The Colts have been doing their best to ignore the criticism of their decision to tank it against the Jets.
The league office, however, is listening.
According to ESPN.com, the league office will ask the Competition Committee to review “integrity of game” and “competitive-balance” concerns arising from the practice of playoff teams treating the final weeks of the regular season like the final weeks of the preseason.
“This is an issue that we have reviewed in the past,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. “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.
“We are aware of the fan reaction and that is a factor to be
considered. 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.”
When the Competition Committee takes up the issue, Colts president Bill Polian should recuse himself. Given the harsh reaction that his team has faced after laying down in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Jets, any change to the policy possibly would be interpreted as a concession by the league that the Colts undermined the integrity of the game. So Polian is incapable, in our view, of being objective on this point.
If a change is made, the league should ensure that the new rule also compels teams to make their best efforts to win. Two years ago, the Colts failed to use their time outs in order to get the ball back for a meaningful shot at beating the Titans. The victory by Tennessee kept Cleveland out of the playoffs.
Titans quarterback Kerry Collins told WFAN radio after the game that Fisher and Dungy had “some communication” regarding Dungy’s decision not to use his timeouts. Dungy seemed to be pleased by the qualification of the Titans for the postseason.
“I have to congratulate the Titans and I think it is a feather in the cap of our division to get three teams in the playoffs,” Dungy said at the time.
That said, it would be difficult to force a team to try to win a game it doesn’t want to win, especially when a team that wants to pull a starting quarterback would simply have to tell the starting quarterback to get up limping the first time he’s knocked to the ground. So then the league would have to decide whether to look the other way, or to risk generating evidence that one of its teams has cheated.