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: Is it possible that the team could change defensive schemes from the Tampa-2? It doesn't seem to be working as in past years.
A: Well, we have to agree to disagree, respectfully. Let me explain the statistical rankings and what they mean. Unfortunately, this year they mean a lot. We are 30th or below in every category, and that is an accurate picture of how we've played defense. In the years when we were a Super Bowl contender, which is really the last 10 years, our defense, the Tampa-2 defense, is never going to lead the league in defense and it is never going to lead the league in getting off the field on third down. It's never going to lead the league or be in the top half in yards per pass play, and, most often, it's only going to be in the top half in yards per rush. Where it will always, if it's played well, be in the top five, which was always our goal under Tony (Dungy) and has been our goal under Jim (Caldwell) is in takeaways, sacks, points allowed and red zone conversions. Those are the four statistical criteria that you should use to judge the Tampa-2 defense. That's how we have always judged ourselves. Up to this year, we have always been pretty good in those statistical rankings. They come and go from year to year. As Mike Murphy our great linebacker coach is fond of saying, 'The only thing that counts is points.' But the bottom line is those four categories give you a clear picture of how you're playing in the Tampa-2 defense. The others mean virtually nothing because, and I recognize this is heresy to lots of people and you have to be a believer in the defense in order to accept this, but it's going to give up five- to seven-yard passes over the middle. That's the nature of the defense. By the way, the Atlanta Falcons, who are a very good team picked by many to be the Super Bowl winner and certainly by all accounts a very good team, play the very same defense, as will Jacksonville, who comes in this week and is ranked in the top five in defense in the league. It isn't necessarily the defense that's at fault. It's execution and, as I mentioned at the outset of the show, it's absolutely technique. The Tampa-2 defense is not an X's and O's defense. It's not designed to out-smart people. It's designed to out-technique them and out-hit them and out-speed them, and that has not been happening for us, hence your frustration and mine. One thing we agree on is that we are both frustrated about the defense. It isn't the scheme that's at fault, it's the execution and particularly the execution of technique, and Coach (Caldwell) harped on that today. We've got to get our technique clean and right. We've got to be smart about how we play and if we do that, couple that with the energy and the toughness that we've shown every week, than we're going to be a much better defensive team. If I may, just out of deference to the caller before last that talked about why sit people down and play for draft position or whatever have you, the practical answer to that is it that can't be done because the following people are on injured reserve: Peyton Manning, Joe Reitz, I'm sorry he's not on IR, he's out, Drake Nevis is coming back this week, Terrence Johnson is out, Brody Eldridge and Dallas Clark are hurt. I don't know what their status is right now. (Eric) Foster is on injured reserve. (Ben) Ijalana is on injured reserve. (Chris) Gronkowski is on injured reserve. Melvin Bullitt is on injured reserve. Gary Brackett is on injured reserve and Joe Addai has not been healthy enough to play except in an absolute, dire emergency to finish a game these last two weeks. So with that amount of injuries we are having a hard time putting a team on the field, much less sitting anybody down. There's nobody to sit down.
*Bob Lamey: Unfair question but what are you going to do at tight end if neither of these guys can't play? *
A: Well we've got to figure it out. We've got to figure it out.
Q: Regarding the Bob Kravitz column, why not just defend the points made in the article?
A: Believe it or not although I've said it on this show many times, I don't read anything that's written locally about the club because it can't help us win, and I don't have enough time to waste time on stuff that can't help us win. That's what all of the fans want me to do. That's my obligation to Jim Irsay and all the fans, do everything I can to help us win. I have to be honest and tell you it (the article) was shown to me, but there's no point in responding to anonymous sources. There is nothing to be gained by that. It doesn't help us win. Although, like everything else in life, there is always some irony involved. Dom Anile, who's my friend of 40 years and my esteemed and valued colleague for all these years here, is sending his grandson here, his high school-aged grandson, to do a school-mandated internship this week. If this was a toxic atmosphere, I doubt that Dom would send his teenaged grandson here. Secondly, in an event long-planned starting early last summer and suggested actually by (Vice President and General Manager) Chris (Polian), we will honor this Sunday (former offensive coordinator) Tom Moore and his lovely life, Willy, for all of the outstanding service that they've given this franchise and this city in his long and illustrious career. You and I both know Tom Moore and if he had ill feeling toward anyone here, I doubt very much that he'd be here to accept an award. I've talked many times on this show about my mentor Marv Levy and he always said, 'What you do speaks so loudly that no one cares what anyone says about it.' I will just stand on my record and move on.
Q: You have been able to pick good players for years. It's the history of the game for there when teams go up they can come down and fans should see that. I want to congratulate you on what you have done.
A: I thank you for your kind words and your generosity. I always I believed that the old Benjamin Franklin adage and I may get this incorrect, but I think this is close to correct, 'Believe none of what you read and only half of what you see,' tends to be true. I think it is more true in this day and age than what it was in 1770s when that was written. We tend to see the world through snapshots that appear in the media. Then you find out later as you read history, or you talk to people, or you take larger samplings that the snapshots are many times incorrect. Oftentimes no matter what the sport or what the city, you may hear naysayers and people think they represent everyone and that everybody's jumped off the bandwagon and everyone is dissatisfied. Given the way we've played this year, I wouldn't blame anyone for being dissatisfied. We have not held up our end of the bargain. As I said at the beginning of the show, I am astounded, astounded and deeply grateful for all of the cards and letters and phone calls that we get every week, or people who come up to me in the street or in the supermarket (and say), 'Hang in there, it's a bad year. Thanks for all the great years. We know you'll get it straightened out.' They in my opinion are by far, by far the majority. If you just took the larger snapshot of our stadium yesterday and listened to those fans and saw how into it they were, you couldn't help but believe that there are plenty, plenty of people who are still on the bandwagon. That's what makes it so hard and so difficult to live with this season because the players are giving great effort on the practice field, in the meeting room and on the game field. The fans have stuck by us. In my opinion, they have stuck by us 99.9 percent, and the fact that we can't reward them is really, really frustrating. Bob and I were kidding earlier in the show. We've been around a long time, and we've seen a lot of these and had our ups and downs, as everyone does in life. Every year is not going to be undefeated. Every year is not going to be the playoffs. You can roll with the punches so to speak, (it) doesn't make it any easier to take. You recognize that there are those downs in life and that games aren't even all that important, to be honest with you. But for the people who invest in us financially and most specially emotionally, and for the players who invest so much physically and emotionally, I really feel badly. I can't tell you how badly I feel that we haven't been able to really…you've done your job. The fans have done their job. We haven't done ours.
Q: If the players are still are missing details and there are no signs of weekly progress, where do fans to from here since they are financially invested in the team? A: What Curtis (Painter) meant because he's heard it from Coach (Caldwell) and what we are invested in here is the only way to get better is to concentrate on the smallest possible detail. Make sure your footwork is sound on every play, for example. Make sure that you are making the simplest read. Don't confuse the issue with esoteric detail. Don't listen to the noise that's out there. Focus entirely on what you can do to do your job better. That is how you get better. We have to re-focus the players on that. We've got to make sure we do less from a schematic standpoint and much more from a technique standpoint. How do we regress? Because you listen to the noise, you let your technique slip, you put too much pressure on yourself, you try to do too many things at once, as Donald Brown did yesterday dropping the pass. He had a wonderful game. He's trying to make a big play. You make big plays by doing the small things. Take care of the little things and the big things take care of themselves. That's how we get better.