The NFL Scouting Combine is coming to a close today. No more clinging to the constantly rising and falling stock of the stars of tomorrow as they run around the practice field in shorts and a t-shirt (or state of the art spandex). No more stories about how teams love a certain player, followed by stories from the media telling us that most of those stories are just lies created to throw off other teams.
If you can't tell, I'm not a fan of the combine. In fact, since the NFL Network turned it into a "made for TV" event, I've caught exactly 1 workout: Andrew Luck's. The truth is, I don't know how to decipher half of what I'm seeing, and the half I can decipher - being able to read plain stats such as 40 times and bench press - seem utterly inane to me in the context of football. Really, does it matter how fast I can run in a straight line while not wearing pads? [Spoiler Alert: No]
That said, it is a popular event, so let's talk about some of the bigger news items from the past weekend.
Bill Polian talks to Dan Dakich
I know this interview has been making the rounds, and if you haven't heard it yet please make a point to check it out. This link won't take you directly to it - their podcast page isn't the most intuitive - but you should be able to find it on page 2 or 3, and it's well worth the effort. (Hat tip to my friend Garrison who first shared this interview with me last week on the twitters)
If you've read my work or listened to our shows over the past year - first, thanks so much!!!! and if not, why not?!!? - you'll know how much of a Polian fan I am. So to hear him talk about football in general is a treat, I think he sees and thinks football on a different level from most humans. His opinions on the read option, the combine, and on Luke concessions are all great, but what really caught my ear was hearing him talk about Andrew Luck and RG (no III for Uncle Bill).
And it took me a couple of days for the impact of his words on the subject to sink in. Here is what Bill had to say:
"I said to Jim Irsay - just two days before I got let go - 'I've done all the work on the top quarterbacks, RG and Andrew' - my son Chris joined me, he had done the same amount of work. Tom Telesco wasn't in the building, but he was... you know, all three of us had seen them both at great length. And I said, 'whatever happens tomorrow, we're golden because we're going to get one of the two, they're both can't miss. And if we end up with the first pick, make it your choice, I don't care, both of them are going to be great."
Poian relays that Irsay's choice was Andrew, based largely on the assumption that Robert Griffin III's style would lead to injuries at some point in his career.
So why is this quote significant to me? If you remember back to January, February, and March of last year, you may remember Jim Irsay insisting that no choice had been made on Peyton Manning's status, let alone what they would do with the 1st overall pick. Polian's quotes, however, seem to imply that a decision had been made before the season had even ended.
My biggest issue with Irsay during those 3 months wasn't the decisions he was making - sure, I didn't like seeing vets being cut, but I could live with it - but the fact that I felt like he was lying to me (and every Colts fan), every time he spoke publicly. Polian's comments seem to confirm that, at least on some level (Polian never brings up Manning's name, so one could argue that maybe they would draft Luck and keep Manning, but I don't believe that was ever an option in their minds - rightfully so).
I'm sure many of you may not care, but for me this is a big deal. I'm very much about honesty and respect, and I wish Jim Irsay had given his customers a little of both last off-season. It may have made the bitter string of those cuts a little more palpable.
Thoughts on Manti Te'oi
The biggest storyline of the combine was clearly the circus surrounding Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o. His meteoric drop from Heisman finalist, top-10 draft pick, and beloved figure to persona non grata would be fascinating if not for the fact that it turns my stomach.
Let me lay it all out there: I'm not a Notre Dame fan and I never really bought into the Te'o hysteria, so what I'm about to write isn't influenced by my fan biases.
The way some in the media are treating Te'o disgusts me. His Saturday press conference was more "vultures circling a carcass" than "organized media gathering." The way they openly mocked him before he got to the podium - publicly making hilarious about the empty podium, etc - to some of the questions they asked him - "Are you currently dating anyone in real life?" - just helped show that many of the assembled media were more interested in tearing this kid down than they were in reporting on a story.
And why? Because they got duped? I guess that's what happens when you equate off-the-field issues with on-field performance. No one - not media, not fans, and in many cases not teammates - knows who players really are. We all love Peyton Manning because he's the greatest QB of all time. But we somehow allow his greatness on the field to make us believe that he's some great person off of it. Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't. The truth is, we will never know. But here's the rule I live by: how nice and great do I find people in general? Now how would I think most of those people would act if I gave them millions of dollars and a ton of fame and attention? Yep.
Back to Te'o: the biggest issue here, though, is that everyone covering the story refuses to believe that Te'o himsef may have actually been duped. I hate to call people in the media old and slightly out of touch... but.... if the rotary phone fits, dial it. I have no trouble believing that it is possible to fall in love on the internet. I have no trouble believing that you can form, develop, and cultivate a relationship that makes you feel as though you are madly, deeply in love with someone, maybe even their soulmate. And I have no trouble believing that if Te'o was duped, that he had no clue how to properly handle it after he discovered the truth.
Some people in the press conference made the point of, "he still talks as though she's real!" This just makes me feel like Te'o is telling the truth. To him, she was real. Think about how people who actually lose loved ones react. They often refer to that person as if they were still alive. Why is this so hard for people to understand and believe? And why is it such a funny topic to them? Are your egos that hurt over being duped? Now try considering what Te'o's feeling right now.
To make matters worse, on Monday ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio went on the Dan Patrick Show and said that teams were trying to get to the bottom of Manti Te'o's sexuality. It's the elephant in the room, according to Florio. (You can hear the interview here, the Te'o bit starts at 15:10) Before anyone gets mad at Florio, he makes the correct point, "it shouldn't matter."
In a league that is constantly trying to bring equality to the sidelines and front offices with the Rooney Rule, they should take some time to try to weed out other horrible prejudices. Football is championed as the great meritocracy - the best players play. Skin color, religion, nor sexual orientation should factor into someone's ability to make it in the NFL.
I don't know if Te'o is one of the best players in the upcoming draft, but I hope that he's judged and drafted based on what he'll do on the field, and not what people think may happen in his bedroom.
"I was stunned, I was surprised, I was saddened and just disappointed that it all happened this way," Manning told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen by telephone. "I was actually meeting with Bill in the training room and we were talking about my rehab schedule, what I could and couldn't do in the facility under the new (collective bargaining agreement) and my checkpoints when he was summoned to see Irsay. He actually chuckled and said, 'We'll see.' "
So I guess Bill was lying to Manning too?
I heard Polian during that interview, and my first thought was "What a lying POS" Seriously, he was the GM running the franchise, and he told Irsay to make the pick cause he didn't care?? This is a guy who notoriously micromanaged to the point where he made enemies everywhere, but he didn't care who the Colts took?? There is no truth to the section you highlighted above from the interview. Feel free to think I'm being stupid. And I'll feel free to think anyone who believes that anecdote is a naive fool.
Can't tell you how many stupid Te'o girlfriend jokes I overheard from the media.
And I had to restrain myself from yelling at some chick in the lunch line who was just spouting of a bunch of misinformation. Mind you, I still butted into her conversation, but I stayed relatively calm.
I don't have a problem with how Itsay handled the offseason last year. He was right to cut Manning, and I do believe this was done out of loyalty to the man. Everyone knew the Colts weren't going to be a Super Bowl team last season, he gave Peyton an opportunity to win, at the risk of sending his fan base running full speed off a cliff over it. But he found ways to apease us, and while the Colts weren't a Super Bowl team, one of my best Colt fan experiences was watching last season play out. I think this article is a little hard on Irsay, calling him a liar isn't really fair. What would Jerry Jones or Al Davis had done? Oh that's right all they ever do for their fans is give them a winning team once every 30 years. Irsay can do whatever he wants in my book because the Colts, "just win baby!" I really feel like letting go of everyone he let go of was the right move, he obviously brought in the right people to replace them, and there's no "Peyton" in Team. I adore Peyton, I bawled like a kid watching his send off press conference, but there is nothing in The Guide to Rooting for Indy that states "Peyton Manning MUST be the quarterback". I will root for whoever is taking the snaps, which means yes, like Reggie Wayne, last year I too was a Curtis PAINter fan. It was hard to watch but the next 12-14 years will certainly ease that pain. I bleed blue, the Colts mean so much to me. I was worried going into last offseason that I would end up despising Irsay, and falling out of love with the Horseshoe. But as it turns out I'm very pleased with how he has handled everything. I see your point in the article above, I just think it's a childish viewpoint. This is the NFL, not Dr. Phil. Not a personal shot at you, just your viewpoint on Irsay. I childishly hate that Jim Caldwell just won a SB ring by doing nothing more than asking Joe Flacco "hey bud, why don't you try chucking it deep every other play?" (which was brilliant), after being a complete doofus when he coached MY team. I swear, losing Peyton, Dallas, Dwight, all worth it to me to see someone, ANYONE, else lead our men. Go Colts!!
My thoughts exactly on the Te'o debacle. Well done.
As for the Irsay PR failure ... geez, thanks for letting me relive these happy thoughts again. :\ And @DougEngland with all the "what if Peyton makes Denver > Indy" talk. Just, don't, I don't typically cry at work. On Tuesdays. And I didn't intend to start today.
I always thought that Irsay had made up his mind before the season ended. (Remember all the talk during the Indy Super Bowl about the Manning camp and the irsay camp leaking information.)
In adddition, what I have read since, is about Peyton's state of mind immediately following his release. That even though he KNEW it was coming, he was still shocked that the Colts would actually cut him. This has since led me to rethink Peyton's remarks at the press conference. I think it was very calculated on his part that he did not say "I have enjoyed being the Colts QB", but "I have truly enjoyed being YOUR QB".
Despite all that was said that day, I believe that Peyton does think that Irsay gave up on him... betrayed him. #18 last words were a sincere tribute to the Colts fans, but not the organization.
Why does this matter? I think about what is going to happen when Peyton finally retires. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that #18 will wear a Colts hat when he goes into the HoF. But what if he wins a couple of Super Bowls with the Broncos? What if over the next few years, his family falls in love with Denver and they decide to make it their permanent home? What if he breaks all of Favre's records wearing blue and orange?
Probably what happened is best for the Colts and best for Peyton. But when I heard about Tom Brady's new deal with the Pats, it was felt liked I'd gotten kicked in the stomach. And I realized that as much as I loved and enjoyed the 2012 season... friggin' Tom Brady is going to be a Patriot forever and my most indeliable football memories are ripped from me and residing in the Rockies.
@rogcohen Well, did Bill talk to Manning in December? You're not providing me dates for a quote. Bill obviously didn't visit with Manning after he was fired, right? And I don't know when the decision was made in December, right? I just know that the decision was made at some point in December or January, right? And that in March and April we were still told no decision was made, right?
But it's certainly possible that Polian lied. I was never saying he was a Saint. But thanks for letting your personal biases cloud your judgment here :)
@rogcohen How do you know how he micromanaged? How do you know what went on behind closed doors? Because someone who doesn't work for the Colts or with Polian told you?
You're free to do and think whatever you want. You're entertaining for the rest of us.
@Davina Walton Just as a side note, I find it hard to argue that there is no way we could have been a Super Bowl contender with Manning when we won 11 games with a rookie ( a great rookie, but still).
@Davina Walton well, uh, I don't even?
I tried to convey this in my writing, but I apparently failed :)
My issue wasn't that Manning was cut, but the way Irsay went about it. He basically lied for 3 months.
To borrow a phrase from the Honorable Judge Judy: Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.
Sorry, but with Brady signing that deal, it really did hit me strangle.
And Greg, I also agree that your comments on Te'o are spot on.
@DougEngland Peyton goes into the HoF as a Colt no matter what happens for the very reason implicated earlier in your comments -- he wouldn't turn his back on Colts fans like that. Whatever his feelings toward Irsay, he would separate those from his ties to the fans and the city. That's my opinion, at least.
I hate the Bill Polian arguments. People at 18to88 blindly loved him, people at stampedeblue blindly hated him.
Personally, I believe the stories that he was an ass, since a lot of people in the organization and media said it. I also think he did a great job from 98 to 2005, and that from 2007-2011 he did an awful job. Maybe it was because Chris started to take over in that time period, but I got ripped for my views on Chris prior to the firings.
I must admit I only read the first part of this article, and I thought it was ridiculous and awful. Mainly, everyone knew the Colts were drafting Luck, and most people believed Manning would be gone. On the other hand, it's not a charade to say you are doing your due diligence. The Colts were in no hurry to make a decision, and had no reason to hurry. This article is just pointless, and really came across as bashing Irsay for no reason.
On the other hand, you are right, there is no reason for me to comment on this article. On stampedeblue there are a lot of stupid articles, and I just ignore them now and move on to better articles. I guess I was just disappointed because I hadn't seen these sorts of articles on this site and I was hoping the days of blind polian love were behind us.
@rogcohen by the way, pretty sure everyone involved has said that Irsay made the call on hiring Tony Dungy.
@GregC I'm not sure why you say Irsay was lying. It's not like he carved the decision in stone and sealed it in a bank vault for three months. If he could have changed his mind at any time then the decision wasn't made yet.
Even if Irsay always preferred to cut Peyton - even if he STRONGLY preferred it - so what? He took all the time allowed to him to gather every piece of relevant information before making it final. With millions of dollars riding on one decision the man is allowed to take his time, and he's not obligated to open his whole deliberation to the world.
@GregC @Davina Walton My take on Irsay is that he was trying to create a situation where Manning could exit appropriately, both for his own PR benefit and also Manning. He wanted to avoid doing it through a press release or interview etc., hence all the lies and BS.. Maybe my memory's hazed, but does that fit!?
@squirrel GMs have made the pick known in advance before. If you have no intention of doing anything but drafting Luck, there's absolutely no downside.
@GregC I'm sure Irsay preferred Luck all along. Everyone knew he preferred Luck. It was like the worst-kept secret in sports history. But he didn't prematurely close the door on RG3, nor did he cut the nuts off his new GM by taking the decision completely out of Grigson's hands. I thought these were good things.
Irsay saying he had "no idea" who they would draft was waaay stretching the truth but getting all jilted-lover about it is unfair. What would he accomplish by publicly confirming his choice in advance, other than satisfying our curiosity?
@squirrel Irsay was saying in April that he had no idea who they were drafting. Since he knew at the end of December, I'm guessing I can extrapolate whether or not at least 1 lie was told?