Bus Stops: Colts fumble play-sit decision; NFL needs to fix system

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SI.com's John P. Lopez works with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the previous week's games. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career.

• I see both sides of Jim Caldwell's decision to pull Peyton Manning and key starters from Sunday's game. But I am of the belief that you pull them only if the game is out of your control.

If it's a 15-10 game, I just don't think you pull them. If the Colts could have scored again, that's another story. After that, if you lose the game, then it would be because your defense couldn't hold them. Your offense would have done enough. You definitely try to win the football game.

Making that decision, considering the playoff implications for so many AFC teams, made it a different kind of sportsmanship. It wasn't great sportsmanship. But it wasn't poor sportsmanship, because football is the only game where you have this type of wear and tear on your body. So you have to understand the Colts needing and wanting to be careful.

I get that going undefeated doesn't mean much if you don't win in the playoffs, so you have to have a plan. But the effort the Colts put forth to win that game should have been a little more than I saw on Sunday.

If nothing else, the Jets were a great test for the Colts to get playoff-ready. They were playing against one of the best defenses in the NFL. They could have really tried some things, seen how their offense stacked up and learned a lot.

• From the NFL's perspective, there is something wrong with the system when over the final two weeks of the season the Jets have to go through backup quarterbacks Curtis Painter and J.T. O'Sullivan to make the playoffs. Winning two games at the end of the year to get to the playoffs is supposed to be harder than that.

To a degree, they get the luck of the draw. But I will say that the Colts and Bengals of the world have earned the right to play these games a certain way. You cannot knock what they've done. The Bengals swept Baltimore and Pittsburgh. If they want to pull their front-line guys the final week, they've earned the right. I can't be mad at them for what they're doing.

But in the spirit of football, I would hope they would play their best players and the Colts would have done something different.

I did think it was revealing how Peyton Manning handled coming out of the game, the week after Brett Favre and Brad Childress had their sideline disagreement.

If that were me in Manning's shoes, I'm disappointed. I would want to do a little more and then maybe come out of the game. My competitive spirit would want to score another touchdown and win the game.

You knew Peyton was going to play it the way he did, because he said would play it that way. He didn't say anything. He didn't argue. But you saw the competitive spirit of the guy. You can appreciate it both ways. He understands the importance of resting and not getting hurt, but that spirit inside of him wanted to keep going and win the game.

• Ricky Williams is a good story, but also one that makes you wonder. He's a really good running back. He's rushed for more than 1,000 yards at age 32. You hate that things weren't in place for him personally before, because you didn't get a chance to see his true capabilities. I mean, you didn't see his full body of work. Who knows what we would be saying about Ricky Williams if he would have cared a little more or had things in place earlier in his career. Right now, you say what if.

• What's going on with Albert Haynesworth? First, he was thrown out of the facility for being late to a meeting. Then, after the Cowboys' 17-0 win over the Redskins, he said his $100 million-plus contract didn't make him a leader.

It's interesting because the contract does make you a leader, but if that's not your personality, no one's going to follow you. If you don't have leadership qualities, no one will follow you. Some people just don't have the ability to lead. But it's rare when someone says he doesn't have what it takes to be a leader. That opens your eyes.

It opens up the question of, are you trying to fall back in the crowd and be just a guy. The Redskins are not paying him to be just a guy. They're paying him to be The Guy. That's a problem. He wants to be one of the guys but is making money to be a dominant guy and a leader. That's a concern.

• Today, right now, with one week left in the regular season, would you rather be the Saints, Cowboys, Colts or Chargers? I would rather be the Chargers because I'm riding high. I've got a ton of confidence. My quarterback is as hot as any in the game and I've got a solid group of guys defensively that are able to cover people. When the playoffs start, I'm going to have to score some points and make some stops. The Chargers have the personnel to do that.

• I have two vivid memories of Giants Stadium. One was playing the Giants, the year before I retired. It was just a game when they kept giving me the ball and I felt like I could destroy them. I had 36 carries, a heck of a football game (140 yards) and we won. It was Ben Roethlisberger's rookie year. It was just one of those great days you remember.

And then I remember playing the Jets in that stadium in 2003, playing in a blizzard on the day I passed Franco Harris on the all-time rushing record. With the blizzard and the day for me, it was just a crazy game.

• I have to wonder about the New York Giants. They gave up 41 points at home with a chance to go to the playoffs. I saw a team that was in total disarray. I saw a team that went out there and looked like they didn't want it.

It looked like Carolina was the team going to the playoffs. The Giants let a guy run 200 yards on them. It just seemed they weren't prepared and didn't look prepared. You're not supposed to get dragged around your own stadium. You've got to question the leadership in the Giants' locker room. And you've got to question the coaching.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers are showing a little sign of life. It looks to me like they play to the caliber of their competition. And if that's the case, they've lost the opportunity to get to the playoffs because of their own inconsistencies.