Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Feb 2010

Walkthrough: Just Deserters

by Mike Tanier

If you are a Colts fan who freaked out after the Colts pulled their starters in Week 16, I have bad news: You aren't allowed to watch the Super Bowl.

If you returned your season tickets, flooded Bill Polian's radio show with hostile calls, or devoted hours to trolling message boards and chat rooms, decrying the Colts' "disrespect" for fans, season ticket holders, or the game itself, your viewing rights have been rescinded. You have to watch something else on Sunday. I recommend Puppy Bowl VI on Animal Planet.

This is not punishment. It's penance.

I've been empowered to enact and enforce this blackout by the Society for Improving the Fan Experience. SIFE is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing some of the negativity and general idiocy associated with American football fandom; not surprisingly, SIFE is located right here in Philly. As chairperson of their Media Ethics Committee, it's my job to make some tough rulings. This is my first one.

SIFE has already cross-referenced the addresses of people who returned season tickets or demanded refunds with local cable and satellite accounts. On Sunday, those households will find the telecast blacked-out. It's also a simple matter to trace a phone call, so if you called 1070 AM screaming "How dare they charge me full price for a game, then pull Peyton Manning?" you will also be blacked out. Angry e-mailers and message board posters will be tracked down by your IP addresses.

Of course, blacked-out fans may try to watch the game at bars or at the houses of friends. That's why we're spreading the word, here and elsewhere. Anyone caught harboring a Week 16 Deserter at a Super Bowl party risks a television blackout for the entire 2010 season, and bars risk losing their liquor licenses. Friends don't let friends sneak peaks at unmerited Super Bowls.

This is a one-game ban: those who comply will be allowed to watch all future Colts games, attend any upcoming parades, and go to Manning's Hall of Fame ceremony in 15 years. They can even watch a recording of the game once the ban lifts, 30 seconds after the final gun.

The ban does not apply to fans who cursed and grumbled when they saw Curtis Painter enter the game, stomped their feet angrily when the Jets came back, or expressed short-term, temporary rage at a lost chance at an undefeated season. Such measured expressions of disappointment are healthy. The ban only applies to those who took action, who acted personally hurt or economically damaged by the game, who rationalized the decision to take out starters into some grand scheme to bilk honest people out of money or an affront to some ad hoc definition of sportsmanship.

During the Super Bowl, while they are watching Yo Gabba Gabba with their three-year old nephews, Week 16 Deserters are expected to ponder the joys of Colts fandom. Peyton Manning. Super Bowl XLI. Seven straight 12-win seasons. They should weigh those joys against the relatively minor inconveniences of December "pull the starters" games. They must recognize the plight of Lions fans, Browns fans, and other fans who would kill to be 13-0, wondering on the drive to the stadium whether the backups will get a look that day. They should ask themselves how anyone who has watched Colts football for the last decade could be surprised, let alone outraged, when the starters hit the bench that day. If they wrote on some message board that the game "killed playoff momentum," they must sit down and write that phrase 500 times.

By performing this penance, the Week 16 Deserter removes the sin of scorn from his fan history.

The football fan experience is temporary in many ways: we watch on Sunday, it affects us on Monday, we reset our expectations by next Sunday. But championship eras are permanent. Grandfathers tell their grandchildren about championship eras, recounting exactly where they were when Unitas beat the Giants or the Dolphins went undefeated. Win or lose Sunday, the Colts and their fans are in a championship era. Colts fans, you will explain Peyton Manning to your grandchildren someday.

But Week 16 Deserters will have to cast their eyes downward when talking about this season. They will be like World War II vets talking about interment camps. "We did dark things then, son. In 2009, just weeks before the Super Bowl, I spent 45 minutes on hold to a talk radio show so I could accuse Bill Polian of fraud."

If they skip the Super Bowl, the deserters will receive total absolution. They can look those grandchildren in the eye. They will earn the right to root for their team again.

The Second Window

It's hard to find something new to say about the Colts, particularly on offense. They have been doing the same thing for the last decade. You know all the principal characters. Diagramming their plays for an audience of hardcore fans is silly, because you can probably diagram your own Colts plays at this point.

So let's focus on one tiny aspect of Peyton Manning's game this week: the second window pass.

When running routes against zone coverage, a receiver often gets open more than one time. When he enters a defender's zone, he's usually open for a split second before that defender can get into position. The receiver gets open again when that zone defender trades him off. That second window is hard for many quarterbacks to find. Some quarterbacks give up on the receiver once he's covered. Others stare that receiver down too long, and the defender isn't going to peel away while the quarterback is looking his way. Some passers just don't have the accuracy and timing to thread a pass into that tight window.

Manning, of course, is the best quarterback in the league (possibly ever) at using his eyes and pump fakes to move defenders around in their zones. Those fakes create second-window opportunities. In the playoffs, I found two great examples of Manning finding receivers in the second window and hitting them for important gains.

Figure 1: Garcon Slant

Figure 1 shows the Colts facing second-and-10 late in the second quarter against the Ravens. The route combinations are typical of the Colts offense: the inside receivers run out routes at 12 yards, Austin Collie (17) runs a post, and Pierre Garcon (85) runs a short slant. The Ravens only rush four defenders, blitzing an inside linebacker but dropping the lineman on the other side to join Ray Lewis (52) in zone coverage. Behind Lewis and the linemen, the Ravens are in man coverage. The Ravens expect the Colts to try to work the middle of the field on this play, hence the underneath zones.

Garcon releases of the line very well, working inside his defender, stemming upfield for a four steps, then slanting. Garcon would be open if not for Lewis, who reads the route combination at the snap. The Colts love to send Dallas Clark on deep routes, then bring a receiver underneath, and Lewis knows it. As soon as he sees Clark release deep, he looks for Garcon. When Manning pumps to Garcon, Lewis reacts to jump the route.

Manning, of course, only pump-faked to move Lewis out of the way. Garcon has inside position and is a step ahead of his defender. Once Lewis moves to his left, Manning has a clear passing lane for Garcon, who catches an 11-yard pass.

Figure 2 shows the Colts facing third-and-2 against the Jets in the second quarter. Despite the short distance, the Colts don't pretend that they are going to run, and the Jets don't pretend to care about the run. The Colts are in one of their tight bunch formations, and Jets anticipate crisscrossing receivers. The Jets have six defensive backs on the field, and the pre-snap read suggests Cover-2 defense, with as many as six defenders underneath.

Figure 2: Collie Slant

The Colts do exactly what the Jets expected. Garcon runs a short smash route. Clark and Joseph Addai (29) attack the flats on the left side. Wayne initiates contact with his defender to create space for Garcon before running the lone deep route. Collie runs a short slant. Just as Ray Lewis read the slant three weeks ago, David Harris (52) read it in this game. Once again, Manning turns and pumps to get Harris moving. Collie bends his route across the middle, and the rest of the Jets zones have been pulled apart by the Clark and Addai routes. Collie catches the pass with running room, and what starts as a short third-down conversion and turns into a big play.

Manning, of course, does a million little things right, and it often looks like he's beating opponents with smoke and mirrors. Second-window passes are just one of the ways Manning has turned the five-yard pass into an art form. The Saints are an aggressive defense; Darren Sharper likes to gamble for interceptions, and Jonathan Vilma, like Lewis and Harris, can sit in zones and diagnose route combination. Manning can turn that aggressiveness and film knowledge against defenders. That's why the Saints will be just as frustrated as every other opponent to face the real Colts has been this season.

Brees versus Manning

It's time to start an irrational Manning versus Brees debate.

No, not Drew Brees versus Peyton Manning. Drew Brees versus Archie Manning.

Last year, I picked an All-Time Cardinals team on the eve of their first Super Bowl appearance. One of the hardest decisions was selecting the quarterback. I only wanted to count Cardinals accomplishments, so I chose Jim Hart and Paul Christman, the quarterback of the great 1940's Cardinals, over Warner. After this season, I would probably rank Warner first, though I would still have to give Hart a long look. Of course, there's no comparison if you count the Rams years.

I planned to pick an All-Time Saints team this week, but I realized the team would consist of the 2006-2010 Saints, with the Dome Patrol (Sam Mills, Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, and Vaughn Johnson, for readers under 25) at linebacker and Morten Andersen kicking. There's no interesting competition at any other position but quarterback. Like last year's Cardinals, the choice for the Saints comes down to a '70s legend versus a contemporary player whose resume for his current team is short.

I think most people, when selecting an All-Time Saints team, would choose Archie Manning at quarterback. I would choose Drew Brees. And I don't think it's close.

Let's rewind Archie Manning’s career briefly. He was the second pick overall in the 1971 draft, after Jim Plunkett. He joined a terrible Saints team just four years after their inaugural season, in an era before free agency and favorable rules gave expansion teams a jump start. Manning took over the starting job as a rookie and held it until 1982. His record with the Saints was 35-101-3.For the Saints, he threw 115 touchdown passes and 156 interceptions. His best record as a starter was 8-8, in 1979.

Drew Brees' record as the Saints starter is 38-25. Yes, Brees has won more games for the Saints in four years than Archie Manning won in 11. I won't compare their other statistics, because Manning played most of his career in the 1970s, when quarterback statistics were far lower, both as totals and percentages. You can make a million little adjustments to correct for this -- trust us, it's what we do around here -- and you aren't going to make Manning's best years look as good as Brees' last four seasons. And don’t even try it with Manning's worst years.

So Drew Brees has a far better record than Archie Manning, and he has better stats. What is there to argue about?

Older fans will tell you that Archie Manning was far better than his record: This is true. Of course, it has to be true to consider him anything but one of the worst quarterbacks in history. Manning played for dreadful Saints teams. His best receivers were guys like tight end Wesley Childs until the Saints drafted Wes Chandler in 1978. The Saints typically ranked 20th or below in defense in a 26-28 team NFL. In 1980, they fielded one of the worst defenses of all time and finished 1-15 despite 3,716 yards and 23 touchdowns from their quarterback. Peyton Manning would have a hard time going 8-8 for many of those Saints teams.

Fans and media of the 1970s knew Archie Manning was better than his record. I knew it, even though I was eight or nine years old, because announcers would talk about it whenever the Saints were on television (not often). Manning made two Pro Bowls, in 1978 and 1979, after he threw for over 3,000 yards each season and led the Saints to 7-9 and 8-8 records. Fans and writers weren't overwhelmed by the "not a winner" mentality back then. Read contemporary records of Manning, and you'll find opponents and writers praising his talent and his toughness.

So Archie Manning was much better than his record, but his "better than the record" reputation took on its own life. Some people now think he's an all-time great, an Ernie Banks type who played at a Hall of Fame level on teams too dreadful to support him. He wasn't nearly that good.

Let's look back at those two Pro Bowl seasons. The 1978 Pro Bowl quarterbacks were Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Bob Griese, and Manning. He won some first-team All Pro consideration, and Griese was slipping, but I think anyone from that era who was asked to rate the best quarterbacks in the league based on more than one season would rank Manning fourth on that list. Fran Tarkenton led the league with 3,468 passing yards that season (Manning was second), and I think many people would have ranked Tarkenton ahead of Manning that year. So let's say Manning was the fourth or fifth best quarterback in the NFL in his best season.

In 1979, Staubach, Bradshaw, Fouts, and Manning were again the Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Griese was still in the league but declining, so let's rank Manning ahead of him that year. But who should we rank Manning behind? Joe Theismann finished second in the NFL in passer rating. Ken Stabler was fourth, Ken Anderson fifth. Manning was 10th, behind Ron Jaworski. The AP and UPI sources listed in the ESPN Football Encyclopedia give second-team honors to Theismann and Brian Sipe, not Manning. I would call Manning, charitably, the fifth best quarterback in the NFL in 1979.

Archie Manning doesn't get any Pro Bowl attention in any other season. We're left with a two-year high water mark, during which Manning peeks into the discussion of the league's best quarterbacks. Compare that record with Brees, who was a first-team All Pro in 2006 and has been among the four or five best quarterbacks in the league since. Like Manning with Bradshaw and Staubach, Brees faces a Peyton Manning-Tom Brady barrier at the top of the quarterback discussion. Unlike Archie Manning, Brees sometimes pierces it, and he can stake legitimate claim to being the third-best quarterback in the NFL over a four year window.

You can argue that Archie Manning would have won four Super Bowls with the 1970s Steelers, give him all sorts of credit for passes he didn't complete and teammates he didn't have. You have to give him a mile of extra credit to reach Brees. The only reason to prop Manning up that much is for nostalgia: he was a very good player when we were young, he was loved and respected, and his sons became superstars, so he somehow just has to be better than his accomplishments show.

In today's terms, Archie Manning isn't Drew Brees. He's Jon Kitna: a smart, tough, savvy survivor who put up big numbers for terrible teams. He could frustrate opponents, pick them apart on his best days, and earn their respect. He just couldn't beat them very often. If the Kitna comparison is too cruel (I think Manning was better than Kitna), you can take it up to Tony Romo: a gutsy, fun-to-watch scrambler who can put up big numbers and make things happen on the field, a guy whose talent-to-victory ratio is a little too low and whose big-game record is paltry. That's as high as I can rank Archie Manning. He's nowhere near Brees.

Figure 3: Walkthrough Team Photo

Archie, of course, will get lots of face time on Sunday, and he earned it. I loved watching him when I was a kid, and I love watching his children play now. He was very good, about as good as Jaworski and Sipe, Steve Grogan and Joe Ferguson, almost as good as Theismann and Ken Anderson in his best years. But when I want to see the best Saints quarterback of all time, I will have to watch the action on the field.

And Finally ...

The arrival of the offseason is a reason to celebrate here at Walkthrough headquarters. Writing a weekly football column is a joy and a privilege, but is also very difficult, and the fatigue that starts to set in late in November goes critical in late January. I didn't plan to take last week off, but a stomach virus had plans of its own, and my winter "honey-do" list wouldn't fit on most flash drives.

I'll be back in two weeks with more NFL excitement, and of course the whole Football Outsiders gang will be helping you put a bow on the 2009 season and prep for the 2010 draft. Before I sign off, I wanted to pose for a picture with a bunch of the personalities who made this year's Walkthrough so memorable (Fig. 3). Stay loose, enjoy the Big Game on Sunday, and think about something besides football for a few days. When you are ready to talk pigskin again, we'll be here!

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 04 Feb 2010

148 comments, Last at 17 Feb 2010, 1:56am by tuluse

Comments

1
by Spielman :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:25pm

The introduction to this article is probably the single dumbest thing F.O. has ever posted.

4
by Temo :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:42pm

I can tell you didn't get much further than the intro.

46
by Spielman :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:23pm

I can tell you have no idea what you're talking about.

81
by Chris UK :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 7:31pm

Stop trolling and read it in the tongue in cheek style it was intended

134
by Spielman :: Sat, 02/06/2010 - 12:24am

Yes. Anyone who disagrees with you is trolling.

Stick with that. You'll go far.

137
by Chris UK :: Sat, 02/06/2010 - 10:28am

3 posts, 3 insults, nothing added to the discussion... Sounds like trolling, unless of course you would care to explain your reasons for this walkthrough being 'dumb'?

147
by Spielman :: Tue, 02/16/2010 - 2:48pm

A hyperbolic reaction to something perceived as being over the top runs the risk of being seen as hypocritical rather than satirical, particularly when it isn't noticeably funny. That's my perception of this article's introduction. Not funny, hypocritical, and arrogant in setting itself up as the policeman of fan behavior.

13
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 1:11pm

I wouldn't go as far as that, but I certainly think NFL teams should play their starters and try to win late in the year after they've secured a playoff berth, especially when all-time milestones are in reach or when they are facing a team in playoff contention.

16
by Eddo :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 1:47pm

Yes, but do you feel you were cheated as a consumer and need your money back? That's the group of people Mike was addressing in the intro.

19
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:03pm

I'm not a Colts fan, but I do feel cheated as a football fan that the Jets made the playoffs, so I don't know if it counts.

50
by ajayva (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:40pm

I felt cheated that the Jets made the playoffs... until they beat the Chargers and actually earned a right to be in the AFC Championship.

55
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 4:24pm

Are you saying the Texans or Steelers couldn't conceivably have beaten the Chargers? For all we know, the Broncos or Dolphins might have beaten the Chargers. Heck, on a given Sunday, even the Browns or the Raiders could have beaten the Chargers.

So I don't think it changes things. If anything, it makes them worse.

66
by Bobman :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:24pm

True, but that doesn't mean the Jets DIDN'T deserve it. They sure seem to have deserved it, much to my surprise.

24
by roguerouge :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:13pm

+1.

Frankly, I blame editorial. Intros like this are one of the things editors are around for: to rein in writers when they go off the rails. If I wanted belittling and berating, I could go to nfl.com and get it from the forum regulars or to Advanced NFL Stats and get it from editorial.

26
by Eddo :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:15pm

Did you demand your money back? Or cancel your season tickets?

If not, the intro wasn't belittling or berating you.

78
by roguerouge :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 7:05pm

Just because it wasn't directed at me, doesn't mean it's not in bad taste.

Edit: and see below: I'm a Pats fan.

29
by DZ (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:38pm

I thought it was brilliant.

38
by Dean :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:49pm

No. That would be the Reggie Bush story from the other day.

40
by Phil Osopher :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:57pm

I agree with Mike Tannier (Danny's brother w/o the full house)

As a Browns fan, hearing about Colts fans complaints when they have been 7-0 for like 7 straight seasons to start the year and have had all those 12 win seasons.

It takes the browns on avergae a little less than three years to get to 12 wins.

Last year we had a shots per touchdown thing going and were butt sober for the entire last 6 weeks of the season.. 6 fucking weeks, man. 6 weeks no TD's and Jamal "run me more, I will get better, really guys, run me more" Lewis getting carries still. Oh yeah and starting Don Off the Street at QB and him being better than our injured starters.

After all the bitching, all I could think was, sheesh, I can't wait until PM retires and the Colts go back to their crap-fest of a team. Does anyone have Jeff George's number?

plus it was funny.

48
by Alexander :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:37pm

The premise of the Intro is totally off. The Colts' decision only has one chance to be rectified: if they lose in the Super Bowl.

Your say, "WHATTT!!!1"

Here's The playoffs in a nutshell and the appropriate thoughts if they lost the game (or win the Super Bowl):

Loss vs. Ravens: GODDAMMIT THEY WERE RUSTY BAD CALL.
Loss vs. Jets: DAMN no Superbowl (note the choice is neither right nor wrong here).
Loss vs. Saints: DAMN so close (again choice is neither right or wrong).
Win vs. Saints: SCORE SUPERBOWL CHAMPS...5 years later ... GODDAMMIT WE COULDA BEEN 19-0 BAD CALL POLIAN.

114
by Phil Osopher :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 4:01pm

Are you crazy?

If Peyton was hurt, then no SB for the Colts.. Then you say it was a genius call by a coach no one had heard of outside of Indy to play it conservative during a completely useless game

77
by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 6:33pm

Are you kidding? The intro is one of the funniest things I've ever read on FO. Classic!

132
by countertorque :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 11:16pm

I liked it.

2
by Travis :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:31pm

Week 16, not Week 15. Stupid bye week.

3
by Topher (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:41pm

I am a Colts fan. I did boo the late season decisions Colts management made. I feel the Colts settled for good when great was within reach. I also continue to cheer for the team.

It is the responsibility of the fan to boo when there are things to boo about and to cheer when there are things to cheer about.

Only a person without a die-hard fanboy relationship to a sports team would disagree.

5
by Temo :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:44pm

I have a feeling that people would be less upset with the premise if Mike had just moved this paragraph to the second spot in the article and not buried it deeper (sorry Mike, you have to respect the attention span of most internet readers):

The ban does not apply to fans who cursed and grumbled when they saw Curtis Painter enter the game, stomped their feet angrily when the Jets came back, or expressed short-term, temporary rage at a lost chance at an undefeated season. Such measured expressions of disappointment are healthy. The ban only applies to those who took action, who acted personally hurt or economically damaged by the game, who rationalized the decision to take out starters into some grand scheme to bilk honest people out of money or an affront to some ad hoc definition of sportsmanship.

7
by Temo :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:51pm

That is to say, while you can be upset that the Colts didn't risk it for "immortality", there were people who took it like a personal affront. At its core, this was a move done to enhance the possibility of winning a championship, which is hardly a despicable motivation. This wasn't Marge Schott refusing to spend money, at least the team was doing its best to win a championship.

83
by Topher (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 9:00pm

I understood what he meant and did read the entire first portion of the article. His words absolutely apply to me, I still rant on Colts forums about the decision to settle for good. I'm still mad about it. I still rail against Bill Polian at every opportunity (but really, who doesn't?)

But I still maintain that I am the picture of what being a fan ought to be. You praise your team when they do great things and you yell at them when they do stupid things.

I know the article was tongue in cheek, but the point was that fans ought to shut up and enjoy the ride. No... observers do that, fans get passionately involved.

93
by Bobman :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 1:57am

I guess, but passionate and wrong is still wrong.

Polian/Caldwell were right then and are still right today.

Put your passion on hold for a moment and ponder what would have happened had Freeney blown his ankle ligaments in Week 16? He'd have been hampered versus both Ravens and Jets (had they beaten the Ravens) and probably be worse for wear vs the Saints. Not a promising prospect. The D was a shambles in terms of injuries and needed to sit as many guys as possible. With Johnson out and Ugoh in, Manning did fine... but there's a reason Ugoh was benched and it was not his run blocking.

118
by Topher (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 4:59pm

The team made the right decision if you grant the presumption that a Super Bowl is the be all and end all.

I do not.

A Super Bowl is not greater than a perfect season in my opinion.

The only player that needed to play in those games was Peyton Manning. You can rest Freeney and Mathis and Brackett and Bethea and Hayden all at the same time against those two teams and Manning still wins.

The Colts felt it was worth keeping them out long enough to get 4500 yards. 100 receptions (x2). But not a win?

We'll never know who would have hurt what but a perfect season is worth the chance in my mind.

Don't settle for good when you can be great. Coaches have been saying that forever.

131
by Sgarvin (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 10:33pm

Apparently being a fan to you means forgetting the years of the Colts being crap and "booing" decisions made but utterly successful football people because the aren't interested in matching your desire to gamble with their careers. If Manning got hurt you'd indignantly boo then too. They made the choice they made to try and win. They have proven to be remarkably competent in this regard so maybe your right to boo should be tempered by your appreciation of what those people have done to turn your recently ass franchise around.

138
by Topher (not verified) :: Sat, 02/06/2010 - 5:06pm

Sure. If I were willing to settle and say thank you, your awesomeness.

22
by roguerouge :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:10pm

Yeah, that paragraph doesn't help, and I'm a Pats fan. Colts fans deserved better. And, frankly, how professional is it when one of the leaders of your business actively antagonizes your consumers during a media appearance then leaves early? As someone who's done customer service in person and on the phone, I found that to be a directly disrespectful move management made towards their customers; the decision not to go for a perfect season merely disrespects the game's history. Being upset about the latter is understandable, but when a company basically says it doesn't want your business... well, time to root for a different set of laundry.

32
by Temo :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:40pm

That's an impressive amount of exaggeration. Colts fans don't "deserve" better. You don't deserve anything as a fan except for an honest attempt by your team to win a Championship. Colts fans got their money's worth with a 14 win season, an all-time great QB, and a Super Bowl appearance. As someone who actively loathes the Dolphins, I would disagree that the perfect season is somehow an integral part of the game's history, but it's open to debate.

Yes, it sucks that Colts fans didn't get a chance at an unbeaten season; I won't disagree there. Go ahead and be angry. But to say things like "the company basically says it doesn't want your business" is hyperbole and just blowing things out of proportion. All the heart-rending and declarations of hurt feelings and exceedingly pompous statements about respecting the game just come off as ungrateful.

It was Bill Polian's management and organizational philosophy that built this team, and it was these same elements that made the decision to sit starters. Many, many fans would love to exchange their team's management with the Colts.

79
by roguerouge :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 7:10pm

I clearly split the distinction between disrespecting the game's history (not going for 16-0) and reacting to angry customers with disrespect (Polian). Working in customer service for any length of time, you understand that customers are going to get angry some times. Company representatives in public settings should be prepared to deal with that... ESPECIALLY on a topic where reasonable people can disagree on the correct decision.

84
by Topher (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 9:04pm

I did not get my money's worth with a 14 win season. I was rooting for a team capable of winning 16 regular season games. They won 14, I was short changed by two wins.

When I was a boy and the Colts would finish 7-9 every other year, I got my monies worth. They had 7 win talent.

When Ted Marchibroda was the coach and the Colts went 9-7 during the regular season and made it to the AFC Championship game, I got more than my monies worth, they were an 8 win team.

This year I was short changed and I'm pissed about it.

87
by dmb :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 11:14pm

You can feel as pissed as you want, but don't expect any sympathy from the rest of us, who would be thrilled to see our favorite teams face a decision about trying to keep their players healthy for a SB run or make NFL history.

119
by Topher (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 5:05pm

No Colts fans are asking for sympathy. We're angry and the only person we want to know that we are angry is Bill Polian. If I have to tell everyone on the planet in order to get him to listen I'm good with that.

I am also cognizant of the irony that Bill Polian is the reason the Colts don't still stink. The Colts have been a great team for a long time, many people forget that they were horrible at one point. Jeff George, Steve Emtman, Quintin Coryatt, Trev Alberts, Jon Hand... all top 5 draft picks flushed down the tube. And that doesn't count John Elway and Cornelius Bennett and Art Schlister... players the Colts also drafted in the top five.

Many teams don't even have that many top five picks, let alone that many top five busts!

I don't want your sympathy... but don't imply that we Colts fans don't know what it is like to lose.

122
by dmb :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 5:25pm

I didn't mean to imply that Colts fans don't know what it's like to lose. I meant to imply that some Colts fans are acting like they don't know how much worse it could be.

94
by Bobman :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 2:06am

Did you listen to Polian's radio show? Did you hear the station's response to the 8 minutes of commercials at the end?

The first part of the show ran long (live callers and all) and as a business they promise their advertisers a certain amount of exposure every hour--they cut the show short to meet their contractual obligations to run those spots. When yo utalk about some entity owing another entity something, you can start with contractual obligations--Company X paid the radio station actual money for actual minutes during drive time. Colts fans paid actual money for three hours of entertaiment--no guarantee. And hell, I paid nothing and got about what I expected--they made no bones about their overall goals before and after that game.

Back to the radio show: It was not going too well for Polian, who clearly did not have a good feeling of the outrage of some fans (a bit tone deaf), but if you believe he left early, you are misinformed. He was kind of stunned by the vituperation, which is easily magnified online.

And if your fandom is as fickle as you advocate at the end of your post, well, I'll allow your fellow Pats fans to roast you on a spit. Nobody likes a fair-weather fan. I know a handful of Raiders fans who are die-hards and detest the 21st Century Al Davis, but they're still fans, whether they feel Al treats them like shit or not. A fan does not change allegiance and "root for a different set of laundry" and you give a bad name to Pats fans by recommending it.

111
by Eddo :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 11:52am

Bravo to your last paragraph, Bobman.

123
by Dean :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 5:30pm

Obviously, your team didn't sign the dog killer.

120
by Topher (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 5:11pm

I agree entirely. You don't have to agree with your team. And you can boot them and bad mouth them and what not... but your team is like your brother.

At the end of the day you are still going to ask him to help you with your homework and if anyone talks bad about him you'll sock 'em in the nose.

I'm mad at the Colts and at Bill Polian. But I'll be rooting for them on Sunday.

They may not be great... but for the moment good feels pretty good. But I know I'll be regretting this season in a couple of years, Super Bowl or no.

And here is a little secret. The Patriots are the Team of the Decade and the only way the Colts had a chance of lifting that title from them is by going undefeated ths year and one upping them.

Yeah... perfect season was more important than Super Bowl to me. The only thing that matters is beating the Patriots at every game.

Damn you Bill Polian, damn you.

126
by Eddo :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 6:06pm

"Yeah... perfect season was more important than Super Bowl to me. The only thing that matters is beating the Patriots at every game."

I don't follow your logic, here. A Super Bowl win is required to have a perfect season, so it's a goal that must be completed in order to complete what you consider a greater goal. Ultimately, giving your team the best opportunity to win the Super Bowl is the same as giving your team the best opportunity to have a perfect season.

The only way your position makes sense is if you would value a 16-0 regular season followed by a playoff loss greater than a 14-2 season followed by a Super Bowl win. It's one thing to say that the 2007 Patriots were the best team of the decade as an objective analyst, but it's quite another to be fully satisfied with their season as a fan (or player or coach).

And you haven't even considered the possibility of the pressure of remaining perfect negatively affecting the completion of a perfect season. Even if the Colts had gone 16-0 without any critical injuries, that pressure could have lessened their chances of winning the three additional games.

128
by Topher (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 8:58pm

A perfect season has an implied task of winning the Super Bowl. The 2007 Patriots were not perfect. They lost the last game.

The perfect season is greater than a Super Bowl win because it includes a Super Bowl win.

Of course the Super Bowl is more difficult to win if you are undefeated. That is why its only been accomplished once. Don't misunderstand me, I want the Colts to win the Super Bowl. But I wanted them to win every other game leading up to the Super Bowl as well. And I wanted them to do this so they would be the greatest team of all time and they would also be undisputed team of the decade and better than the Patriots.

The Colts had a chance at greatness and they didn't fail... they refused to even try.

"No... I don't want to be great," Bill Polian told us, "good is good enough for me." (paraphrased)

Screw good. We're already good. Now while we're here lets go ahead and win the damn game. But the Colts have got to set their sights a little higher than a Super Bowl. They are capable of more they should strive for more.

133
by Eddo :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 11:57pm

Wow. I wish I could be the fan of a team that enabled me to say, "Screw good", when "good" was having a chance to win a second Super Bowl in four years.

"Don't misunderstand me, I want the Colts to win the Super Bowl. But I wanted them to win every other game leading up to the Super Bowl as well."

"Thanks for being awesome, guys, but could you be a little more awesome? I'll be pissed if you're not, by the way."

139
by Topher (not verified) :: Sat, 02/06/2010 - 5:10pm

"Thanks for being awesome, guys, but could you be a little more awesome? I'll be pissed if you settle for less than your best."

Would be a more appropriate paraphrasing of my thoughts.

140
by Topher (not verified) :: Sat, 02/06/2010 - 5:30pm

Let me explain it in a slightly different way.

I believe a fan ought to root for their team to do slightly better than expected.

When the Colts were a 7-9 team, I rooted for a 9-7 season and sneaking into a wild car berth. Jim Harbaugh accomplished this. And there was great rejoicing.

When the Colts were a Wild Card team, I rooted the Colts would sneak out a division title. Jim Mora accomplished this Manning's second season with a 13-3 season before returning back to expected levels (10-6) the following year. And there was great rejoicing.

When the Colts were a division champion team, I rooted for the Colts to win the Super Bowl. This they did in 2006. And there was great rejoicing.

Now that the Colts are a Super Bowl champions, I root for them to make the next step... perfect season. They refused to try. And there was great booing.

Yes, I've had a spoiled riches of wins and for this I am appreciative. But I'm always going to root for my team to move upward because as Peyton Manning says, "if you aren't moving forward, you are moving backward."

33
by Dean :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:40pm

Win or lose, I have to wonder if the Colts would be here regardless and might be playing for immortality.

I suspect they would be.

34
by Temo :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:43pm

All things considered, I would have gone for it, and certainly respect it when people like Belichick don't hesitate to go for it all.

6
by carljm :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:51pm

Colts fan; agree with the intro. Excellent Walkthrough as usual.

In the second Colts diagram, you've got Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne confused, either in the text or the diagram (haven't gone back to look at the video and see which it is).

21
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:09pm

And Garcon and Collie are confused in the first diagram.

51
by TXNiner :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:41pm

Looks like they have their wits about them to me.

65
by Bobman :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:23pm

They are so much alike that this past Christmas they went home to the OTHER guy's parents and nobody noticed it until dessert. I confuse them all the time.

8
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:51pm

Nitpick: Garcon is 85, Collie is 17. The chart is right, but the text is wrong.

10
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:54pm

This is on the 1st play.

95
by Bobman :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 2:07am

No way, Garcon's like 23 and Collie is about 24. They're just kids, really....

9
by ohearn :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:51pm

I cannot express to you in words how much I love that the Raiders pigeon is in the group picture.

12
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 1:09pm

I'm going to go ahead and emasculate myself and say that I need a spoiler on that picture. I think I only know who 6 of the players on the field are. Pigeon is pretty sweet though.

39
by Dean :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:51pm

I just counted, and I only got 6 as well. I know I should be embarassed, but at least I'm not alone.

54
by dmb :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 4:05pm

The "family picture" was one of the more inspired things I've seen in Walkthrough, and that's a high compliment. The pigeon just made it perfect. Here's what I could identify:

Orange 85: Chad Ochocinco, presumably dancing in the end zone, just off the shores of...

Green 24: Revis Island

Purple 17: Greg Lewis? (I thought it would be Sidney Rice, but Rice is #18)

Red 98: Brian Orakpo

Silver P: Pigeon

"Me": Mike Tanier

Green 34: Ricky Williams

Green 23: Ronnie Brown

White 90: Jay Ratliff (Anthony Spencer?)

White 94: DeMarcus Ware

Green 5: Mark Sanchez

White 9: Tony Romo

Purple 4: B---- F----

I could be wrong about any number of these, though...

56
by Ivan (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 4:32pm

green 5 could be McNabb instead of Sanchez, since he is rushed by Ware
light purple 79 Jon Runyan? Was he in a deodorant commercial?
red 1 Niel Rackers?

Who is Romo looking at? I'm not up-to-date on his current girlfriend.

63
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:12pm

Thanks guys! Still leaves a few gaps (why are 73 and 79 going for 80? Who is AM?). I'm a pitiful case... I don't even know the numbers of the players on my favorite team... like Ronnie Brown, for instance.

67
by Joe T. :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:24pm

I think 79 is teeing off on Barack Obama, who is bobbling a pass from Drew Brees in an NFL Play 60 commercial.

70
by Dean :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:44pm

The Big Red 1 is the 1st Infantry Division. But I must have missed that walkthrough. And their patch isn't round.

5 makes more sense if it's McNabb.

I don't see anyone else mentioning 83. That was one of my few guesses. That's Welker going over the middle, right?

And if His Lordship and Greg Lewis are pictured, why aren't they connected somehow, representing the play where Lewis made the great catch and his lordship got all the credit? Seems to me Tanier would find a way to represent that?

The only thing I could come up with for BO is Bo Jackson - but that doesn't make any sense.

#31? Anyone?

#11???

The two 98s lined up next to each other? They're next to each other for a reason, I presume.

And if #9 is Romo, is he dating Alyssa Milano these days? Not that I care, but I am curious who it represents.

73
by ohearn :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 6:06pm

83 is Wes Welker going over the middle and getting his season injured by 31 Bernard Pollard. Who is the purple 98?

74
by ohearn :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 6:07pm

I think 1 is Rackers.

82
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 8:03pm

Also, why is His Lordship running away? Not that I'd put it past him, but is there an anecdote for it?

92
by dmb :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 12:27am

My guess is that he's "leaving the game."

86
by ammek :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 9:49pm

One of the 98s is Orakpo. The other might be CJ Ah You.

The #79 playing with BO (Obama) could be Jon Runyan, in Chargers' colors. Isn't he about to embark on a political career?

Number 11 in red and white must be Fitz. And if it is, then #1 isn't Rackers — wrong colors. He may play for the same team as Pollard #31 — Matt Turk?

Is that a pair of breasts chasing Ochocinco?

116
by Mike Tanier :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 4:10pm

Orakpo and Ah You are correct.

Most of the people in the diagram figured prominently in this year's Walkthroughs.

62
by dryheat :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:09pm

Pretty sure Sanchez wears 6.
Silver-ish 83 is probably Welker.

68
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:26pm

Could 80 be Pollard and 79 another guy he "injured"?

Nah... Pollard is 31, I just checked. Maybe it's not really an 80, but BP?

80
by Jmagik (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 7:30pm

#11 is... Roy :/.

104
by Dean :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 10:03am

In those colors?

89
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 11:49pm

I see most of the answers have now been found since I embarked on a quest to find who everyone here is, but here's what I found anyway:

85-Ochocinco
24-Revis
17-G. Lewis
31-Pollard
11-Fitzgerald
98 (blue)-C.J. Ah You
98 (red)-Orakpo
P-Pigeon
BO-Barack Obama
79-Jon Runyan (really doesn't look like Ravens colors, especially looking at when they were in diagrams on Walkthrough, but I can't find anyone else it could possibly be)
83-Welker
Me-Tanier
34-R. Williams
23-R. Brown
90-Ratliff
94-Ware
1-Elam
5-McNabb
AM-I really have no idea. Not even the slightest clue.
9-Romo
4-[Vikings QB]

I guess my contribution is pretty much just that 1 is brilliant author Jason Elam.

91
by are-tee :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 12:05am

AM = Al Michaels?

108
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 10:33am

This may turn out to be the Great Walkthrough Mystery. We will be pondering this in 15 years, trading theories, suggesting complex conspiracies . . .

109
by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 11:42am

You think... Tanier is in on IT?

99
by ammek :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 6:31am

Runyan joined the Chargers last season. Hence the powder blue.

107
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 10:31am

I knew that. I don't know how I typed Ravens when I meant chargers, because it really doesn't look like Chargers colors to me. Maybe it's because of my intense hatred of the powder blues.

117
by Mike Tanier :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 4:13pm

Yep. #1 is Elam. I don't know Riley Covington's uniform number.

The Pink "AM" is also someone who got a lot of attention in a recent Walkthough.

129
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 9:12pm

I'm looking through old Walkthroughs and so far am failing at finding this, but I have an observation:

Tony Romo and Aaron Schatz are mentioned in every* Walkthrough.

*not literally

130
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 9:17pm

Aha! It is Alyssa Milano, from the Dec 16 Walkthrough. I believe someone above did mention her as a guess. I am a Dodger fan, so I should have remembered that.

She also may be in the top 25 or so most overrated women on earth as far as looks go.

144
by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 02/08/2010 - 8:57am

Agreed. If she had bigger fake boobs and a slightly more annoying voice, she could easily be on "Jersey Shore".

11
by Eddo :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 12:57pm

Bravo, Mike. Where else can we get humor, play diagramming, and historical analysis in one well-written column?

(And I agree with Temo that most people criticizing the intro didn't fully comprehend the "people this doesn't apply to" paragraph.)

14
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 1:17pm

I didn't understand the disclaimer and I certainly didn't understand the team picture. Too bad, it looked like fun.

15
by Alex (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 1:25pm

The intro to this walkthrough might be the single greatest thing ever written! Well, maybe not. But still, it was a great rallying call for logic and level-headedness. Unfortunately, this is the web.

17
by Vince (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 1:49pm

This assumes that those "idiot" fans are back in the fold and want to watch the game. Maybe they're not. It also assumes the even more idiotic notion among too many people that the Super Bowl trumps all and is the only thing that matters. It's this kind of thinking that gives us Michael Irvin and Marshall Faulk as "analysts."

41
by Phil Osopher :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:03pm

Emmitt Smith says you must remember Emmitt Smith, Analyst of Football Bowl Games

18
by RickD :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 1:57pm

"I think most people, when selecting an All-Time Saints team, would choose Archie Manning at quarterback."

Really? Maybe that was true three years ago, but today it's hard to imagine _anybody_ making that argument, much less "most people".

Compared to QBs of the 70s, he's clearly below Bradshaw, Staubach, and Tarkenton. Probably below Ken Anderson, Ken Stabler, Jim Hart and Bob Griese (though I tend to be underwhelmed by Griese). Doesn't hold a candle to Fouts. Never had the peak years that Bert Jones had.

I can't imagine _anybody_ making the argument that he was a better QB than Brees is. Maybe he would have had a better career if he'd been on the Steelers than he ever could have had on the Saints (and maybe he would have been a better QB than Terry Bradshaw), but the sad fact is that he was on the Saints. He certainly was a competent QB, but it has to be held against him that he never played for an elite team.

25
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:14pm

I don't know. Everybody throws for zillions of yards and lots of touchdowns and hardly ever throws picks now. The record for touchdowns in a season was broken -twice- this decade, and three or four different quarterbacks threatened yardage records.

I'd put Brees below Brady, Manning, Warner, Rodgers, and maybe Romo, Manning II and Rivers, in terms of actual ability. He makes some -awful- throws, and he has the deepest receiving group in the NFL. Meachem would start for most teams. Trent Green wasn't any less impressive in his prime, either.

Back in the 70's quarterbacks didn't have nearly the advantages they do now, so until Brees plays a few more years...

28
by Sophandros :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:28pm

"I'd put Brees below Brady, Manning, Warner, Rodgers, and maybe Romo, Manning II and Rivers, in terms of actual ability. He makes some -awful- throws, and he has the deepest receiving group in the NFL. Meachem would start for most teams. Trent Green wasn't any less impressive in his prime, either."

Wait. WHAT? not the Meachem comment, because that's a very valid statement, but REALLY??? regarding the QB rankings?

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

43
by Phil Osopher :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:10pm

lol

Brees behind Manning, P

Brady has peaked (2007) and will never again be that good. He is falling down the list.

Peyton
Drew
Rivers
Rogers
Brady

Could be FF fallout of having Brady in the first round over all other QB's (except brees he was gone) and him not living up to expectations

Guy knocked up two super model chicks and has two young babies and two baby momma's, he is no longer focused. He wasn't injured, I know ribs and foot and etc, but no more than any other QB and he just wasn't the beast that we all have come to know and love (or hate as the case may be)

I really think Brees is the second best QB in the league right now, I also think Rivers is the third and Aaron Rogers is really coming on fast.

Romo???? I don't see that at all, yet. He still needs to jump a level to reach the altar of best in the league.

just my humble opinion and very subjective for the most part, but it is what it is

47
by Temo :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:31pm

I find it hard to believe that Brady is the 5th best QB in the game. People are so quick to forget about what guys have done and what they're capable of. If healthy, I think Brady is only a (very small) tick below Manning.

115
by Phil Osopher :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 4:09pm

Don't want to start irrational thread of Brady issues, but I watched him all year and he wasn't on top of his game too often. Maybe those were real injuries, but he is listed as questionable for every game for last five years or so.

I think Brees and Rivers are ahead of him. Rodgers hasn't done it long enough, so you can easily knock him down below Brady. I just think he has peaked and will start to devolve more and more. He has a two families now and likes to dress pretty and etc, so I just think thats where his focus will be more and more, plus the gaiung process and the injuries (the real ones, not the Belicheck ones) will take more and more of a toll.

Time will tell and maybe you are right that next year, he will rock the NFL again, and I will have to not say he is fourth or fifth best QB.

30
by displaced_saints_fan :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:38pm

I can't argue with the Archie vs. Drew argument from an objective standpoint. I think the thing that endeared Archie so much to New Orleans is that even as he was surrounded by a second rate supporting cast, he never complained, and he never gave less than his all. That doesn't make him a great quarterback; I agree that he's often overrated now. But he was far and away the best player on a lousy team, and he never whined about his teammates (see Owens, T.).

After he was traded to the Oilers for a washed up lineman and two empty Gatorade bottles and then ended up setting a single season record for QB sacks in Minnesota, he came back to New Orleans to raise his family. He never acted entitled, he always seemed genuinely grateful for everything he had. Later, he did the color commentary for Saints games (and pretty competently I think) until he stopped to follow his sons play in the NFL.

So sure, it's Brees as starter on the all-time Saints team, but Archie has a relationship with the city of New Orleans that few professional athletes have.

35
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:44pm

I asked my dad, because he's usually a pretty fair barometer of the "average" football fan in his age group (he's 42). He said, "Brees will never be as good as Archie."

If you meant just the more serious/analytical football teams like those of us who come here, then I agree that no one would make that argument.

I think the weirdest part about Archie Manning is what happened to the two teams he went to at the end of his career. In 1982, he went to the Oilers, who went 1-8 (0-5 in Manning's starts). Then in 1983 the Oilers opened 0-3 with Manning under center. He was out for a month (I don't know if he got hurt or released or what) and came back with the Vikings for one game against the Oilers in which he had one rush for a loss of a yard in a win for a team that finished 8-8. He did not appear again that season. In 1984, he was with the Vikings again, who went 2-14 (0-2 in Manning's starts). Even leaving New Orleans didn't improve his lot. The Vikings were basically right on .500 for a decade from '78-'87 except for the one Les Steckel year and of course that's the full season Manning had there. The Oilers were a playoff team '78-'80, fell off a bit to 7-9 in '81, then completely fell apart once Manning joined them. It looks like he was part of the problem in Houston (and he was a 33 year old who had taken 340 NFL sacks by the time he got there, so that shouldn't be a shock), but in Minnesota he just had bad luck about when he joined them.

53
by milo :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:50pm

"he was a 33 year old who had taken 340 NFL sacks by the time he got there"

Which is why nobody in New Orleans thinks the Vikes should be complaining about the hits Viking quarterback took in the NFCCG. If you ever watched Archie play, then you really know what a QB getting beat up looks like.

20
by Aaron Schatz :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:03pm

Hey all. Errors should now be fixed.

36
by fogarty :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:45pm

Actually, in the description of figure 2 (the Collie slant), it says that Collie (17) is running the slant. However, the diagram shows 87 (Reggie Wayne) running the slant.

23
by Jeff Jewell (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:12pm

Obviously not by Tanier: he's smart and funny.

27
by dryheat :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:24pm

In 1980, they fielded one of the worst defenses of all time and finished 1-15 despite 3,716 yards and 23 touchdowns from their quarterback.

Making their choice of George Rogers over Lawrence Taylor in the draft all the more puzzling.

37
by Dean :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:48pm

To be fair, George Rogers was a pretty damn good back. It's not like they drafted Roger Vick or anything.

59
by dryheat :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 4:47pm

Rogers was pretty good, although never as good as his draft position (I think he was all-pro his rookie year, then never close again). 27 out of 28 teams would have drafted LT first overall (so went the common wisdom at the time), and considering the Saints had a fairly good offense and a historically bad defense, taking Rogers was unjustifiable.

45
by Phil Osopher :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:22pm

Wow, Dome partrol with Lawrence Taylor!!!!!!!! Holy dead QB's, BATEMAN

lol at the draft and sucky teams picky sucky players and good team picking good players.

I know, I know, I read the article, sucky teams screw up what could be decent players and good teams train youngins better thus they succeed more.

I have two words for that-- Tim Couch (Mr I'm not named McNabb), another few words--- Courtney Brown (Mr I'm not even the best defensive player on my college team), Gerrard Warren (Mr. I'm not named LaDanian, or heck, Mr. I'm not named Richard Seymore, who even plays my position)

#1 overall, #1 overall, #3 overall picks. Even if any of those players went to the Colts or Pats (or Philly, Redskins, SD or Pats) they would still have sucked. The only one who even showed flashes of talent was Courtney Brown, but he was not as advertised even then.

I am not even going to run through the hilarity of Detroit's picks (although, I think Browns have been the worst drafting team of the decade, hands down). OK, I think I will do a quick rundown.

See sucky WR on big name school, draft sucky WR, pay lots of money to sucky WR, watch as sucky WR implodes, wonder why team is sucky. hialrity did ensure. Mike "I ate my way to success" Williams, Roy Boy "I am number #1, not a big pile of #2" Williams, Carlos "Gimmie the drugs, meng" Rodgers

31
by panthersnbraves :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 2:39pm

can effect that playoffs. IIRC, a team "took week 16 off", but stomped back on the gas in week 17 looking for momentum. The result was a win for the Falcons and a loss for the Panthers, costing the Panthers a chance for the playoffs.

42
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:07pm

God I hope the Colts lose this game. If they win, I will punch anybody who retroactively claims that pulling starters was the "right thing to do." It was not, and the Colts deserve to be punshed by the Football Gods.

I'm no Pats fan either, but at least they had the guts to go for it.

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

44
by Dean :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:20pm

We'll never know.

Ultimately, the right decision at that time is the decision which gives you the greatest probability of getting you to the Super Bowl. NOT the decion which actually got you to the Super Bowl. They may be the same thing, they are not automatically the same thing.

So what was the decision which gives you the greatest probability?

Ultimately, there simply isn't any rational way to make that determination. All the analyisis in the world can't give you a valid estimate, because there isn't a sufficient sample size.

I would have played the starters, but that doesn't mean I'm right. My uber-scientific "gut feeling" is that even if they'd played the starters and legitimately tried for 16-0, they'd still be playing today. But what do I know?

52
by Vince (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:46pm

I know this horse has been dead for weeks, but I'll beat it some more.

The question of whether or not to "go for it" really has two parts. The first is the risk/reward equation in terms of preparing for the playoffs. The second is whether it's the right thing to do for the sake of its own integrity, irrespective of the possible outcomes. What those who give more weight to the former are saying is that the risk of major injury on any given play is _so great_ that it's not worth it. Obviously, the math on that one is not on their side - especially wrt Manning, who hardly ever gets touched. On the other hand, pulling starters in an undecided game against a team fighting for the playoffs - that's wrong 100% of the time. Either way, the outcome of the Super Bowl is irrelevant to the decision tree.

57
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 4:33pm

Agreed.

And kudos to Belichick, like the Ninjalectual said. I'm a Dolphin fan, but that's the kind of stuff that makes me respect the man, even if I root for him to lose every week and monthly during the offseason.

60
by dryheat :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 4:52pm

On the other hand, pulling starters in an undecided game against a team fighting for the playoffs - that's wrong 100% of the time

I strongly disagree. The Colts only responsibility is to the Colts -- not to Denver or Houston or any other team. Denver and Houston think it's unfair that the Colts pulled starters the last two weeks? T.S. They should have won one more game over the course of the season. Every team is in charge of its own destiny starting Week 1. Teams that need to rely on another team(s) to win or lose to make the playoffs in the last few weeks have no right no complain when said team(s) loses or wins.

71
by Dean :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:55pm

I couldn't care less about the Colts one way or another, so I pretty much ignored this debate the first time around. I won't make this long. I'll just say this...

"The second is whether it's the right thing to do for the sake of its own integrity, irrespective of the possible outcomes."

I disagree 100%. As a coach, your job is to win championships. "Doing the right thing" is irrelevent. That sort of pie in the sky stuff has a place in pee wee football, sure, but not in the pros.

76
by Vince (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 6:25pm

First of all, I don't condemn the Colts. It's not an atrocity. I'm just saying what I would do.

Secondly, in the Jets game, there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to when they made the switch. If the team was really following this Super Bowl uber alles philosophy, why start Manning in the game at all? And why don't teams pull starters in every game that's been decided? I just think there's something very wrong with the game if the default position is _not to play_. I know Peyton doesn't feel that way. He was mad when he came out.

105
by Dean :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 10:05am

Both good points. And while it may not seem like it, I actually agree with you. Had it been my call, I'd have chased 16-0, and done it shamelessly.

I just don't feel that Indy should have any obligation to do so.

106
by dmb :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 10:23am

I've found the "timing" argument to be awfully simplistic. Here's an analogy: I like brownies, but I also like being in shape. Should I choose to consume brownies, does it only make sense if I consume the entire pan, rather than a small serving?

Look, people make decisions between competing goals or goods all the time, and the "all-or-nothing" strategy does not dominate those decisions. (In fact, theoretically it should only happen if the two items are perfect substitutes.) The fact that the Colts had a mixed strategy doesn't mean that there was no "rhyme or reason," nor does it mean that they didn't really value maximizing their SB odds (or having a "perfect" season). It just means they thought that this particular timing was the optimal balance of the two.

96
by Bobman :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 2:30am

I'll send you my address, or at least an 8 x 10 glossy.

It was the right thing to do, no question, and:

Anybody who says otherwise, yet puts Brady over Manning "because of his rings," is a screaming hypocrite. Manning has more regular season wins--What credit in the "greatest QB" arguments does that get him? Squat. In fact any douche who ridicules the Colts as a great "regular season team" (implying theu are post-season failures) yet advocates the 16-0 season (not saying you are, Ninjalectual, just on a general rant now) is just the apotheosis of narrow-minded hypocrisy.

Anybody who says otherwise, would prefer his team to go 16-0 rather than win the SB. Why?

Anybody who says otherwise, was not cognizant of the Colts injury reports (at one time they listed 29 guys).

Anybody who says otherwise, is a reckless, emotional gambler. DON'T go to a casino with a credit card. Limit yourself to cash and be prepared to win big or leave early.

And anybody who was surprised by what happened just has not been paying attention to the team, the organization, or the injury reports.

Remember, they did not just pull Manning. The O was missing Garcon and Johnson (LT) and the D was missing 3-4 starters. (Do you want your franchise QB facing the #1 D with a backup LT in a non-vital game?) Already it was a "compromised game" right? If they had lost, would people be railing at them for sitting those 5-6 guys on a precautionary basis? They should, no? Rail away.

Then in the 3rd Q they pulled about 4 guys on O and another 2-3 on D. (I think Freeney played 12 snaps total.) The entire game was a "we're resting to get healthy" fest, but so many people only focus on Manning and the 3rd Q. If you are going to be outraged, please make sure your outrage was for a full 60 minutes, and also that your stated philosophy of football life is consistent viv-a-vis regular season wins vs post season wins.

I wanted a perfect season, I really did, but it became pretty clear around week 12 or so that the odds of a SB were much better if they rested a lot of guys. Some guys were spot-rested throughout the season and they still won, but this was a time (and opponent) where they were just too unhealthy, and the risk/reward did not support leaving the whole team in. The blizzard the following week in Buffalo should have also tempered this outrage.

49
by Phil Osopher :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 3:40pm

Football is a sport where at least one guy each game goes out with an injury that outs him out for the season.

Its simple risk management. A season ending injury to PM, RW, DC, Gary Bracket all would seriously hamper the Colts chances of winning.

I don't get all the fuss about this really. Seems very simple to me. Peyton gets injured-- season ruined. Other important players get injured--- season close to ruined.

Sit them and you also get to have your back-ups get some real live NFL level experience. This can help as in the play-offs injuries do happen and they may have to see the field. If Jim Painter Sorgi Curtis would have won the Jets game and the whatever game after that, would anyone be upset that they benched Manning. The kid is young and he needs to get some reps to. Imagine his first snaps in the NFL are during the 4th quarter of the Super Bowlin a tied game. I thnk NO would collectively cream themselves.

Maybe I have an irational gene, but sheesh, this is the prudent thing to do and happens to all NFL teams every year (but 2007 pats), if you have Home field and a bye wrapped up.

58
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 4:37pm

I understand what you're saying. Let's just say that from a purely rational point of view you're 100% correct. However, I'm very strongly with post #52.

61
by coboney :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 4:53pm

Brilliant article Tanier as always, brought a smile to my face.

Oh - and good anyalsis on an area, not often covered.

69
by Bobman :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:37pm

coboney, do you mean the second window throws?

If so I second that--I've NEVER heard this discussed anywhere on any level. It's not just the pump-and-go, or stutter-step-and-go from my youth because there's a safety over the top, closing the window. Awesome job, MT on the whole column.

Now I have something new to telestrate for my kids on Sunday, making myself seem really smart. If only they knew....

Yes, I am aware, they already do....;-(

135
by coboney :: Sat, 02/06/2010 - 7:14am

I did, I've never seen it mentioned before as well. A very interesting thing to read for me and brings on a new prespective to some degree of what Manning does, that separates from the rest.

64
by Bobman :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:18pm

Does SIFE need donations?

Smooch!

72
by Colts1919 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 5:57pm

Absolutely Spot On! From a Colts Fan! Polian is the GOAT.

85
by Topher (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 9:11pm

From one Colts fan to another... I'd avoid the grape kool-aid if I were you.

97
by Bobman :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 2:36am

Were you around for the 0-8-1 1982 season? The 1-15 season in the early 90s? The seeming endless string of seasons that bounced between 3 and 8 wins for a couple decades after the Bert Jones teams of the mid-late 70's faded?

Polian arrived in 1998, and after one 3-13 rebuilding season, the Colts have given their fans the most wins of any NFL team. Yes, his arrival coinciding with the choice to pick Manning was fortuitous timing, but he had to make that call when a lot of "experts" said Leaf had higher upside. And he hired Dungy and assembled the defenses that finally complemented the excellent and consistent O. More wins than any other team over the past 12 years. That makes you unhappy?

What were you saying about Polian again...?

121
by Topher (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 5:21pm

I'm saying he settled for good when he could have been great. I'm saying that after he did it he force fed us a bunch of malarkey and told us it was caviar. I'm saying that I am acutely aware of what he has done for this franchise and that I have laughed much more than I have booed since he was hired.

I'm also saying that if you blindly follow everything he says as if it is gospel than you might as well be a empty head staring blankly at the television screen being happy your team wins more than it losses.

I want more than that. I want to breathe and die and feel my team. I want to agonize and joy. I want to be able to tell my grandchildren what it was like to live through that 2009 season and actually share with them the emotion and not just what the paper tells me I ought to feel.

And I want my team to beat the Patriots. At everything. Always.

In my mind he pulled the starters against the Patriots when he pulled the starters on a perfect season. That isn't good enough for me.

146
by Colts1919 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/16/2010 - 1:48pm

You simply miss the point. You wouldn't be able to get all excited about the Colts (which is quite a bit over the top) if Polian had not built an empire for you to enjoy. We don't at all "blindly follow" but we do recognize that Polian is the GOAT of team builders without question. Particulaly without question from folks who just want to puff out their chests and scream inanely at patsie fans. What you have enjoyed IS caviar. Enjoy it or simply jump off the bandwagon and find a new team.

148
by tuluse :: Wed, 02/17/2010 - 1:56am

I think Jim Finks and Bill Parcells have a bone to pick with your GOAT team builder.

Polian is easily in the discussion though.

75
by 4tuna (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 6:17pm

I planned to pick an All-Time Saints team this week, but I realized the team would consist of the 2006-2010 Saints, with the Dome Patrol (Sam Mills, Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, and Vaughn Johnson, for readers under 25) at linebacker and Morten Andersen kicking. There's no interesting competition at any other position but quarterback

No love for Willie Roaf?

88
by usedbread (not verified) :: Thu, 02/04/2010 - 11:34pm

"I planned to pick an All-Time Saints team this week, but I realized the team would consist of the 2006-2010 Saints, with the Dome Patrol (Sam Mills, Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, and Vaughn Johnson, for readers under 25) at linebacker and Morten Andersen kicking. There's no interesting competition at any other position but quarterback. Like last year's Cardinals, the choice for the Saints comes down to a '70s legend versus a contemporary player whose resume for his current team is short."

Some players you forgot...
Dalton Hilliard at tailback
Ironhead Heyward at fullback
Eric Martin at Wideout
Willie Roaf at OT
Wesley Walls at TE
Danny Abracomicz gets consideration at WR as well

100
by ammek :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 6:41am

I'd include Joe Johnson at DE, LaRoi Glover at DT, and Sammy Knight at safety. I'm not sure which of the (numerous, mediocre) defensive backs Mike Tanier would pick from 2006-2010, but the Saints don't exactly have a glorious legacy at the position. Johnnie Poe? Mike McKenzie? A fading Ashley Ambrose?

113
by mm (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 3:55pm

Fred Thomas was a great cornerback until the 2006 season, when he went into a sudden and suprising decline that would cost the team big. I'm pretty sure he was on one of Dr. Z's all pro teams last decade. He'd be my pick for the best Saints CB of my viewing lifetime, even though he couldn't make an interception to save his life.

In the last 25 years, their best CBs, in my opinion, have been Fred Thomas and Mike McKenzie, both of whom were a part of the Saints from 2006-2010. However, I'd choose Fred Thomas only because of his work before 2006, and McKenzie partly because of his work before 2006.

If Greer plays several years at this level he could obviously move past these guys.

102
by displaced_saints_fan :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 9:41am

Wayne Martin? Frank Warren? Darren Howard? Gene Atkins? Tommy Myers?

90
by HostileGospel :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 12:01am

This intro is hands-down one of the best things I've ever seen from Tanier. Obviously, it helps that we have the same position on this issue- ie, you can get upset at the Colts for resting starters, fine, but you're an asshat if you actually think the team stole your money.

Now, if the Colts had rested their entire rosters, and Colts fans had showed up the last two weeks to an empty stadium, or tuned in to a test pattern on TV, they'd owe someone some money. But they didn't. All fans ever have a right to expect is that teams will play 16 games in a given year, and anything beyond that is gravy. Of course, we as fans certainly expected a lot more from the Colts than, say, the Browns, but no one can reasonably claim entitlement to those expectations being met.

For the record, were I a Colts fan, I'd be pissed that they didn't take the shot at 19-0. But I'd understand that they were trying to maximize their chances at a Super Bowl win, and that's not exactly a terrible principle to work from. As others have said, the problem is that we can never evaluate this decision properly. Any Colts fan would take this season, if they get a win over the Saints, over an undefeated regular season and a divisional round loss- but no one will be sure that going 14-2 saved them from going 16-1. And maybe they could have run the table regardless. All I know is I'm pulling for the Saints on Sunday.

--
There's a place I want to be. It's the NovaCare Center. That's in Philadelphia. One NovaCare Way, where the Eagles practice and then they eat cafeteria food and they watch film and we eat and we have fun.

-Donovan McNabb

98
by Bobman :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 2:38am

What a HORRIBLE way to end an otherwise excellent post. You, sir, have terrible taste.
;-P

101
by DeltaWhiskey :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 7:01am

2-10-CLE 37 (1:58) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short middle to 83-H.Miller to CLV 33 for 4 yards (26-S.Jones) [52-D.Jackson]. PIT-7-B.Roethlisberger was injured during the play. He is Out.

103
by dmb :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 9:44am

For those of you who don't remember the play or would like a bit more context, this was in Week 17 last year, a game that the Steelers really didn't need to win. Roethlisberger suffered a concussion, and it was serious enough that they took him out on a stretcher as a precaution. Here's a video of the incident.

Now, this certainly isn't a perfect analogy; for example, Roethlisberger seems to be much more likely to take a big hit than does Manning. (Then again, this year's Jets defense was certainly much more fearsome than last year's Brown's...) It also came during the first half, which Manning played entirely. Even so, I think it's a pretty good illustration of what the Colts preferred to avoid, and with good reason. I don't see why it's so difficult for people to understand that they were trying to balance two worthy but potentially exclusive goals, "perfection" and maximizing the odds of a SB win.

110
by Never Surrender (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 11:51am

It's rational to be upset with a team that throws the last two games of its season. Imagine that you are a season ticket holder: You pay the full price for 10 games (and must pay the full price for 10 games). Two of them, the preseason matchups, are not real football games. Let's say your team goes 15-0 and has two home games to close out the season. They decide that they need to sit their starts, ad they do not try to win the final two games. That means that you, as a consumer, have paid for 10 games and gotten only 6 games in which your team gave a real effort to win.

I'm NOT saying any team should be forced by the NFL or (worse) the state to reverse this policy, etc. But that doesn't mean a fan can't be justifiably upset. It's bad enough that season ticket holders must pay for two meaningless games. Three or four is absurd.

One final thing: If there are good grounds for season ticket holders to be upset with the Colts organization, then the thrust of Mr. Tanier's argument above is misdirected.

112
by dryheat :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 3:51pm

They decide that they need to sit their starts, ad they do not try to win the final two games.

See, there's my problem with the argument. The Colts did indeed try to win those games. They DID give real effort to win. I remember the Patriots lost a week 16 or 17 game a couple of years ago (vs. Dolphins?) by resting Brady. Cassel played most of the game, and the Patriots ended up losing by two. Cassel rallied the team to a late touchdown, then went for the 2-point conversion which was incomplete. It was a perfectly good throw, and the defender made a nice play to deny the completion. For weeks later I heard Patriots fans saying the Patriots didn't try to win -- they wanted to lose to have a better playoff matchup (Jacksonville instead of Pittsburgh or somebody). Really? It certainly looked like they were trying to win the game. However they weren't risking the health of their star players in trying to win the game. Big difference than losing intentionally. I have no doubt the Colts were trying to win those games with Painter et al.

Now, if they were intentionally not tackling guys, or purposely fumbling, or taking excessive penalties nullifying big plays, I'd probably be on your side of the argument.

124
by Topher (not verified) :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 5:34pm

Nobody said the players didn't try and win the game. The decision maker that decided to not play the best players didn't try. If you could do XYZ and have your best chance to win and instead you knowingly do ABC than you are not trying your best.

Nobody said the Colts were trying to lose intentionally. But nobody... NOBODY... thinks they would have lost had they played Manning the entire game.

125
by dmb :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 5:34pm

Fourteen teams were eliminated from playoff contention before the kickoff of their Week 16 game. Add in the Colts, and by your definition, buying season tickets was a rip-off for fans of almost half the league's teams. If that's how you see it, fine, but I don't think you were really thinking about all the teams in the league.

I also think getting to see the highest-quality football available for those six games should probably make the other four a bit more palatable.

127
by Eddo :: Fri, 02/05/2010 - 6:16pm

Agreed; claiming that season-ticket holders were wronged from a consumer perspective is a really slippery slope. What about the 2006 season, when my family was treated to the Bears clearly mailing in their season finale against the Packers? Were we ripped off by the Bears?

136
by ammek :: Sat, 02/06/2010 - 8:38am

Dunno. But Rex Grossman never really recovered from the "I couldn't be bothered preparing" incident. The answer to the question of mailing in the finale is probably: you're allowed to do it if you're great afterwards, and not if you ain't. Which is no answer at all.

142
by Never Surrender (not verified) :: Sat, 02/06/2010 - 10:19pm

Sure, but notice that we criticize teams who do not have the heart to finish out a season. It is for this reason that owners routinely clean house when a team has lost its desire.

I'm not saying that fans should get a refund, in your case or in the case of the Colts. But they are justified in being upset, and I would be too were I in their position.

141
by Never Surrender (not verified) :: Sat, 02/06/2010 - 10:17pm

In my view, playoffs are not the only meaningful end to a season. This is about the product that the team puts on the field. Thus, even if the team only has 4-12 talent, the fans who buy season tickets are paying to see the team put its best effort forward to win. Results will be results.

So your analogy doesn't work here.

143
by cjp42 (not verified) :: Sun, 02/07/2010 - 2:06pm

i've watched every week and most of the snaps available to me in my network market this year, but why do i only 'get' about half of Fig. 3?

clearly Favre is exiting at the bottom.

Ochocinco is doing a little dance onto Revis Island up top

Sidney Rice is sitting alone in the endzone (?)

Tanier is front and center but what is the 9 to AM reference? and the line to the P?

i feel dumb

145
by LSUdavidterry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/10/2010 - 11:14am

What about Willie Roaf?
Also, Dalton Hilliard would be at least a 3rd down RB for he Saints.
Eric Martin was definitely better than Devry Henderson.
Give those late 80s-early 90s Saints teams some love. If it weren't for the peak Montana/Yount/Rice 49ers, those teams would be much more fondly remembered.