Bill Polian is in his first season as Colts vice chairman after spending the previous 13 seasons as Colts president. Polian has a resume unique in the NFL. The only man to win NFL Executive of the Year six times, Polian in the 1980s built the Buffalo Bills into a four-time Super Bowl participant. In the mid-1990s, he built the expansion Carolina Panthers into a team that made the NFC Championship game in its second season, 1996. Since joining Indianapolis in 1998, he built the Colts from a 3-13 team in 1997 and 1998 into one that has made the playoffs 11 of the last 12 seasons, including AFC Championship game appearances after the 2003, 2006 and 2009 seasons, an AFC East title in 1999, AFC South titles in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010, Super Bowl appearances following the 2006 and 2009 seasons and a Super Bowl championship following the 2006 season. Each week during the season, in The Polian Corner, Polian and Colts.com will discuss issues pertinent to the Colts and the rest of the NFL.
The Polian Corner will run in two installments each week. Below is this week's second installment:
Q: Drake Nevis had a good game against Pittsburgh, didn't he?
A: Drake Nevis has had a pretty good game each week this year. He's played exceptionally well by rookie standards, really very well by anybody's standards for three weeks now. He's a keeper. We're very happy to have him.
Q: Can you explain taking Robert Mathis all the way around the end to get to Ben Roethlisberger?
A: It's a stunt and the point is that the other linemen are stunting the other way. You're hoping to flush Ben, who is quite nimble and quite willing to get out of the pocket, you're hoping to flush him right into the open rusher, the guy who's unblocked. We came close actually on the sack that we missed that probably would have ended the game because they missed the block on one of our inside men and he got free and just couldn't finish Ben. Now, that's easier said than done. It's like trying to finish a tree. He's a big, strong guy and it's hard to knock him down. That's the idea. We don't use it as a steady diet. I think we used it three times last night, and it works quite well. It's not always the guy who's stunting who gets free. It may be somebody else because of a blocking error. The bottom line is it's a very effective stunt for us. It's not always the stunter coming around who is gets free, it may be somebody inside. It works just as well as long as you get a free rusher.
Q: Why is Dallas Clark blocking Pro Bowl defenders one-on-one and is his injury affecting his play?
A: Well, it was a pretty tough injury. His wrist was badly hurt. There is some breaking in period, if you will, that he needs before he's going to back to 100 percent. He is 100 percent physically, but now it's a question of having to go and perform. That part of it without an off-season program is a little difficult. He's a work in progress as is most of our team. It's a tough assignment to block (Troy) Polamalu, I don't care who you are. As Mike Murphy, our great linebacker coach, is fond of saying, 'The other team gets paid, too.' They put Polamalu in situations where you are forced to block him one-on-one. If that's the case and you can't get out of that play, it makes it very difficult. If we had our choice, we certainly wouldn't block him one-on-one. We'd probably double-team him all the time and probably with two big linemen, but the Steelers don't give you that choice. That is one of the reasons why (defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau is in the Hall of Fame. Oftentimes you are faced with that situation, and you try to avoid it as much as possible. Dal (Dallas) did a terrific job blocking in a lot of other situations against their linebackers who are tough guys, but Polamalu is tough to handle. I venture to say that of this generation of safeties if I had to pick two Hall of Famers right now, I would say Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, and there isn't anybody else."
Q: What are the rules for Peyton Manning's involvement with the team strategically if he goes on injured reserve and how does the team plan to use him?
A: There are no rules specifically. There are specific rules with respect to communication, which I will get into in a second. As long as he's under contract he can play any role he wishes, other than to practice if he is not on the active list and obviously play. With respect to communication, the rules are as follows: you may communicate with the quarterback only from the bench. The coach-to-quarterback mechanism, which is worn by our offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, is the only mechanism that you can communicate to the quarterback with. The other quarterbacks on the roster, if they are on the bench, are allowed to wear a headpiece so they can hear the call. They cannot communicate, both by rule and practically because of the hardware and software, with the quarterback on the field. No one in the booth upstairs may communicate with the quarterback and cannot because of the hardware and software and can only communicate with the guys on the bench. So those are the rules. They would apply to Peyton whether he were active or inactive on game day and as far as the role he plays, he will continue to do what he does all the time which is attend the quarterback meetings on Tuesday night, study the tape, take his own notes, make his own suggestions. The only difference will be that whoever is playing quarterback will have a very loud voice in terms of the particular plays that he likes and the formations he likes. The game plan is usually tailored very much to what the starting quarterback feels comfortable with."
Q: Pittsburgh had a 30- to 40-yard gap on special teams between their front line and the next. Why wouldn't you pooch a punt and try to surprise them?
A: Are you referring to a kickoff or punt? I'm not sure. (Bob Lamey: he said punt, but that would not apply.) If you had a margin for error meaning we were healthy at the quarterback position where you figure on a given night on your worst night you're probably going to get 20 points, those kinds of gambles are worth taking. When your margin is slim, as ours is now, you probably don't want to get into that. It's better to play, forgive the word, but it's better to play conservatively in these kinds of situations and try not to make mistakes. Tony (Dungy) used to say 'No big hits, no big misses.' Let's make sure that we do everything right we can do and then if we do that, we give ourselves a chance to win at the end which is, what we did last night. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish on defense after an incredibly good night, but that's the way it goes. At least you gave yourself a chance to win. I know that people differ with that approach and many will say, 'Darn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.' That's fine, I think, if you have all your weapons but if you don't, it's better to be a little more close to the vest."
Q: Why doesn't Delone Carter get more touches, especially in the red zone?
A: Well first of all, he will get more touches as will Donald Brown as time goes by. Delone is a rookie and rookie running backs that come into this league can run the ball. There's absolutely no question about that. That's what they do at the college level. That's what they do at the high school level. That's what they do at Pop Warner. They are able to run the ball. Once they recognize and get used to the speed of the game and protect the ball from hits from behind, which is what every rookie running back has to learn, then they're able to play running back and run the ball. What they can't do and don't do at the collegiate level is blitz pickup and Delone, like every rookie running back, is learning that as he goes along. He is getting a lot better, and he made one terrific pick up last night were he stoned the rusher. It was a great play. He'll only get better at it and as he gets better at it, he will get more playing time. It will be a growth process all year. It's also much more difficult for a rookie to play against a sophisticated, really confusing defense such as the Steelers use because he has to know who to pick up. The Steelers make a living trying to confuse you and put you in a position where you don't know who to pick up. That's the part of it that every rookie running back faces and Delone is no different. He is improving and getting better. Obviously, he can run the ball well and we're going to use him a lot."
Q: The young offense line played very well against that tough defense, didn't it?
A: It is easier to run the ball, no question it is easier to run the ball, because you kind of know where they (the defensive line) are and you can get off the ball and get a body on them. It is much more difficult to pass protect, because they are giving you two overloads and you don't know which side they are coming from. It showed late, as we mentioned earlier in the show, Polamalu sometimes will line up four or five yards from the line of scrimmage where you think he's a defensive back. Then he doesn't creep up, he explodes. Players who play off the line of scrimmage and then attack it are generally called 'creepers.' Polamalu's not a 'creeper,' he's an 'exploder.' Many times you don't expect that he's going to blitz and here he comes, and he'd be on top of you before you know it. They present a different challenge than any other team in the league because of their talent level, and, as you mentioned before, that they played together for so long. They're so well-coached. They understand their system so well, and they're good players."
Q: What is the status of Kerry Collins? If he's hurt and Curtis Painter is the guy, would Pat McAfee be the back-up?
A: No, we would not use Pat as the back up. Kerry is feeling better today than he did yesterday, but his status is yet to be determined. He needs to go through a workout protocol and the doctors have to do some more tests on him in the next couple days. We will know more later in the week. Relative to a backup, with Kerry a little bit dinged up and under the weather, we probably would not use Pat in that role. We would probably use somebody else."
Q: Do you have a chance to scout college games, or do you delegate it? Also, could you talk about the collegiate receiving corps?
A: Yes, I'm usually at one for sure and sometimes two college games per week. So I'm out every week. I don't delegate it. We aren't in the business of ranking right now. That comes in December when the college season is finished and we've gotten a look at everybody across the country. Our rankings won't come out internally until right after the bowl games, pretty soon after the first of the year."
Q: You have a tough game at Tampa Bay with two tough competitors in Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount.
A: You bet. Josh Freeman looks like Jim Plunkett, a big, giant man, 6-6 about 250 pounds. He can throw it a mile. He's developed touch. He's a tough guy in the pocket. He can run a lot like (Ben) Roethlisberger. LeGarrette Blount is just like the running back from Cleveland, Peyton Hillis. He's 240 pounds. He goes downhill, he runs over you. They have a pretty good offensive line. They've got a nice receiving corps. They can make all the plays. Defensively, they're a mirror image of us. They're a very young team. They started 10 rookies last year and still finished 10-6. They are a team that's growing and getting better. The people of Tampa have responded to them, so this is a tough ballgame for us. You'd rather be playing them here than Tampa, but the schedule-maker does what he does. There are no easy ones in the National Football League, and this is far from an easy one."