Each year, the last unbeaten team downplays the significance of a possible 16-0 season. Different franchises take different approaches as the idea of perfection creeps closer.
The 2007 New England Patriots went for it, playing Tom Brady and the rest of the starters. The 2009 Indianapolis Colts pulled Peyton Manning and others in the third quarter of the 15th game and lost to the New York Jets, 29-15.
Former Colts center Jeff Saturday, who retired as a member of the Colts on Thursday, said that's the biggest regret of his career.
"That's the only thing I wish we would have done differently," Saturday told The Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz on Wednesday. "I was in favor of it, but obviously, I got out-voted (by management). When we pulled everybody and just let it go by the wayside and ended up losing, that was a great opportunity we had.
"As a player, perfection is the highest goal you can reach. And we were so close."
It's always interesting to hear the true feelings years later when guys open up about these types of situations. Saturday surely wasn't the only one with those thoughts.
I wonder how much the undefeated Patriots team influenced Saturday's feeling on the subject. He admitted the AFC Championship Game win over the Patriots during the 2006 season was a bigger moment than the Colts' Super Bowl win over the Chicago Bears. Those two teams were bitter rivals for so long, and the Patriots usually came out on top. Matching a Patriots' accomplishment surely would have had meaning to that team.