It’s hard to believe that a 2-13 NFL team could be playing in a franchise defining game this weekend, but that just may be the case for the Indianapolis Colts. The result of Sunday’s matchup between the Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars could dictate Indy’s philosophy regarding personnel decisions moving forward.
Let’s make this rather complicated situation as simple as possible, if the Colts win on Sunday, they blow the number one pick (there’s NO WAY the Rams beat the 49ers who are playing for a first round bye in the playoffs). If the Colts lose, they acquire the rights to the most valuable draft choice — Andrew Luck –of the past 30 years (according to seemingly every draft expert on the planet).
To take it a step further, if the Colts win and get stuck with the second pick, it’s more likely they build for the present. In other words, it’s more likely the Manning – Wayne – Mathis – Saturday era continues. It’s more likely the Polians try to put together a team built around aging veterans capable of making one last Super Bowl run before #18 calls it quits. If we can’t get the wonder boy Luck who, in theory, would lead the Colts to 10-15 more years of excellence, why not give Manning and the other old balls one last chance to make a run at glory? We can always rebuild later on.
If the Colts lose on Sunday, the possibility of operation rebuild seems far more likely. It’s more likely the Polians dump all or most of the expensive veterans who have carried this team for the past decade including Manning in favor of rebuilding around young Luck.
Of course all of this is all just speculation courtesy of yours truly, and of course everything depends on Peyton’s health status come March. There is the possibility of some type of hybrid strategy between these two extremes. It’s plausible for the Colts to draft Luck and sit him on the bench behind Manning for a few years. It’s also possible the team decides to build for the present even if they get the number one pick by trading it away for a king’s ransom of other draft choices. All I’m saying is a win on Sunday increases the odds of the Manning era continuing while a loss decreases those odds. That’s all, nothing definitive.
With all this said, what should the Colts do on Sunday? The answer, even though it has been debated all week by the national media, is obvious. As Herm Edwards would say, “You play to win the game!” The Colts must attempt to win against the Jags no matter the indirect consequences. It would be an insult to the coaches, players and the game itself to lose on purpose. It just won’t happen, so let’s save our breath.
The real question is what should the Colts fans do on Sunday? Should we cheer for the Colts to beat a hated division rival this weekend, or should we cheer against them? Should we cheer for the Colts …. to lose?
I’ve never been faced with a choice like this as a fan. For as long as I can remember I’ve cheered for the Colts to win every single game (even when the team itself showed zero interest in winning late in the 2009 season). It’s always been a no brainer. It’s the entire essence of being a fan. Even during this abysmal 2011 season, I rooted for Indy to win every week. Although to be fair, for the vast majority of the season, I pulled for the Colts every week under the assumption that we would in fact land the number one pick. It was simply an exercise of fandom. I cheered, but I knew we would lose and lose often* – often enough to claim our prize with ease.
Now with the ultimate prize in serious jeopardy, my choice becomes more complicated, difficult and confusing. Do I really want to rebuild with Luck? Would I rather have an old, crusty and maybe even fragile Manning give it one more go? Does it matter what I want?
No. No, it never matters what the common fan wants. But that doesn’t make our decision unimportant….. at least not to me.
Logic tells me to cheer for the loss. This game doesn’t matter at all. We have everything to gain by losing. We have nothing to gain by winning. No matter who you want our signal caller to be next season, we’ll be in a better position as a team with the first pick. Why wouldn’t we want to acquire this incredibly valuable asset?
My heart as a fan tells me to pull for a potentially harmful win. Why? Simply because it’s the right thing to do. The heart feels it’s best to always cheer for your team, no matter what bizzarre circumstances arise, and let the chips fall where they may. Let fate decide. It’s the principal of thing, you know? I can’t cheer against Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday and Robert Mathis in what could be possibly be their final game as Colts. After everything these guys have given us over the years — the wins, the records, the Super Bowls, the new stadium — we’re going to turn our backs on them now? I just can’t do it. I think something inside of me would be broken if I cheered for the Jags against the Colts. Not just as a fan, but as a man. (This is fairly overdramatic, but I’m trying to make a point people, just roll with it.)
Listen to your head or your heart. The choice is yours. I’m going with my heart.
Go Colts. Beat the Jags. We’ll figure out the rest later.
*Footnote: Fellow Back Home Again contributor Zach Haselhorst invented a game for us to play every time we watched the Colts this year. The game is an extension of the popular drinking technique called “Slap the Bag.” Basically, every time something went horribly wrong for the Colts (no matter how predictable) we each had to take a long swig from our bag of Franzia box wine and then subsequently slap the side of the bag. My goal was to keep track of how many bag slaps we accumulated over the season. I lost count and gave up on this pursuit during the first half of the Colts’ first game. Needless to say, we were pretty hammered every Sunday afternoon which was sort of fun but mostly depressing. Good times.