INDIANAPOLIS – Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay made a dramatic change in the course of his football team on Monday when he decided Vice Chairman Bill Polian and Vice President and General Manager Chris Polian would not be retained in their respective capacities.
The move by Irsay came after stewarding the organization Bill Polian helped steer for 14 seasons, a period of sustained success in the NFL that few teams historically have approached or succeeded.
While appreciative of the efforts of Polian, Irsay sensed a change was needed to ensure an opportunity to re-attain an elite status. It was not an easy decision.
"This type of decision is extremely difficult," said Irsay. "The complexities that I looked at going into this off-season are much different than 1997 (when Polian was hired to oversee a rebuilding process). There are many, many components that you look at in weighing the positives and the negatives, and the type of energy, and the type of timing that you feel in your gut that's right for your organization. There is so much that goes into a decision like this. In the end, I think it is an intuitive decision where you feel that the time is right to make a change. It's difficult because of the close relationship Bill and I have. I felt that it was the right move to make."
More than once on Monday, Irsay mentioned he was living with the fact that it was January 2 in the NFL world. For the first time in 10 years, he was dealing with the fact that NFL business involving his team did not include preparing for the playoffs and the chance to win a Super Bowl.
The date this year meant that off-season work was a priority. Irsay's Colts were one of 20 teams moving toward the future. It meant time was of the essence and that his vision is broad.
"We are in to January 2, and the competition is into it, too. We are not going to get behind," said Irsay. "I am not going to eliminate anything that gives us a chance to be the best franchise we can be."
Although time is a component in the search for a general manager, Irsay says he has planned for the coming year and must keep an eye trained on a smooth transition to help ensure a successful future. It is a challenge he bears and embraces.
"I'm always, also besides just taking care of business in the day that we are in, living in the future," said Irsay. "I have spent time in 2012, not in a time machine, but in trying to run scenarios through my mind on where the franchise is going to be, how you transcend into different eras. Historically, how have others done it in Dallas, Denver and Green Bay? You prepare yourself as much as possible.
"To me, that is the reason you are in this business that you love being in the National Football League. To me, it is an exciting time and an inevitable time. I think that, ideally, you would like to see a slower transition. You don't like to see such a falloff and those sorts of things. You would rather have a smoother transition, but that's not the way it always works. There are only certain things that you can control.
"I really feel excited about the possibilities of our future. I am interested in getting it right. I'm interested in getting it right for a long-term period of time, so we can have a long-term period of greatness and success, and not just flash-up to 9-7 or 10-6 and fall back down. My vision has always been to build it that way, and to make sure that we are building it for that sort of long-term success that you want to enjoy."
Irsay's vision helped him create a period where Indianapolis won 115 regular-season games from 2000-09, the winningest NFL decade. He oversaw seven division championships from 2003-10, along with appearing in two Super Bowls and winning a world championship.
Though the NFL clock is ticking, Irsay has not set deadlines for himself to put his new structure in place. Keeping his vision intent, he would like to conclude the process as soon as he can do so.
"There isn't (a deadline). Obviously, the sooner the better," said Irsay. "At the same time, it is not a process that I am going to rush. I think that it is too important of a decision to make sure that we get the right person. Ideally, you want it done as soon as possible. It just depends on if you are interviewing people that are in the playoffs and the Super Bowl. It just depends on what you are able to do in terms of getting the individual in here and ready to go."