Easily the hottest topic around the league right now is the decision by Colts coach Jim Caldwell to bench QB Peyton Manning and several other starters in their 29-15 loss to the Jets in Week 16 — which allowed the Jets to stay in the AFC wild-card race.
By now you know the story. Leading 15-10 midway during the third quarter, Caldwell replaced Manning and others, effectively pulling the plug on a chance at a perfect regular season.
On the opposite sideline, the decision also had a sizable impact. Now, with a win against the Bengals in Week 17, the Jets (8-7) will find themselves in the playoffs.
Caldwell took questions about his decision Monday, and doesn’t seem fazed by the second-guessing. Not so much for Jets coach Rex Ryan, who admitted he’s irritated by the perception that the Colts handed the game over to the Jets.
“It bothers me a little bit,” Ryan said. “You have to earn everything you get in this league. Whether you’re playing against a starter or backup, whatever. For half the year, people played against our backup nose tackle. I don’t think anybody’s made note of that. I know this is Peyton Manning or whatever, but he did play two and a half quarters.
“Again, that’s fine. People can make their own conclusions and draw their own conclusions. But I look at it as we won by 14 points in that game. I think we were right there. We’re just fighting toe-to-toe with them. Our job is to try to get it done regardless of who is on the field.”