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Caldwell: Going undefeated is secondary

The Indianapolis Colts are 11-0 and just a couple of wins away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

And if the Colts are still undefeated once they’ve clinched home field, the questions will start to be asked: Should Indianapolis keep playing hard in essentially meaningless games, and attempt to finish the regular season 16-0? Or would they be better off giving Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and other key players plenty of rest, and coasting into the playoffs healthy but not necessarily unbeaten?

First-year Colts head coach Jim Caldwell has never faced that decision before. But he told Peter King in the Monday Morning Quarterback column at SI.com that if he does have to make the decision, he’ll likely follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Tony Dungy, who always said the Colts would rather be healthy than undefeated.

“It’ll be somewhat similar to what we’ve done,” Caldwell told King. “Going undefeated was always a secondary goal. I don’t think we’ll put too much emphasis on that.”

Not putting too much emphasis on an undefeated season makes sense: The goal for every team is to win the Super Bowl, not to run the table. At the same time, sometimes it’s hard for teams that slow down in December to get back to full speed in January.

As Mike Florio noted in the Week 12 Morning Aftermath, the Colts clinched home field early in 2005, then took it easy in the last couple of weeks, and came out flat in their first playoff game, losing at home to the Steelers.

Even if the Colts don’t consider 16-0 a primary goal, they might look sluggish in the postseason if they don’t play hard for all 16 games of the regular season.

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15 Responses to “Caldwell: Going undefeated is secondary”
  1. leatherneck says: Nov 30, 2009 9:27 AM

    And in other news, Jim Caldwell is probably one of the top-three coaches in the NFL. I never heard of him before this year.

  2. KennyPowers says: Nov 30, 2009 9:41 AM

    I honestly think the best thing that could happen to this team right now would be to experience a loss.
    I believe that when teams are constantly winning, players might be under the mindset that they’re doing everything right. I think a punch in the mouth in the form of a loss would act as a wake up call, which might be needed as this team obviously isn’t without its weaknesses (particularly on defense).

  3. Bill Cowher's Chin says: Nov 30, 2009 9:50 AM

    Its going to be impossible for the Colts to not go undefeated….. Every time Manning throws a pass further than 20 yards, there are only 2 outcomes to the play: 1 Pass Interference, 2 a catch by the Colts receiver……..

  4. LiveNBreatheFootball says: Nov 30, 2009 9:51 AM

    Resting players is a bad, bad idea. You want them primed and ready to go. Don’t work them as hard, but the starters start. Otherwise, you are one and done in the playoffs.

  5. Fogs77 says: Nov 30, 2009 10:05 AM

    Leatherneck: I assume you are being Sarcastic. To say he is one of the best three coaches because of there record would be obsurd. If Kris Brown Makes a 43 yard field Goal, The Pats punt on 4-2, and the Ravens don’t implode and waste all of there time outs and miss a 30 yard field goal…..the Colts have three easy losses. He certainly deserves credit for a decent season, but the Colts have been extremely lucky this year.
    In regards to the 16-0 season…..if they want to win the Super Bowl, they better lose a game now. There isn’t a chance they get by the Pats in the playoffs if they are still undefeated….

  6. Gautam says: Nov 30, 2009 10:10 AM

    “who always said the Colts would rather be healthy than undefeated” – no wonder they have gone one and done 6 times out of 9 in the Manning era

  7. Richm2256 says: Nov 30, 2009 10:11 AM

    Has any coach in NFL history ever had a better situation than Caldwell? He was basically handed the keys to a finely tuned Ferarri that pretty much drives itself (see: Manning, P.) and has basically just not crashed it into a tree.
    Or a fire hydrant, as it were.

  8. Jay16 says: Nov 30, 2009 11:06 AM

    Hilarious! Great, rest the starters and like before you will lose. This team is just oblivious from previous collapse’s and playoff loses. My advice is, if they rest their starters go call your bookie and bet a trillion dollars on the Colts losing thier first game, and bet on the underdog no matter whom it may be, especially if it’s a team with a quality defensive coordinator. If it’s New England, or Chargers bet your house, wife and kids. If it’s Pittsburg or Cinncinati just a trillion dollars.

  9. winkel33 says: Nov 30, 2009 11:23 AM

    If a guy is banged up, it makes sense to rest him. But haven’t the Colts been burned many times in the post-season when they have rested guys in the final weeks of the season? Their lone Super Bowl came in a situation where they were not the favorites, but were a wild card team. There is a balance that the Colts need to keep in mind between making sure guys are healthy, and keeping players sharp. I think in the past, they have often rested too many players for too long to the detriment of their playoff performance.

  10. pubobby2004 says: Nov 30, 2009 11:25 AM

    @Fogs77
    “In regards to the 16-0 season…..if they want to win the Super Bowl, they better lose a game now. There isn’t a chance they get by the Pats in the playoffs if they are still undefeated….”
    —————–
    are you speaking from experience? 18-1, thanks David Tyree.

  11. svn says: Nov 30, 2009 11:58 AM

    i dont disagree but its weird when teams think losing a gameis okay but charge fans the same amount for tickets for meaningless games and also allow other teams to make playoffs or decide their fate by resting their starters. This a fix which doesnt get enough publicity. Like the colts threw the game a few yrs ago allowing the titans to get in the playoffs. Somehow its okay for the league to allow this…quite sad really.

  12. DocBG says: Nov 30, 2009 12:17 PM

    you can rest players during the week instead of during games, its not the games that tire them. Granted, it is the games that injure them, but you can’t have it both ways.
    As for caldwell being a good coach, any coach will tell you that they are only as good as their players. look at guys like Mike nolan and jim haslett. with nolan as a D coordinator, he’s doing pretty good, haslett damn near went undefeated in the UFL (it is minor league, but still competitive). You could take the dumbest coach in the history of the league, MM from GB, stick him coaching the colts, and they would still probably have homefield throughout the playoffs. coaches are only as good as their players.

  13. SprintPhoneFTW says: Nov 30, 2009 1:03 PM

    blah blah blah…if Dallas Clark tears his ACL in a meaningless game, you’re up shit’s creek.
    All these other arguments about playing hard down the stretch are “secondary”

  14. bigdan7885 says: Nov 30, 2009 1:23 PM

    “I honestly think the best thing that could happen to this team right now would be to experience a loss.
    I believe that when teams are constantly winning, players might be under the mindset that they’re doing everything right. I think a punch in the mouth in the form of a loss would act as a wake up call, which might be needed as this team obviously isn’t without its weaknesses (particularly on defense).”
    So using your logic KennyPowers (cool name ;), the Giants should run the table. They’ve been punched in the mouth several times this year.

  15. stetai says: Nov 30, 2009 1:28 PM

    Just like every year, the Colts are the most unimpressive undefeated team in NFL history. Their postseason record is abymsall lets be real here. How many years to they enter the playoffs with an amazing reg season record, only to lose their first game.
    The one year they got into the Super Bowl, Peyton played like crap, the defense showed up out of nowhere and New England’s Reche Caldwell dropped an easy catch in the end zone, and then they got to play the Bears in the Super Bowl. The Bears?! Then buddy Lovie Smith kept Rex Grossman in the game despite 4 INT’s in the first half to let his best friend Dungy win it all.
    If there was ever a team where a W was completely meaningless, it’s Peyton’s Colts. I’ll take a 9-7 team that wins a Super Bowl over a 14-2 loser every year.

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