Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN (also a guest columnist for Wired Magazine and The Rebublic) has a weekly column called the "Tuesday Morning Quarterback." It's way too long and some of his jokes have gotten quite stale but for the most part, it can be an amusing read from time to time.
I'm citing Mr. Easterbrook because in his TMQ column, he regularly makes a point of focusing on football karma, particularly as it relates to the way football teams handle themselves on the field. Following this weekend's loss of the number two seed in the AFC (the Colts) and the number one seed in the NFC (the Cowboys) one can't help but think that a bit of poetic justice was served for earlier decisions made by both teams' top brass.
Rewind two weeks to the final game of the NFL season and you'll know what I'm talking about. The fate of the once hapless Cleveland Brown's lay in the hands of one Indianapolis Colts team. All the Browns needed was for the 13-2 Colts to beat a sub-par 9-6 Tennessee Titans team and the Browns were in the playoffs for the first time since 2002. It's true that it was the Brown's that put themselves the tenuous position of needing the Colt's help but that's neither here nor there...
So why does this have anything to do with poetic justice? Well, Indianapolis decided to sit their first stringers after one series in that fateful game against Tennessee, lost by a hair and thus propelled a not-very-good Titans team into the playoffs instead of the Browns. Because the Titans owned the worst record of wild card teams in the AFC, they would play the three seed -- the surging San Diego Chargers -- in the first round of the playoffs. After putzing around for two quarters, the Bolts took charge and dismissed the Titans earning them a shot at the Colts.
Now there's no guarantee that the Browns would have knocked off the Chargers in the first round of the playoffs but on paper, they matched up a lot better than the Titans did. For one, they have a quarterback in Derek Anderson that can actually throw the ball. They also have a bruising running back in Jamal Lewis that would have kept San Diego's fearsome defense honest. Instead, the Browns went home leaving the Chargers to dismiss the Titans, a move that ultimately positioned San Diego to knock off last year's Super Bowl champs.
While Dallas' decision to mail it in on the last game of the season and rest their starters didn't affect the fate of the Minnesota Vikings -- a team that also needed help from the Redskins and the Saints -- the way the Colts did, it could have. The Redskins were playing Dallas, in Dallas, on the last game of the season and on paper, should have been crushed by Big D. Minnesota ultimately made it a moot point by losing to Denver but if they had won, the Dallas game would have upset the applecart. I can't help but think that this played into Big D's surprising loss to the G-men of New York.
To that end, one also can't help but think that the G-men's willingness to man up and play their starters for the entire game against the 15-0 Pats, helped their football karma significantly. Fans around the league universally agree that the Pat's perfect 16-0 record would have been a little less meaningful if the Giants had rolled over for New England in the last game of the season. Instead, Tom Coughlin's decision to play his starters for the entire game -- a game the Giants kept close right up until the end -- ultimately led to positive momentum for the Giants in the next two rounds of the playoffs.
Dallas' and Indianapolis' losses yesterday can definitely be chalked up to the "angering of the football gods." The Giants' and the Pats' wins on the other hand can be chalked up to good football karma. Ditto for the Packers who have one of the all time "good guy" QBs at their helm. Not sure about the Chargers fate yet as in winning the game, they may have lost LT and Phil Rivers for the rest of the season. Only time will tell.
Oh yeah, anyone still wondering if Tom Brady is the best QB ever? I didn't think so...