We openly question players' heart, motivation, and effort. We love the guys who hustle. And when it comes to forcing those muscly, hustle-y athletes not to play so damn hard, it's a hot-button subject. Either you hate it, or — if you're the other team and their fans with irrational playoff hopes — you love it.
You could safely argue that the New York Jets fell into the AFC Wild Card slot by virtue of tangling with the Colts and Bengals on opportunistic weeks in which the teams were already handily in the playoffs. In those games, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer eventually gave way to clipboard holders Curtis Painter and J.T. O'Sullivan. Had Gang Green played those teams in the middle of the season, we might've had ourselves a Houston Texans playoff miracle!
Well, shucks, that's not fair. Someone better do something about that, and that someone(s) would be the NFL Competition Committee. Well, we certainly can't have teams not trying during the regular season. That's what the Pro Bowl is for.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wants to reward teams that don't yank their No. 1 string before games are decided, noting that the league "heard the fans loud and clear" on the matter. Rog, are you sure you weren't just hearing the frustration of fantasy football GMs splitting hairs over championship moves? ("I'm so glad I dropped Brees for Volek. The Fred Quatrocincos are office champions again!")
I can't think of any other precedents in which a league takes an interest in how the coaches play their guys. Little League comes to mind. Alternatively, Rollerball.
If Manning and Brees did last the entire 60 minutes in Week 17 … how exactly would that have made them better? The outcomes were negligible. Even the Cowboys-Eagles game — two playoff teams and division rivals slamming on the gas pedal all day — turned out to be kind of a snore.
The end of a dramatic play is the denouement. Much like a Shakespearean tragedy, Week 17 ties up all the loose ends despite most conclusions having already been met. Also, just about everyone's dead.
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