Roger Goodell should tread lightly with “resting starters” controversy


By Jake McCormick

As a football fan, I was disappointed to see the Indianapolis Colts give up on a perfect regular season. I can understand why fans would feel cheated on a team passing up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially if you’re shelling out $100+ to watch a team compete at a high level each week. I wouldn’t want to see the Packers roll over for anyone in that situation; especially a team coached by a Jabba the Hutt lookalike with just as large of a mouth.

Roger Goodell’s announcement of a league inquiry into the Colts (and other playoff teams) sitting starters during late-season games worth roughly as much as the preseason could turn into an extreme overreaction to something that requires minimal rule change.

An undefeated season is great for fans and the NFL because any chase for a unique record in sports generates unexpected excitement; much like ordering a value meal at McDonald’s and accidentally getting an extra value meal instead. But I wouldn’t trade the 2007 Patriots’ season for the 2007 Giants’ season in a million years, because the ultimate goal for any NFL team isn’t an undefeated regular season; it’s hoisting that trophy in February and standing on top of the NFL hill like the soldiers cresting Iwo Jima.

Jim Caldwell, following in Tony Dungy’s footsteps, did what he felt gave his team the best chance they have to win in the postseason. The fear of losing Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney, or Reggie Wayne far outweighes the fear of finishing the season with one or two losses. Fan reaction was predictably harsh, as most felt that they paid top dollar to see a team do something only two other teams have done since the NFL/AFL merger and the games looked more like the preseason, except with recorded stats.

Goodell has responded, saying he wants every game to remain competitive and may offer incentives to teams that play their starters late in the season, including additional draft picks. I agree that games should remain competitive for the fan’s sake, but teams shouldn’t be punished for doing what it takes to save their strength for the playoffs.

Wes Welker’s terrible injury does a good job of illustrating the other side of the coin, and even that happened in the first quarter. Now he may be out for the entire 2010 season as well as the current playoffs. Is that worth monetary compensation or a potential extra draft pick to the Patriots? I’m guessing not.

Teams work all season just to get a chance at a playoff berth, and they deserve the freedom to tinker with their lineup if they get there a few weeks earlier than expected. The best possible solution would be to force teams to include when and which players will be taken out the week before the game in question. Peter King does a good job of explaining this possiblity in his MMQB, and adds that the NFL almost certainly will be making a change in the offseason.

Hopefully whatever Goodell and the competition committee come up with is less like the “Special Edition” releases of the original Star Wars movies (WAY too many unnecessary additions downgraded their quality) and more like Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.

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