Kyle Rodriguez reminds us to keep some things in mind about the Polian firings in Colts Authority's first installment of the BP Watch.
This being my second piece for the new Colts Authority blog, I'd just like to take a minute and say... Wow! The site looks great, I'm very excited to see something that I've dreamed and hoped for for about a year actually come into fruition. The activity in comments and Reader Blogs (check them out, they're great) has been phenomenal, and it's going to be an interesting offseason to cover to say the least. So, thanks for reading, and Go Colts!
That being said, let me introduce the BP Watch. This will be a feature that will run when necessary where I breakdown an idea or article that I take to be completely incorrect or ignorant, discussing the argument made, and why I disagree with it. The series name, if you're interested, was inspired by a creative Jim Irsay tweet in response to a ridiculous article by Indy Star columnist Bob Kravitz. For more details on that, and to see an example, check out the first one, which ran on Coltsider.
For today, this won't be a point by point piece as it usually is, instead, I just want to lay out my opinion on a few key issues regarding the firings of Bill and Chris Polian. After that, I'm moving on, you will no longer be subject to that discussion (other than the Draft reviews, which will continue).
So, to start, I'd like to say: Kravitz was right.
Bob Kravitz was exactly right when he said earlier this year that Chris Polian was a 'toxic force' and that people hated working for him. According to all signs, the attitudes of Bill and Chris were the things that eventually got them canned, and it seems that Chris may have been the driving force behind it. Coupling that with pieces like this from Phil Wilson, and reading between the lines of comments about the firings (as Greg Cowan thankfully directed us through) it seems that the incredibly indecent way that Chris and Bill treated their employees was the ultimate reason why they are no longer in Indianapolis.
So, kudos to Kravitz, because he was absolutely right. Now, don't get me wrong, I never have, and never will take anything too seriously that comes from unnamed sources. If you can't put your name behind it, I can't trust it. Which is why I didn't take the reports seriously from Kravitz in the first place. But, again give him credit for reporting something that now seems to be 100% right.
But, what I was expressedly angry with Kravitz for in the first place, and what I will not give him, or others, a pass for on the incident, is making evidence up to support the "Chris Polian is toxic" claim, seemingly because he didn't have the sources to back it up. By that I mean evidence in drafting, or the Colts record in 2011, or any number of things people have tried to pin on the Polians over the last year.
Because there is no performance related evidence that Bill and Chris should have lost their jobs. Bill and Chris were fantastic at their jobs, albeit not the relationships/treating people like human beings part.
Poor drafting? We've seen studies from our own Nate Dunlevy, from readers, from outside sources that all say the same thing: Colts' drafts are vastly underrated. I'll get into this more as I get back into the Judging the Draft Series (especially as the recent drafts approach), but the "poor drafting" meme comes mostly from the fans' misguided expectations towards the draft, not a drop in performance.
2011 record? If one terrible year in 13, with the multitude of injuries and a missing Peyton Manning, warrants a firing, than I'm appalled at Jim Irsay. But, I don't believe this was his thinking, nor should anyone else. The circumstances that led to 2011 were complex, and have been discussed before, but I would say that the majority of the blame goes to the NFL itself. The unknown pattern of injuries and the NFL's cyclical nature caused this rift, not ineptitude by the front office.
I know the Polians made mistakes, as all do, but they made a heck of a lot less than most front offices.
Apparently the Polians are jerks. Such jerks, that they made a whole lot of people miserable while they worked for the Colts. And you know what? They deserve to be criticized for that! They deserved to be fired for that! I couldn't care less how they treat the media, if they can do their job well. I don't want to know what their personalities are like if they're winning. But if they can't treat people right who are are on their side, on their team, then they deserve to be gone. When that causes problems, when that causes distractions and divisiveness, it's time to go. If the Polians were better human beings, they'd most likely still have a job. And, I would argue, the Colts would be a lot better off for it.
But, people are who they are. You can't change that, you can't change the past. So why do I care? Why did I even take the time to write this piece on people who likely will never be involved with the Colts?
Because we can change the future. If people go out thinking that the Polians were fired because of performance, than that sets a very high bar for the next front office, a higher bar than could ever be reached. Realize that the Polians built a team, nay (and yes, I'll say it), a dynasty, that lasted longer than any team like this in league history. Only the Cowboys of the 70's/80's could claim 9 straight seasons of playoffs, and only the Packers('93-'04), 49ers ('81-'98), Steelers ('72-'84), and Cowboys ('66-'83) can claim to have a consistently good stretch over at least 12 years.
If that kind of job performance can still be not good enough, then what's next? What kind of expectations are we bringing to the next GM? Not ones that he can fulfill, that's for sure.
So, know that job performance was not the reason why the Polians are no longer employed by the Colts. Know that if the new GM is a fraction as good of a GM as the Polians were, that's doing pretty darn good.
Okay here's my fluff post. I gotta say I am very surprised at how well this site is going. That's not to say I expected little, but that I expected it would be pretty good - and then it goes live - and the articles are really good. I don't agree with everything, but good gravy, the articles are written intelligently, with balanced opinions, and the posts from readers are intelligent and useful.
I find myself going less and less to the "other site". And I gotta say, I don't feel like I'm missing anything.
Kudos to the writers - very well done.
I also would like to acknowledge that the Patriots, as much as we dislike them, have had a 12 year run that is at least as good as the Colts' run, but probably better. Starting in 01' they've won 3 SBs, appeared in 4, 16-0 season, No losing record in that span, not even a .500 season in that span, and a 21 game winning streak that included an SB win and is still a record. Now they're on the 12th year of their amazing run, and they have the 1st seed in the playoffs, and it appears their run will go another couple of years. The Patriots' run has seen multiple GMs at the helm. So it's possible to change GMs and continue to be good. Just a matter of hiring the right person.
@DavidBecker Patriots are right there. to be sure. But I don't judge them by their rings, but by their consistency. The Patriots got hot at the right time to win Super Bowls, and got lucky, which are the two things that matter most when it comes to getting the Lombardi. I think consistently winning in the regular season is a better measure of a great team, to get your team a chance at a SB. For example, the Colts, in the 12 years prior to this year, missed the playoffs once. They had at least 12 wins eight times (including a 7 year streak). In twelve years, the Patriots missed the playoffs three times. They won 12 games 6 times, but never had a streak longer than two seasons. The Patriots are a great franchise, and should be included in the names of the greats above, but for what I'm saying (giving your team a chance at a title) the Colts have been slightly better, in my opinion.
/end meaningless rant
@DavidBecker To clarify: I think the Pats are a great org. By the meaningful statistic, the Patriots have been more successful (more rings). But in consistently being elite, the Colts have been a tad better. That's all I'm saying.
@DavidBecker The Patriots didn't change the one person who mattered most. They've also been suffering from truly bad drafts. The only difference between them and the Colts in 2011 was the health of their QB. I don't think the Pats would have survived a Brady injury nearly as well as they did a few years ago.
Beyond that, there are 30 other teams in the league besides the Pats. 29 of them aren't even in the same discussion with Indy and NE and Pittsburgh for sustained success.
The 2011 record of the Colts is more about Manning's absence than injuries. I think that not having a viable back up for Manning in place is absolutely the GM's fault. So the Polians have to shoulder some of the responsibility for 2-14. This article made is sound as though 2-14 had NOTHING to do with the Polians' ineptitude, and it did. I'm not saying their failing to have a back up for Manning is a fireable offense, I'm just saying that this article seems to absolve them of all guilt in the matter, and the facts don't support that. Even Bill Polian admitted a failure in that regard.
Something to keep in mind concerning a backup QB is, playing backup for the Colts hasn't been the most attractive position in the NFL. If you're a QB looking for his shot there are 31 other teams that you'de probably rather play for, considering before this year backup QB's in Indy were best known for holding clipboards. I don't think anyone was banging down Polians door to play waterboy for Peyton. In all likelihood the Colts would have had to overpay to bring in anyone decent.
@DavidBecker Were they partially responsible for 2-14? Yes, in the sense that everybody was. You're right, and I was trying to make a point, and I probably exaggerated more than I needed to.
But here's my point: The Polians built a team that was BETTER this year (everywhere than CB) than last year with Peyton at the helm. Once Peyton was gone, we knew we were in for a losing season, that's how the team is built. It didn't matter who the backup was, they were going to lose. Betting on Manning is a good bet. It worked for 13 years. I don't have much of a problem with that. That doesn't mean there weren't mistakes. They could have drafted all Pro-Bowlers and never missed. They could have made every right move. But I'm saying, within reasonable expectations, the Polians had no reason to be fired for their job performance. And I think Irsay knew that too.
I agree on everything you just posted about the Polians. I also agree that it's a matter of preference and that there really is no wrong answer to going for 16-0 or not. It took me a very long time to come to that conclusion. I used to think resting the starters in 09' had been a Huge mistake.
So Polian was the one who made that decision? Like I said, I always believed that was the case, but a comment by GregC on another thread on this site seemed to contradict that. I thought maybe GregC knew something that I didn't know, like that the decision had come form Irsay, or that Caldwel was the one who gave the order. Why did the Colts hire a HC to just stand there and be a cardboard cutout like Caldwel. Shouldn't the coach be empowered to make decisions like whether or not to rest starters when you're sitting at 14-0?
I still disagree with startergate. It took me a very long time to realize that it wasn't the wrong call, it was a matter of preference, there is no wrong decision. But I do hope the new administration changes their philosophy to a more bold one. If I owned a team I would want to go for perfection if I'm at 14-0. I just love the gutsiness of chasing perfection if it's within reach. I suspect most fans in Indy would agree with me. I saw that game on TV and the fans didn't look happy.
@Kyle Rodriguez@DavidBecker I´m going to repeat this, because it´s a major pet peeve of mine when people demonize Bill Polian exclusively for the 2009 Startergate. They all signed in on that decision. Irsay, Polian and Caldwell agreed on handling it that way, and when it backfired, given Polian´s personality (and local journalists´ personal agenda against him), he took the fall.
@DavidBecker The Colts and local media conflict is unfortunate... but it can be entertaining. I'm a journalism minor, so it irritates me when people are lazy, misleading, etc. Especially when it's a team that I'm a huge fan of.
Thanks for the responses, I like this site. I find it interesting to hear these stories about local media interactions with the team. Your local sports media matters a lot to you guys, and to the team. I live in California, and as far as sports go, the local sports media is not nearly as relevant as they seem to be in Indy. Nobody would ever quote a local sports columnist around here, nor would the Lakers or Angels care if one of the local guys got a story wrong on the team. They just don't mattter that much. With you all in Indy it's like a soap opera, an interesting one. I like it. I also hear so many people here make references to "the other side," "the dark side," "those other guys," "that other place." etc... Who are they referring to? If I may ask.
@DavidBecker Of course, of those three, Polian probably had the largest ego, the loudest voice, and the strongest opinions, but I don't think Caldwell/Irsay were exactly silent on the issue.
@DavidBecker From what I've heard/read it was a collective decision by Caldwell/Irsay/Polian. It's more of a organizational philosophy that had been built up over time than it was a one time decision.
@DavidBecker Here're the problems with that:
1. A viable backup QB and the Colts win, what? 5 or 6 games? The truth (and everyone over at West 56th knows it) is that the firing had little to do with the Colts record and everything to do with the behavior of the Polians. One bad year, even 2-14, wouldn't have been enough to undo them if they hadn't acted the way they did.
2. What is your idea of a viable backup? How much should they have spent, and why would it have mattered?
The truth is that this had little to do with anything on the field.
I'll go a step further, Nate: NOT having a viable backup is the best thing that could have happened under the circumstances. Would you rather go into the 2012 off-season with Manning's health uncertain and the 16th pick in the draft, or with Manning's health uncertain and the ability to, if needed, grab the best QB in the draft? This seems like a no brainer to me.
The Colts were not winning the SB without Manning, if you're not going to win the SB, you may as well have the record that allows you to improve your team the most. You don't get better by having no QB and no high draft picks.
I didn't mean to imply that the firing had anything to do with 2-14 or that it should've. I was just saying that the article above neglected to assign any guilt whatsoever to the Polians for 2-14 which I think is wrong. The writer didn't even say that it was partly their fault. But I realize that I'm knitpicking a very good article so I'll just leave it at that.
But I did see a comment form GregC on another thread that caught my attention. I posted a question about it but got no response. Maybe you know the answer to my question Nate...
@DavidBecker@Nate Dunlevy Yeah, I just wanted to be clear that they weren't fired for it. I think the GM can be given credit/blame for every win or loss, directly or indirectly, as can many people on the team. For the entire season, Everyone deserves some blame, but I just don't think that the Polians' performance was what led to their firing (at all).
@DavidBecker Yeah, I don't know that that was Kyle's point. I think it was more that 2-14 isn't why they got fired. Do they bare responsibility? Yes. Do you fire them for that? No. They got fired for other reasons.
What was the question?
1. 6 wins is a lot different than 2-14. I think the Colts went 6-10 WITH Manning.
1. I've heard that Back up QBs in Indy never got any 1st team reps which if true, is bad. I think a viable back up would've been getting a veteran GM of Collins caliber but not 2 weeks before game 1. Would've been nice to have signed a guy like Mark Bulger 3 yrs ago. Or another vet that's proven, and give him some 1st team reps, and let him learn the system.
I don't know if the Polians or the coaching staff on the Colts have ever been good enough to find and develop quality back ups from the draft. The Pats have done it twice, Cassel, and and now Hoyer. I believe Hoyer is really good from what little I've seen. If they lose Hoyer, they have Mallet in development. I'd love to see the Colts do that.
Well, if you're right about the back up QB thing, that means with that Colts system it's almost impossible to have a quality back up that can win you 8 or 9 games unless you catch lighting in a bottle. If that's the case, that means the Polians got fired just for their attitude, not performance. That is one bad attitude problem when you're one of the best ever at your job, and your attitude still gets you fired. They must've been using their employees as door mats, that's insane!
Man I hope they keep Manning, I also hope the new administration brings in a better coach, like Billick, or somebody Peyton likes for the job. I believe Manning has 5 years left in him.
@DavidBecker Given what I've been told about Caldwell, I don't think it matters much whose call it was. I believe Caldwell fully endorsed the "Jets strategy". It's in keeping with his football philosophy. I'm sure it was Polian's call, but I have yet to hear any rumors or evidence that he had to twist anyone's arm to do it.
I feel differently about the situation because it let the Jets in and gave the Colts the easiest possible path to the Super Bowl. I don't know that they made the Super Bowl that year if they don't do it. I feel like the decision was vindicated by the results, personally.
The GregC comment actually directly denied that it was Bill Polian's decision. I accidentally typed "Polian's fault" when I meant "Polian's decision."
I realize that not going for 16-0 is a matter of preference. Some people prefer to rest the stars and not risk injury. Others prefer to risk it all if 19-0 is within reach. I am on the side of going for perfection if it's within reach at any expense like the Pats did.
Some people think losing the SB at 18-0 is a humiliation, and wouldn't risk being humiliated like that. Which I think factored into the Colts decision to pull the starters. But I think losing the SB at 18-0 is a badge of honor that says, "We will try." I would love to see the Colts become that bold.
I was always of the mindset that the Colts not going for 16-0 in 09' was a Polian decision. I kept seeing that in reports. But then GregC told another poster here on one of the threads that people who blamed Polian for pulling the starters were misdirecting their frustration. The comment implied that it wasn't Bill Polian's fault. Not that it matters now, but I was very frustrated when the Colts did that. I think even if they lost the SB, having a 16-0 season is really cool. As much as I hate the Pats, I'm envious of their 16-0 reg season because it's symbolizes a mindset. It's like the Pats are telling their fans, "if history (perfection) is within reach, then by God we're gonna try to reach it. We may fail, but we're gonna die trying."
So was I wrong to think that it was Bill Polian who made that call?
@DavidBecker 1. I see no big difference between 2-14 and 6-10. Both suck. Until you get to 8-8,it really doesn't matter much.
2. That is true. that is not bad. Indy rolled the dice on Manning every year and it worked. Who cares if the backup got reps? Wouldn't have won one game for the past 10 years, and might have won what? One or two this year? We didn't have the cap space for Bulger 3 years ago. Sign Bulger and Indy doesn't make the playoffs in 2010 in order to gain a meaningless win or two now? I don't see the upside.
3. The Pats have an amazing offensive system. That's as much to do with it as anything. Indy runs a weird system designed for one man and one man alone. I don't think there's any possible way to have a back up play behind Peyton and actually be good.
I meant that the Colts went 6-10 with Manning in 02'. I forgot to include the year. Point being that 6-10 is miles away from knocking on 0-16's door with 13 consecutive losses and 2-14.
One of the confirmed candidates off the market:
Director of player personnel Eric DeCosta is staying with the Ravens and will not interview for other jobs, the team has announced. #Ravens
And the hot HC prospect apparently out too:
"Jeff Fisher said today he is considering coaching next season in only two places, Miami or St. Louis, and will make his decision next week."
Polian was with the Colts for 14 years. Irsay has known Bill for 30 years. All of a sudden he, Polian, starts treating peolple, staff and media, poorly? Maybe it is Chris. Maybe not. Maybe the media and certain blogs used this year as a spring board to push Polian out. I really don't care if Polian hated the local media and interenet blogs, there very well could have been a good reason. I hope those media and blog people are happy now that they MAY get there inside stories. There is nothing wrong with having information, its how that information is conveyed that can cause problems. I found it interesting that the national media got Manning's thoughts on the Polian firing before the local media. I wonder why he chose that course. I hope we get a GM that will lead this team to winning and not mediocrity. But hey, at least the media and certain blogs will have the inside information on the Colts. This is by no means targeted at this blog nor Nate. I also think everyone has a right to a harassment free work environment. Colts Authority, keep up the great work!
@keep_the_eraser All I can say is that the Polians have always treated people poorly. Maybe it was Chris getting power hungry, and Bill paving the way for them. Maybe this was the last straw for Irsay. But I don't think, or have any reason to believe, that Irsay fired them because they're no longer good at their jobs.
@keep_the_eraser Well said. Your harassment-free work environment declaration is something that needs to be said. As I stated before, I´m okay with their departure if it´s because they were treating employees in a legally criminal manner. We don´t know that was the case. We do know there was a media cabal tu run them out of town. The combination of those two facts makes a lot of us uneasy. Add to that the fact they were the best in the business, and it´s understandable we´re so emotional and wary of this.
The bottom line is that even if you call Gonzalez a hit and Brown a hit the Hit Percentage is still atrocious (which both were counted as hits in my hit percentage calculation). Lastly, to call Donald Brown a hit because he played well on a 2 and 14 team is crazy. None of the players drafted after 2007 have contributed to the long-term success of the Colts and therefore the current results of those draft picks is atrocious compared to the results of Polian's early drafts. My analysis did not cherry pick, if anything I was generous in determining who I counted as a draft hit e.g. Jerome Pathon. When you compare the entire body of work in terms of Colts drafts under the Polian era, the only conclusion that can be supported is that Polian's draft performance seriously underperformed post 2006. The man was a genius from 1998 to 2006, but after that he whiffed and whiffed badly just look at the facts.
Everyone talks about Tony Ugoh as the biggest bust, but he started 11 games for a team that should not have lost in the divisional round to the Chargers. I think I am justified in saying that Brown is a huge whiff considering the Colts could have had one of two incredible play makers Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt.
PS - To argue that draft position in the first round is important is total BS. Just look at the draft slot where the Colts selected Wayne and Clark. If you do your homework you can always find value late in the first round. If you can't then you should not be a GM period.
@coltssteve Again, hit percentage makes no sense.
I have compared the entire body of work, it's called the "Judging the Draft" series, and I've written up to 2005 in posts. You'll see the results from the later years in coming weeks. It goes through each and every pick. Polian fares a lot better than you would think. You are vastly underrating how hard drafting is.
You specifically mentioned Gonzo, Pollack, Brown and Hughes when you were referring to busts., and I quote "The likes of Anthony Gonzalez, Mike Pollak, Donald Brown and Jerry Hughes have been colossal misses..."
So which is it?
"None of the players drafted after 2007 have contributed to the long-term success of the Colts"
Yeah... that Angerer guy has been a total whiff and Garcon, Who's that?
@coltssteve Kenny Britt? Is that the same Kenny Britt who's played in 31 games out of a possible 48, or a different one who maybe sees the field more than 2/3 of the time? But hey, keep calling Gonzalez a miss.
@coltssteve Draft position in the first round isn't important because in all of draft history you can find players who succeeded that position? By that logic, there's no difference between sixth round draft picks and the first overall pick because there have players who've been successful in the sixth round and players who failed in the first round!!
So if position doesn't matter, why does it cost so much to move up in the first round? Why would anyone give extra draft picks to move up in any round then? Clearly, draft position matters.
Also, your argument about post-2006 drafts is TOTALLY ignoring how other teams fared in 2006. Many teams have had poor drafts post 2006 because THE DRAFT CLASSES WERE NOT GOOD. You'd have to argue that Polian's post 2006 drafts were poor GIVEN what other teams managed AND you would still have to account for their draft position. IF you could demonstrate how good teams who drafted after the Colts did in their 2007, 2008 drafts, you may have a point. Otherwise, you have no data to prove such.