The Breakdown: Some advice from Herm Edwards
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Summit County, Colorado
Herm Edwards once famously said in a news conference, “You play to win the game.” Of course, at the time, he was defending his on-field decisions while the head coach of the New York Jets, but, still, his words resonate – at least in the sense of an obvious sports cliche.
After all, it seems simple enough: In each game, one team wins, and the other loses. Who wouldn’t be playing to win?
Well, we might find out.
As we all know – or would certainly find out by watching ESPN, at any time of the day, for about five minutes – the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints are 13-0 and three wins away from joining the Patriots as the only team to go 16-0 in a regular season.
Some quick facts to get out of the way: Both teams are playing on short rest this week, with the Colts taking on the Jags Thursday, and the Saints playing Dallas Saturday. After those games, neither team faces a tough opponent. (The Colts play the Jets and then the Bills; the Saints play Tampa Bay and then close with Carolina.) The Colts have already locked up home-field advantage in the playoffs, and the Saints can do so this weekend.
So, many people are wondering whether both teams will focus on finishing undefeated or start to rest key players for the playoff run.
If you think of Edwards’s stance on football, it should be a no-brainer.
The Saints, or at least their quarterback Drew Brees, said they’re going to try to remain undefeated. We can assume they won’t be resting anyone while the outcome of the game is still in doubt.
No worries there.
But the Colts? That’s a different story.
Now, their owner did come out and say that the team will start its regulars at the beginning of the game Thursday. Whether they play the whole way, three quarters, one series, no one really knows.
In past years, the Colts have been known for, or rather, have become notorious for sitting players at the end of the season. Frankly, it’s translated to losing. The year Indy won the Super Bowl, the Colts had to play their way into the postseason, carrying the momentum all the way to the title.
Still, it seems to be team policy that they do this each season when the playoff spot is already secure.
It’s unknown what the Colts will do, but I can tell you what they should do: Play to win the game, or at least play their starters in an attempt to win out.
There are two reasons for this. The first, I already kind of hit on, and that’s momentum. It seems that each season, a team gets hot in its last few games and winds up making a championship run. The Cardinals made the Super Bowl last year, and the Giants knocked off the undefeated Patriots two years ago.
Just looking at the Colts’ history I briefly laid out, it’s obvious they’ve had better success when playing meaningful games at the end of the year. And what could be more meaningful than staying unbeaten?
Well, that brings me to my second point.
If the Colts sit their starters and lose one of the next few games and then win the Super Bowl, it’ll be memorable – for about three years. If they went undefeated on the road to a title, they’ll be remembered forever.
Teams always talk about looking at the big picture when it comes to a season. Nothing gives a bigger picture than being the first-ever 19-0 team; they’d be making history.
Winning a spot on a list full of Super Bowl winners is not the same as earning a place among the all-time best.
Hopefully, they both play to win the game – and play for a spot in history.
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