There are a number of people who would benefit from the Indianapolis Colts completing an undefeated season, and team owner Jim Irsay and quarterback Peyton Manning are chief among them.
No doubt, The NFL Network—which is owned by the NFL owners—has a stake in seeing the Colts play their starters tonight. This is a marquee match-up on the fledgling cable channel still fighting for subscribers.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it known that the league and network would not benefit from seeing an exhibition game manned by the Colts subs. Irsay, owning part of The NFL Network himself, heard the message loud and clear. So the Colts reversed field and announced mid-week that magically they changed their minds and decided to go with their regulars.
And sources close to the team say Irsay is having second thoughts about the rest ‘em up policy for the remaining two games after tonight.
An undefeated season—the first since the Miami Dolphins pulled off the feat in 1972—would lead to untold marketing and sponsorship opportunities for next season and years to come. The 19-0 World Championship merchandise would fly off the shelf.
The league, sponsors and Colts players are all in Irsay's ear, many whispering ever louder, "Go for it!"
Then there’s Peyton Manning. If the Colts complete the perfect season, who could deny him league MVP honors. If the team shuts it down tonight or in the next two weeks, that gives a big advantage to Saints QB Drew Brees and Vikings QB Brett Favre who are likely to keep the pedal to the metal.
If the Colts rest players then fail to win the Super Bowl, let along lose in the playoffs’ first round, that would be a far greater blow, than going for the perfect season and falling short.
The bottom line is going for and achieving the perfect season could generate the Colts an additional eight-figure sum this year and next in sponsorship and merchandise sales alone.
The league too would get a huge boost too, and there’s no doubt Manning would be the cover boy in any ad campaign he wanted. He could even drag Eli and Archie along for the ride.
High risk, high reward.
It’s time to roll the dice.