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: Can you explain what decisions Chris Polian has final authority on compared to you? Also, can the Colts continue to carry four quarterbacks on the roster?
A: On the quarterback question I think it's a function on how quickly Kerry (Collins) comes around and what the doctors have to say regarding his condition. It's a concussion. Those are extremely unpredictable, so we just have to wait on that one to see what the prognosis might be. I have no idea what that might be, and I don't know when we would have such a decision, if there would be one forthcoming. Every week they've said, 'Hey, we will test him next week and see what happens.' At some point I guess they may make a decision but as you know, it's a hot-button item and it's one everyone handles very gingerly. With respect to the internal decision-making, virtually everything we've done around here for as long as I've been here has been on a consensus basis. There is a famous story that Tony (Dungy) likes to tell about the discussion whether or not to take Dallas Clark or Tyler Brayton, ironically enough, in the draft (in 2003). Tony (Dungy) was leaning toward Tyler, I was leaning toward Dallas and Jim Irsay said, 'Well you guys make the decision you want whatever you do I'll back it, but if it was me I'd take Dallas Clark.' Well, Tony said, 'I guess we're taking Dallas Clark.' But other than those few situations, everything else has been done via consensus. In the past if there has been a tiebreaker, and I can't think of more than two in 13 years, I've broken it. Chris (Polian) is the general manager now so if it came to that it would be his call, but virtually everything we do is consensus. The idea that one person pounds the table and says, 'This is what I want to do,' is just false.
Q: Do you ever discuss team decisions at home?
A: No, rarely, rarely. Momma has the final decision there. That one is clear-cut. There is no consensus there.
Q: Is there anything that can be done about the negativity by the sports announcers about the team?
A: As I said earlier in the show, everybody is entitled to their opinion. When you do poorly, you expect that to happen. It's not fun, but it has no bearing really on what we do. If we let it have a bearing then shame on us, we're not really professionals. They don't have any bearing (on the organization). What people say or write has no bearing on how we play and as I said, if it did then we are in the wrong business. While it may be annoying to you as a fan, don't worry that it affects us. It doesn't. Our job is to do our job and no one outside this building is going to change that.
Q: How can a team of the Colts' caliber get into the position of not having a player to step in if Peyton Manning were injured?
A: There are two answers to that, and it is somewhat complex. The first is the salary cap. If you wanted to go out and get a quote, 'big-name quarterback,' and that's not to say he would be good and I'll get there in a second, but if you wanted to get a quote, 'big-name quarterback,' it would cost you in the vicinity of six to seven million dollars. We don't have that luxury because, frankly, Peyton (Manning) makes a lot of money, and he should. Reggie Wayne makes a lot of money, and he should. Dallas Clark makes a lot of money, and he should, and on and on. Those fellows of had great careers and many will receive Hall-of-Fame consideration. They deserve to be paid. That doesn't leave you a lot to get a backup quarterback, that's number one. Number two, we have felt all along, and to some degree we've been vindicated, that Curtis (Painter) was perfectly capable of doing the job, given some growth. He's had lots of growth over the last two years, and he's growing even as we speak with each successive game he's played. He's only played five games now, so that part of it we felt pretty good about. Now, who is a quote, 'good backup quarterback?' Look around the league, just mention names. I won't mention any here but you can mention them, and you'll find that the so-called 'big names' are not playing as well as people would like. As a matter of fact, and correct me if I'm wrong, weren't there seven new quarterbacks starting yesterday among whom were many rookies because the so-called 'big-name veterans' weren't getting the job done. Our assessment over the last couple of years has been, in addition to the cap issues, there is no quote 'big-name quarterback' out there that we felt we could go after that would be a better option than Curtis, knowing full well that anyone that you brought in was not going to play anywhere nearly as well as Peyton and could not operate the offense in the same way Peyton can, and neither can Curtis. That's something internally we have to come to grips with, and Jim Caldwell made that point last night. He made it again today. We've got to tailor this offense a bit more to what Curtis can do and away from what we've traditionally done. What we've traditionally done has been unique to Peyton and I recognize that's a long answer but you're right, it is more complicated than it looks on the surface. I tried to give you all sides of it.
Q: Who makes the decision to go with the no-huddle offense in a loud environment like the team did in New Orleans? Also, why do the corners play off the receivers and allow so much cushion?
A: Those are both very good questions. The issue of the offensive plan, if you will, is a kind of 'six of one, half dozen of another.' Their (Saints) defensive coordinator does a great job with blitzes, and he does a terrific job with what are commonly called 'creepers' – defensive players who will come in from the secondary or linebackers who will move around. Given time, he will play around with the quarterback and the looks of the quarterback and the looks that the offensive line will get by moving these people in and out. As you saw last night, he did it frequently with the deepest safety, running the safety almost back 30 yards at the snap. It's a good tactic. The way to beat that is to go no-huddle. (You) read what they're doing, change the play based on the read, try and confuse their timing and then snap the ball and run the play. Can you do that with Peyton (Manning) in a building that loud? Yes. Is it in hindsight a heck of a lot tougher for Curtis (Painter) to do and a heck of a lot tougher for two backup offensive tackles and young offensive guards to pick up in a building that loud? Yes. Hindsight is 20-20. I wouldn't say what we did by any means was unsound. Was it the best use of our personnel? You could make a case that maybe 'half dozen of other' is better than 'six of one.' That's always because of the results. As Marv Levy used to say, 'If what you did didn't work, you should have done the other thing.' I'm not being flip about that because your question is a good one. Relative to the depth of the secondary, both corners and safeties in the red zone, that's a fundamental issue. They've got to know who the receiver is. They have to know down-and-distance. They have to know that Drew Brees is a master of the quick game, get the ball out of his hands right now, and they've got to set their alignments accordingly. They did not. That is a fundamental issue that we have to get cleaned up. We absolutely have to get it cleaned up. It's as frustrating to everyone around here as it is to you.
Q: If the effort of the players is still there and they're hitting as hard at the end of the game as they are at the start, is it the fact that maybe the team hasn't gotten the right players?
A: Certainly we are to blame. There is no two ways about that. If you don't have quality players at every position, you've come up a little short. As Jim Caldwell said after the game last night, everyone bears responsibility with this. I'm not shirking it. We could be a little bit better at the defensive tackle position, and we certainly could be a little bit deeper at cornerback. Those are two areas that I would point to where we could have done a better job, no question about that. We've been bothered by injuries at defensive tackle but bottom line is that you need to be better. I'll be the first to agree with that. There are some things that I just mentioned fundamentally that we aren't doing that we have to get cleaned up, and the players that are playing are the players that we have to play with. I'd love to have (defensive tackle) Drake Nevis back, but he's apparently not going to be back any time soon. All of that is what it is, and you have to play with the guys that you have out there. You've got to find a way to do that. That's what our task is going forward. What's past is prologue, we can't change that. Should I have done a better job? You bet. Everybody should have as Jim Caldwell said, but we've got to make sure we do the best job we can going forward.
Q: Sunday's game pits two teams that are unhappy coming off losses last week, doesn't it?
A: I think that's right. They have a traditionally a great running attack and it hasn't been firing on all cylinders yet, but he's (Titans running back Chris Johnson) a phenomenal back. That's (the) number one job. Their quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck) is doing a good job distributing the ball. He's a veteran guy. He's a veteran quarterback who wanted to go to a starting situation and has done quite well. That's an improvement for them. They are always great on the offensive line. Defensively, they are still feeling their way a bit. It's a system similar to what we saw (in New Orleans). In fact, their coordinator, Jerry Gray, worked with (Saints defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams before, so it's going to be a good test for us because we are going to see many of the same types of situations. So (it's a) tough ball game on the road, but that's the way it goes. We've got to worry about what we do to get ourselves better in every respect, perhaps more than any other time this year than worrying about the opponent.