Let's say that winning a Super Bowl is the NFL equivalent of having a family -- winning a Super Bowl is like realizing your dream of having a wife, kid, dog, good job and house. Now let's say that on the road to meeting your wife and reaching that ultimate goal, you have the chance to date Megan Fox -- or in NFL terms, going 16-0. Wouldn't you do it? If dating Megan Fox would, in all likeliness, not decrease your chance of living that perfect life, wouldn't it be cool to go out with Megan Fox?
If you're the Indianapolis Colts, the answer -- an unpopular answer at that -- is no. On Sunday, Jim Caldwell decided to pull Peyton Manning in the third quarter of a game they were leading; the Colts' subs promptly stunk up the joint, leading to a critical New York Jets win and the first loss of the year for the Colts.
Now on the one hand, it's hard to be critical of the Colts' focus. Yeah, they could date Megan Fox, but their eyes are set on that perfect life, and they're not going to let anything get in their way. So willing were they to get to the Super Bowl that they abandoned the hope of becoming the first 19-0 team in history, and decided to rest Manning, a player who has never missed a single game due to injury. On the other hand, you have to come down on them for not even trying to go 16-0. Yeah, the Super Bowl is bigger -- getting the family is bigger -- but why would you throw away the chance to date Megan Fox if you can do both? Why wouldn't you even talk to Megan Fox? She's Megan Fox!
Basically, that's the analogy I liken it to.
Of course, Caldwell's decision has backed him into a very bad situation historically. If the Colts win it all and go 18-1 (or even 17-2), people will laud him for putting the bigger picture first; people will say how brilliant it was to rest Manning for the final two weeks, even if there's no proof that Manning's extra rest was what put them over the edge. On the other hand, should the Colts lose in the postseason, Caldwell will be crucified for somehow disrupting the team's chemistry, pissing off Peyton Manning and generally ruining what had been a perfect season.
It's interesting to consider that the final judgment on Caldwell's decision will only be made after the Colts win or lose. This isn't true of other stories. Right now, people aren't looking at the Tiger Woods scandal and thinking, "Well, let's wait until all the facts come through, and then we'll see if crashing into a tree and having sex with a porn star was a bad thing." People have already made their judgments.
Meanwhile, Peyton Manning's exit may have been the final cherry that could land him his fourth career MVP. In one of the years Steve Nash won the MVP, Nash missed five games due to injury and the Suns got destroyed in those five games. Giving writers the juxtaposition of what the team would be like without him will go a long way in securing him votes. Of course, both Indianapolis and New Orleans would be atrocious without their starting quarterbacks, and for all we know, the Saints might be even worse off with Brees sitting on the sideline. Either way we'll find out in a few weeks, though it'd be an interesting side note if Caldwell's decision to bench Manning was the final thing to land him the award -- a decision that Manning himself vehemently disagreed with.