On clinched teams resting starters:

Submitted by SFBayAreaBlue on December 28th, 2009 at 10:15 AM

Waaaah, waaah, waaah. Everybody is whining about the colts losing the perfect season. And every idiot with a keyboard (yes, me included) is going to make some silly argument about how they should, or shouldn't do that. But what I really hate about the crappy sports writing going on right now, is that that most of these jar heads have no idea how to conduct analysis.

Take this guy for example:


without boring you with the details, he tries to argue that the colts shouldn't have rested their starters and lost to the jets. But in support of this, he only offers two other data points, the two times that teams have finished the regular season undefeated. One worked, one didn't, and together they add absolutely nothing to his argument whatsoever.

And then he tries to argue that they might be helping inferior teams like the jets make the playfuls, while more 'deserving' teams get shut out. Well duuuuh!! That's even more incentive for teams that have clinched everything they can to rest their starters. I'm sure the colts would much rather see the jets in the playoffs than the defending champion steelers. In fact, there is a strategic incentive for all the top seeds to act in collusion to get the weaker borderline teams in.

But whatever, I'd just wish if someone was going to make a historical argument, that they would look at a more meaningful data set. Take every team in the last 40 years that has clinched and rested starters and chart their playoff success. Now that would be meaningful and interesting.

But that would take more time than I have, and I don't even have a deadline to write by. So I'm not gonna hold my breath for anyone else to do it. but it would be nice if someone did.



December 28th, 2009 at 10:21 AM ^

I dislike the Colts, and I'm glad they didn't get the perfect season. However, they basically gave it away voluntarily, and that doesn't make me feel good. It's like beating up the weakest kid in class. Plus, now Colts fans will be telling me that they would have been undefeated if they wanted to be.


December 28th, 2009 at 11:16 AM ^

but i never see anything about them except for people saying how much they hate them. its not like they take out full page ads or rent billboard space.

its also not like the coverage that would replace the supposed coverage of them would be better, in fact, it would be much much worse. could you imagine the manning family lovefests or the stories of how the saints mean so much to new orleans (i know the lost). the current soft focus, hyperbolic sports coverage makes me more angry than six old men perhaps drinking champagne once a year.


December 28th, 2009 at 10:34 AM ^

The only thing that I question the Colts on his how well will they perform in the second round of the playoffs when a decent part of their team has only played a few minutes of meaningful football in the last month; what with pulling starters early in Game 15, probably playing them only a few series in Game 16, bye week in round one of playoffs. Remember that the only Super Bowl Indianapolis has won since Peyton Manning been there is when they were still playing meaningful football in December and did not have a first round bye. Since the 2000 season, the times Indy has had a first round bye in the playoffs they have lost everytime in the 2nd round. The only time they've advanced further than the second round has been when they've played in the 1st round of the playoffs. With all of this information I think that it is easy to see that time off isnt always the best thing for a precision passing offense such as Indianapolis'.

Fuzzy Dunlop

December 28th, 2009 at 10:48 AM ^

The last two years the Colts have rested starters at the end of the regular season, and have lost early in the playoffs. Perhaps having your starters take a one-month vacation before a second-round playoff game against a strong team isn't the best thing?

Despite being undefeated, the Colts have squeaked by some mediocre teams this year. In a few weeks, they're likely to be playing a hungry Bengals team, with their starters having not played a meaningful minute in about a month. My money is going to be on Cincy.


December 28th, 2009 at 11:19 AM ^

Correct me if I am wrong but the look on
Mannings face on the sideline was PRICELESS! The last time we saw Peyton Manning that upset might have been...the 97 Heisman award ceremony!


December 28th, 2009 at 11:20 AM ^

The bigger concern I have is that if a team has already clinched the playoffs and a further win gains nothing, what if that team is playing someone where a win or loss impacts a playoff position for other teams, Doesn't seem fair, but each team must decide what works best for them.

In a sense, it goes back to the argument you hear every pre-season when an experienced player gets injured in a meaningless game and is on IR for the year.

UM Indy

December 28th, 2009 at 11:46 AM ^

here in Indy. Not happy paying those prices to see Curtis Painter fumble away a chance at an undefeated season. Being up 27-10 in the fourth quarter is one thing. Being up 15-10 coming out of the half is another. I think Caldwell could've done himself a favor and avoided all of this reaction if he had left his starters in until the end of the third quarter. At least then, he could've said we played to win for three quarters and simply couldn't afford to risk injury to Peyton in the fourth quarter.


December 28th, 2009 at 1:47 PM ^

I agree that Caldwell should have probably kept the players in until the beginning of the 4th. That way, the starters still get their reps but you still give them some rest. Plus, the Jets are playing for their playoff lives, so you are getting experience against a team that is still trying to win a game, not just spoil a perfect season/play out the string. Probably wouldn't make a difference to the Colts, but this is a team you might see in the playoffs, and the psychological edge of beating them near the end of the season wouldn't hurt.

Next week the Colts play against the Bills, who have been out of it for weeks and probably won't be playing their starters either. You can rest Peyton and co. after a half and I doubt it will affect the outcome.

I understand the OPs point that playing the starters for the sake of the perfect season is not necessarily the best idea, but playing the starters for most of a late-season game against a potential playoff opponent seems like a good idea to me.


December 28th, 2009 at 1:16 PM ^

the resting of the starters when the game is still on the line is a direct result of the playoff setting. Indy knows they're in, with home field advantage, there's nothing to be gained, so they relax a little. Next time someones says they oppose a playoff in college football because it diminishes the importance of the regular season, this Indy situation is exactly what they're talking about.

Fuzzy Dunlop

December 28th, 2009 at 2:34 PM ^

First, did you really feel the need to explain that the reason Indy rested its starters is because it was already locked into a playoff spot? Did you think the rest of us didn't get that? Have a little respect for your fellow posters.

Second, there is no way that instituting a reasonable playoff system in college football would cause teams to rest their starters at the end of the year, for about 500 reasons. Here are just two.

1- There are 120 Division 1-A football teams, and most reasonable proposals involve a 6 or 8 team playoff. By contrast, there are 32 NFL teams, with 12 teams making the playoffs. In the NFL, it's possible, and even likely, that a week 16 or 17 game will have no impact on a team's making the playoffs (or their seeding in the playoffs). But there is virtually no chance that a late-season college football game would have no impact on a team's playoff chances, or potential seeding. So there would be no motivation for Michigan to ever sit its starters against OSU, for example.

Want proof? Division I-AA has a playoff system. Give me one example of a time when a Division I-AA team sat its starters and voluntarily took a loss prior to the playoffs.

2- The NFL begins playoffs immediately after the regular season ends, so there is further motivation to rest players. College football already takes a couple of weeks off before the bowls, and would likely take at least two weeks off before any playoffs were to begin.

Basically, you're comparing apples and oranges. Indy's decision to rest its starters in no way suggests that the same thing would happen if college football instituted a playoff system.


December 28th, 2009 at 3:00 PM ^

I never assume anything about my fellow posters; no harm intended.

With regard to your points:
1 - smaller participation percentage does increase the need/desire to win; the incentive to rest starters would be lower for Bowl Subdivision teams. Its not obvious that the increased need/desire to win would outweigh the incentive to rest starters. Need more info about the playoffs; home field advantage at stake? Or are all playoff games at "neutral" sites. In any case, late season rivalry games such as M-OSU would be the least likely to see starters rested. I am not familiar enough with Division I-AA playoff history to give you an answer off the top of my head, but I will look into the matter.

2 - The Division I-AA playoff system begins right after the regular season; by the logic you employ in your second point, there should be incentive for Division I-AA teams to rest, and more importantly, avoid injury.


December 28th, 2009 at 2:03 PM ^

I hate that this happens, but it does. I can't blame Indy for doing this. In an injury-riddled contact sport, there's no point in risking what matters the most if winning a regular season game doesn't put you in a better position to win a championship. This happens in hockey all the time and it has happened in the NFL at least a few times.


December 29th, 2009 at 6:54 PM ^

Sure there are numerous examples of teams in many sports that have rested starters in preperation for the playoffs. The difference in this case is that Indy had a chance to be the first team to be undefeated and win an SB at 19-0. INDY is the first UNDEFEATED team in any sport that rested starters and lost out on an undefeated season. Imagine if you were a Colts season ticket holder and watched your team pack it in with a 5 point lead at HOME! Every fan in the stadium that day deserved a refund. The risk of injury in this instance is worth the possible and perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity of being the first 19-0 NFL team...IMO.

Maize and Blue…

December 28th, 2009 at 2:35 PM ^

13-0 start rest starters lose in first round. Only SB win played players throughout the entire season. History usually repeats itself. I'd bet against them just because you R who you R until you prove otherwise.


December 28th, 2009 at 4:02 PM ^

Here's the thing: A Super Bowl champ is crowned every year. It is the ultimate goal of every team to win the Super Bowl every year. In the end, a Super Bowl championship is not really a tangible thing (except for the ring). It is a place in history. Yes, the players get more exposure, money, endorsements, etc. But, the biggest payoff is being able to say that Team X won Super Bowl XLIV. Yes, protecting starters, especially guys as valuable as Peyton Manning, is critical to winning. But, isn't it worth the gamble to be the first team in nearly 40 years to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl? I equate this to having suited 10-J-Q-K and another K on 5-card draw poker machine and dropping the 10-J-Q when the royal flush pays 10,000-1. Go for the friggin royal flush!