest our players, I will do whatever is best for the team”. Although Bill Cower is someone who I cannot stand either as a coach or a commentator, I agreed 100% with what he had to say. When teams have built up a nest egg of wins, they should do what they feel is best for the team. I do not agree with “resting” players. But what do I know, Jim Caldwell is an NFL coach and I’m writing from a barstool.