Thursday, January 3, 2008

Titans-Colts: Was the Fix In?

Many people went nuts earlier this season over the revelation that the New England Patriots filmed the signals used by opposing teams on the sidelines, even though former Cowboys Coach Jimmy Johnson and others noted that many teams do this and even though what the Patriots did would be perfectly legal if they had simply gathered the information from a network feed. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts--the league's so-called bastion of integrity--apparently colluded with the Tennessee Titans to throw a game and certainly acted in a manner that affected the point spread.

After the Titans beat the Colts 16-10 in the final regular season game, clinching a playoff berth for the Titans while eliminating the Cleveland Browns from postseason play, I wrote, "Isn't it convenient that (Reggie) Wayne fumbled in the red zone to end the Colts' first series? Then, at the end of the game, the Colts could have called a timeout and at least forced the Titans to run a fourth down play or punt; instead, (Indianapolis Coach Tony) Dungy and Titans' Coach Jeff Fisher were standing at midfield smiling and shaking hands with time still remaining on the clock--and fans are supposed to be satisfied by this charade because the reserve Colts who were on the field for most of the game tried the best that they could and made a few hard hits. Give me a break. Root for the Colts if you must but please don't say that you prefer them to the Patriots because you value the integrity of the game." It turns out that I was right to say that this game was a "charade": MSNBC reports, "the Titans kneeled at the end of the game Sunday because they knew the Colts wouldn't call a timeout" and directly asks, "Did Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans coaches have an under-the-table agreement at the end of last Sunday's game?" Titans quarterback Kerry Collins told WFAN radio, "Apparently there was some communication between Jeff and Tony." The result of that "communication" is that instead of running a regular play the Titans elected to simply have Collins kneel down. Fisher told the Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel, "Let me just say, I knew he wasn't going to use it. Tony and I were on the competition committee for a long time." Fisher added that it would not have made sense for the Colts to call a timeout because then the Titans would have kicked a field goal and gone up by nine with less than 30 seconds left. Rather than clearing the air, Fisher's comments open up a few cans of worms. One, this type of collusion is against the rules and far more nefarious than one team trying to observe a team's public, on-field signals (no one has suggested that the Patriots stole confidential information). Two, if the Titans had been forced to run more plays they might have fumbled or the kick could have been blocked and then the Colts might have won. Three, the point spread for this game was six, so a lot of people were affected by the decision to not push the lead to nine.

It is also worrisome to hear that Dungy said, "I think it is a feather in the cap of our division to get three teams in the playoffs." The Colts and Titans are supposedly rival teams but Dungy hardly sounds upset by the fact that a rival team made it to the playoffs. Can you imagine Denver's Mike Shanahan expressing joy if Oakland made the playoffs? I know that it is hard to picture Oakland qualifying for the postseason but you get my point.

The Patriots' videotaping "scandal" was the most overblown NFL story of the year. We later found out that the New York Jets, the team that ratted out the Patriots in the first place, had done the exact same thing and you can be sure that the same is true of many other NFL teams--but two coaches actively colluding during a game to affect the point spread and possibly the outcome is very serious. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must not simply sweep this under the rug.


Anonymous said...

Did you even WATCH the Colts-Titans game? I seriously doubt it because you mentioned the fumble by Reggie Wayne on the very first drive of the game. First, Wayne got clobbered on the play. Second, the Colts were trying to get Wayne as many receptions & yards as possible so why would he purposely fumble the ball away???

As for the rest of the game, the Colts players played their butts off in a very hard-hitting game. Darrell Reid absolutely destroyed Chris Henry on a kickoff return, Matt Giordano lacerated Bo Scaife's liver with a hard, clean hit, & Vince Young was knocked out of the game too. If Dungy wasn't trying to win, then he sure as hell forgot to tell his players!!!

Dungy & the Colts did absolutely nothing wrong. That will be proven when Commissioner Goddell does NOTHING AT ALL regarding this non-issue. But if Indy gets criticized for who & how they played in week 17, then we need to file grievances against Dallas, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Seattle & Oakland. Yes, even Oakland! The Raiders played San Diego who was battling for playoff positioning but they played Jamarcus Russell at QB for the entire game even though he wasn't good enough to start any of the previous 15 games.

David Friedman said...


Yes, I watched the entire game. I did not say that Wayne fumbled on purpose but I noted that his fumble happened at a "convenient" time/place. Somehow, the Colts managed to march up and down the field with their starters and get enough yardage/receptions to attain every individual goal for Manning and Wayne while only scoring three points. Prior to that game, Wayne had six career fumbles in 108 career games and he had only lost three of them. He had two fumbles in the first 15 games of the season. I seriously doubt that this was the hardest hit that he received. I never said that he fumbled on purpose, just that it was a very "convenient" fumble. This could be an instance where he was more focused just on getting catches and yardage than on securing the ball and making sure that his team scored once they got into the red zone. He surely knew that Dungy would keep him in the game until he reached his milestones and he did not need any more touchdowns; he was strictly going for yardage and catches and the Colts were deep in the red zone by that time. Wayne did not have any more ballhandling difficulties the rest of the game.

Sure, the reserve players played hard; they rarely get a chance to play and everyone knows that when a bench player gets in the game he is now on film for all of the teams in the league to see. The point is that Dungy put a team out there that had little to no chance to win. The Titans played so ineptly that the game was still close, so Dungy threw in the towel by not calling a timeout and playing the game out to the end.

Even if it turns out that "all" the Colts did was alert the Titans that they would not call a timeout, this is still a "fix," because it altered the strategy and the eventual point differential; if the Colts call a timeout, then the Titans kick a field goal, as Fisher admitted.

Whether or not Goodell takes action does not "prove" that the Colts did not do anything wrong. Goodell may feel that the greater interests of the league are served by not focusing attention on this as the playoffs begin. That does not change the fact that the Colts made a mockery of the game. As for the other teams that you mentioned, the Cowboys had all of their offensive starters in the game until well into the second half with the exception of Owens and Gurode, who were injured. Dallas simply did not play well. The Raiders could not have beaten San Diego no matter what, so no one is going to file a grievance about that game; it is understood that a bad team will change quarterbacks and put young players in the game. None of these teams did anything as egregious as the Colts, whose starters were just healthy enough to chase records/milestones before they completely shut everything down. The Colts as an organization made absolutely no attempt to win the game; that is not the same thing as saying that the players who were on the field were not trying hard. Other than Wayne's curious fumble and the Colts' red zone foibles, the Colts did play hard--but "fixing" a game does not mean making tons of bad plays; all it takes are a few plays at key times.

Anonymous said...

It's comment #1 guy again.

Congratulations, you watched an entire football game! That qualifies you to have your own blog & spew this kind of nonsense.

Wayne's fumble was "convenient". That's utterly ridiculous! Watch the play again. I've got the game on tape & can send it to you. He made 1 guy miss, turned upfield & got absolutely hammered by a guy he didn't see coming. If that's a "convenient" fumble, then Reggie Wayne should win an Oscar for acting like he didn't mean to fumble that ball. I've seen every game of Reggie Wayne's professional career-- he did not mean to fumble that football.

The Colts did 3 things wrong--
a) they wrapped up the #2 seed with 2 weeks to go
b) they had an unfortunate week 17 schedule; the Colts-Titans game went from being completely meaningless for BOTH teams to being a must-win game for Tennessee because of Cleveland's failure to lock up a playoff berth by beating a 5-9 Cincinnati team (don't forget-- the Browns didn't have to win their final 2 games, they ONLY had to beat Cincy & they would've been in the playoffs!)
c) the Colts' biggest mistake was playing well enough to keep the game close. If the backups had gone out there & lost 27-6 to a team in a must-win situation (like Dallas did), no one would say a word.

This is the 3rd time in 4 seasons in which the Colts ended up playing a meaningless game or two to finish the season. They have rested Manning & the majority of the starters for most of those games IN EVERY CASE. It never was an issue in past years so why should it be an issue this year just because the game mattered to Tenn & Cleve? Coach Dungy & the Colts owe no loyalty to the Browns, Titans or anyone other NFL team except themselves & their fans. So if Coach Dungy decides to play his starters for 1 play or for an entire game, that's his call. It's not his fault that Cleveland choked the previous week & gave Tennessee the opportunity to snag that playoff spot.

Why is it that no one criticized Jax or Pitt or TB for NOT EVEN PLAYING ANY OF THEIR SUPERSTARS & laying down against inferior, non-playoff-caliber division opponents. Maybe they did it to rest those guys or maybe they did it so that their division opponents would win another game which would hurt their draft postion.

I also find it unbelievably laughable that you (& other buffoons like Mike Florio) are acting like judge, jury & executioner over this non-issue & then you have the audacity to state that "Whether or not Goodell takes action does not 'prove' that the Colts did not do anything wrong." That's like saying that it doesn't matter what kind of sentence a Judge hands down in a criminal case because YOU know better than he/she does & therefore your opinion is all that matters.

Ultimately, Roger Goddell's opinion is THE ONLY OPINION THAT MATTERS. When the evidence against the Patriots was brought before him, Goddell came down hard & fast with an unprecedented punishment against the organization & the coach. That PROVES they broke the rules. Similarly, I don't expect Goddell to do anything about this which will PROVE that there is nothing to it.

David Friedman said...


Why is it that the anonymity of the internet emboldens people so much? Do you regularly go around screaming at people or just prefer to do so from a distance when nobody knows who you are?

The main point of my argument is not that Wayne intentionally fumbled. I mentioned, as a side point, that Wayne's fumble was "convenient." You can take that--and Wayne's career fumbling statistics--for what it's worth. I never said that he meant to fumble; when a player is just playing for stats and not focused on winning the game it is possible that his concentration is not at the level it should be. Do you deny that the fumble was "convenient" if the Colts were trying to pad individual stats but not score points?

As for your three points: (A) I never blamed the Colts for wrapping up the number two seed; (B) I never said that the Colts owed anything to the Browns; (C) the Cowboys played their starters for more than a half and were trailing significantly when they put their reserves in. My point in my two posts about this game is that the Colts owe it to the integrity of the league to make a reasonable effort to win the game. If they are resting their starters, then don't play them at all. Racing up and down the field to get yardage and receptions milestones but scoring no points is just tasteless. This is compounded by the end of the game scenario, which violates the letter and spirit of the rules of NFL competition; teams are not supposed to be colluding with each other to determine the outcome of games. This is not pro wrestling.

Also, just because I wrote about the Colts and not every single other team does not mean that I approve of what other teams did (though I showed that your Cowboys and Raiders examples are flawed). That is like saying if the police can't catch every criminal then they shouldn't arrest anyone or if a national reporter can't do a feature about every crime victim then he should not write about any crime victims. I watched this game in its entirety and felt that it was a "crime" against the spirit of NFL competition, even before the revelation came out that the teams may have literally committed a "crime" in terms of violating NFL rules.

The Colts resting players has been an issue in previous seasons and, as I mentioned in my first post, the rust factor may have cost them in the playoffs. If I were a Colts fan I would not have enjoyed watching the Titans game at all. That is yet another reason that this was a bad idea. Jeff Garcia of Tampa Bay also mentioned that he did not like sitting out so much.

I have no idea who Mike Florio is or what he said/wrote so I have no comment about that. At least he actually goes by his real name in public, though, so he is one step ahead of you.

Are you really incapable of understanding that teams should not be colluding on play calls/strategy at the end of games? Do you not see what a horrible precedent this sets not just for the outcome of games but also regarding point spreads? The late game shenanigans are much more significant than Wayne's fumble.

So you believe in perfect justice, that if an authority figure makes a verdict or does not make one that is the end of the story? You never have felt that a referee's call was wrong or that the league office made a mistake? So if a bad call goes against your beloved Colts in the playoffs and the replay system upholds it and the league does not discipline the referee that will be OK with you? Also, what if you are wrong about this and the commissioner does in fact fine one or both of the teams? Then will you admit that there was wrongdoing?

David Friedman said...

How smart does that resting strategy look now? Just like in 2005, the Colts rested players and then were upset in a home playoff game after a bye week. Meanwhile, the Giants did things the right way in the last game of the regular season and are going to the NFC Championship Game after winning two road playoff games.