On December 27, 2009, America was introduced to a fine young man from Vincennes, Indiana, who was previously known only by the most dedicated fans of Big Ten football and jealous members of the Sorgi family...
...Curtis Painter, Peyton Manning's backup quarterback. While it's an old saw that the most popular player on a football team is the backup QB, Painter's introduction to the NFL and the Colts faithful was the exact opposite: he was roundly booed for the two quarters he played. On the field he didn't exactly sparkle either, the Indianapolis offense went from a Audi TT to a Ford Edsel in a matter of seconds, as Painter fumbled the ball almost immediately after entering the game, gave up the go-ahead touchdown, and manned the QB position so ineptly that Colts fans thought they had been catapulted back to the Jack Trudeau era.
Prior to the Painter appearance, the Colts were 14-0 and in control of their Week 16 opponent (the Jets). But the Colts brass decided well in advance of the Jet game that they had no interest in going for the undefeated season, as only the Super Bowl matters, and rested their starters in the second half, including Peyton Manning. And with Painter, down went the undefeated season, and as the meme goes, the chance for immortality.
This meme played itself out pretty thoroughly right after the game, as talking heads on ESPN debated the move endlessly and all Colts fans burned Bill Pollian in effigy. Now that the Colts are in the Super Bowl, the meme has resurfaced: were the Colts right to sit their players in the last two games, essentially tanking two meaningless reular games to avoid injuries for the postseason?
The truth is we can't analyze this meme that straight up, because it depends on what point the media is trying to prove. The press has seized on this occurrence, but is using it to ask three different questions.
1. Will sitting the starters in the last two weeks help the Colts win on February 7th? This is a perfectly valid question that's worth some debate and analysis, to the extent that's possible. Unfortunately, we estimate that only about 5% of all stories on 14-0-gate will take this angle.
2. Did sitting the starters at the end help get the Colts get to the Super Bowl? This is arguably water under the bridge and arguably relevant. Yes they're here and yes this is football related and yes we don't have a giant problem with "how they got here stories." But whether or not Dwight Freeney got to rest in Week 17 is something of a moot issue as they're here, in no small part thanks to playing two wildcard teams in the playoffs. We guess that about 15% of the articles in this issue will attempt to address this question.
3. Have the Colts destroyed their chance to be immortal? Sadly, this will be what 80% of the media circus focuses on. Which is too bad, because:
(a) it's irrelevant to the game;
(b) it's premature, as we discussed 2 years ago when the Pats faced the "best ever" debate;
(c) it's also old, because we already went through this meme a month ago; and
(d) we already know the answer (yes).
So how does this rate on the BS scale? Because there are three angles with varying degrees of relevance, we're going scale our by the ultimate takes the media uses and proportionally using the numbers by how often the media uses a particular story. Theme #1 rates a 1 as quite relevant to the game; theme #2 rates a 4 as marginally relevant to the game; theme #3 rates an 8 as drivel. Weighting them accordingly, we get a 7.05 score for the entire meme. Bad, but not epic.