Once the Colts and Saints lock up home field through the playoffs, should they rest their starters or play through? Those of you who are regulars of this New York Giants football blog should well know the answer by now. Answer- PLAY THROUGH. And to go one step further, WIN THROUGH.
Rule #22: The Carl Banks Rule- You cannot simply turn it on and turn it off in the NFL. Play every game and maintain/improve on your high level of play.
It was Carl Banks a few years back who articulated it best. He said the NFL was too competitive. That it was too difficult to turn it on and turn it off.
I give Banks the credit for this Rule because he was the one who gave this author the clarity amidst all the bullbrown out there on the airwaves trying to clutter our minds with nonsense and confusion.
When you consider the difference between winning and losing, the razor thin difference between teams that are good and very good, between teams that are very good and teams that are great, it becomes apparent that ANY form of turning it off is ...turning it off.
I heard a 'stat' yesterday on ESPN that was behind this post. The Indianapolis Colts have been a dominant team all decade, getting out to these Umpteen and 0 records often. Four times to be exact. The philosophy of the coaching staff was to rest players, get ready for the playoffs, retool.
The playoff odds for ANY round 1 bye team that goes straight to the divisional round and plays at home is very high for a victory. Generally they are a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 10 to 14 point favorites. I do not know the odds of the Colts to win in each of those 4 games, but they should have been expected to win ~ 3 of them. They won only 1. Yes, they were 1-3 in playoff games after coasting into the playoffs. And it should not surprise you that the year the Colts won the big enchilada (XLI) they were less than perfect (did not have a bye) and were too busy playing through to take any ill- advised breaks.
Back in 2007 when the Giants beat Buffalo to get into the playoffs, Coughlin decided he was playing through. Smart move. On many levels the Giants had little choice. Who the brown were they to think that they had the luxury of drinking lattes and eating bon bons when they were a 10-5 team with plenty of warts from only a few games prior??!! Coughlin, to his credit, understood this. He KNEW his team had to improve the level of play in all three areas of the game. We all know the rest. 38-35. This blog is tough on the Giants when they win looking like brown and when they lose looking like brown, but on that night we saluted the effort because of the confidence the team got from going toe to toe with the best.
Call it a coincidence, but last year in W17 against the Vikings the gmen played competitively for ~ 3 quarters but were not playing to improve. The game had the urgency of a ... preseason contest. Why was Manning playing 60 vs the Patriots in 2007 but not vs the Vikings in 2008? There are always things you can do to get better. Considering Manning's performance in the next game, the playoff game vs the Eagles, did he deserve ANY time off?
Did you ever notice that it is a universally accepted notion that you are better served playing your best football in the second half of the season than the first half?! So explain then how coasting in the last 1 to 3 games helps you be at your best in the second half of the season? The two arguments fly in the face of one another. Either you are playing ALL OUT to win or you are not.
If you have a star player who is hurt and needs to rest, that is an entirely different matter. If your player is not hurt, he plays. It does not matter whether he is Brett Favre at 40 or Peyton Manning or Drew Brees or Dwight Feeeny or anyone else. You play them and you keep them GAME SHARP. And if they get hurt while playing, tough brown. Because you are going to underachieve and lose doing it the other way anyway, so stop being worried about injuries and start worrying about not being game sharp. Message to the Colts and Saints and anyone else out there who can coast into the playoffs: it is a trap and is not worthy of all of the hard work you have put in up to this point. Keep that foot on the gas and take that trip to Miami.