While I still think it was a stupid thing for the Colts to do, the NFL might be on the verge of trumping their stupidity.
It seems common sense that there will be teams who don't take Week 17 games seriously. It's happened for many years, and it's hard to think anyone would want to stop it. While the integrity of the sport is extremely important, so is common sense.
If you're, say, the Green Bay Packers, who have clinched a spot in the NFC's postseason tournament, why on Earth would you play starters deep into a game against Arizona that means nothing? The best Green Bay can hope for is the fifth seed in the NFC, which nets them a path to the Super Bowl that consists of road games. Same deal for the sixth seed. There is no tangible benefit, outside of the very slight chance to host the NFC Championship should the fifth and sixth seeds advance through.
This makes sense, right?
Then why would the NFL's Competition Committee look at somehow forcing teams to play healthy starters?
"This is an issue that we have reviewed in the past. The position of the competition committee, and affirmed by the clubs, when it was reviewed in 2005 was that 'a team that has clinched its division title has earned the right to rest its starters for the postseason, and that preparing for the postseason is just as important as protecting some other team's playoff opportunity.' That is the current policy," league spokesman Greg Aiello said.
"We are aware of the fan reaction and that is a factor to be considered," he continued. "Some teams that have everything clinched, like the Giants and Patriots two years ago, choose to play all out to continue or gain momentum for the playoffs. We expect to continue to review this issue."
I'll save you the trouble.
Let teams do what they want.
I stand by my comments on the Colts. They threw a winnable game, and a chance to make history, so their starters could get some much-needed rest. The bottom line is that they decided the starters needed to come out of the Jets game in order for the Colts to stay on track for a Super Bowl title, even though they've lost in the divisional playoffs the last three times they procured a first-round bye and proceeded to half-ass one or more regular-season games.
It's just not something the league should intervene on.
If you don't want to be stuck relying on the Colts to beat someone to help you make the playoffs, win more games. It's not the Colts' problem.
In 2003, Vikings fans screamed bloody murder when the Broncos chose to half-ass a Week 17 game with Green Bay. We all know how that ended up for Minnesota, who needed to win because the Packers had won easily.
That's still an all-time classic.
Anyway, you should have heard Vikings fans on my radio show the next day. You would have thought Brett Favre and Mike Sherman had paid the Broncos off.
This wasn't a shot at the integrity of the game, nor was it a grand injustice against a team that started the season 6-0 and still managed to miss the playoffs.
The bottom line was that Denver earned the chance to rest starters before a road wild card game the next week. They did that by winning enough games to make the playoffs. The Packers have earned that right this week, and they should feel no obligation toward the Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, or anyone else on the planet. If they feel the need to bench Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, or anyone else for any portion of the game -- or the whole damn thing -- it's fine.
And that's the way it should be.
Now, if you already have a first-round bye, it's pretty stupid to be sitting guys in Week 16. It locks that you're going to sit them in Week 17, and then they have a week off. Do you really want them screwing around for three weeks before a win-or-go-home divisional playoff game against a foe who won the week before and doesn't have any rust to shake off?
But, again, that's not the NFL's decision to make.
You can't legislate stupidity. That said, you can legislate stupidly. That's where the NFL might be going here. They need to tread carefully.