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: The team looked a little smug Sunday when it won. You didn't see much excitement. Why were they smug?
A: I don't know that they were smug. I know they certainly were not sad. When we came in the locker room there was so much hooting and hollering that you'd think we won a playoff game. They were really, really happy. I just think they were just exhausted. Certainly the defensive guys were exhausted. They played 75 plays. That's about 15 more than they're used to. They did a heck of a job. They really were elated.
Q: Will Peyton Manning be a Colt next year?
A: I don't know the answer to that. There are so many variables involved that it's impossible to tell at this point in time. It's our fervent hope that he is. I can't unequivocally give you an answer (of) 'Yea' or 'Nay.'
*Q: What do you think the first priority is for you to upgrade any position, players, coaches, anything? Also I think it has been disservice that the team has not had a good defensive coordinator the last few years, including the Super Bowl winning year. We've seen great coordinators with other teams, but not here. Why is that? *
A: In terms of the biggest need, I would say this. I think we could use an infusion of big-play talent at virtually every position except offensive tackle. I think we're okay there. The two young kids, (Anthony) Castonzo and (Ben) Ijalana, who's out with an injured knee this year but will be back next year, probably fill the bill there. Virtually every other position on our football team we could use an infusion of young, big-play talent. By 'big-play,' I mean people who make
plays on third down, who sack the quarterback, who knock the quarterback down, who make interceptions, who catch touchdown passes, who run for touchdowns. Running back is probably an area where I think we're in pretty good shape. Game-breakers in any area probably would be the biggest need. It's time to infuse some more youth into this football team, quite honestly. As to the defensive coordinator, I would have to respectfully disagree with you. We changed defensive coordinators three weeks ago because in this year and in these past couple of years, management has not been happy with the results. That's obvious. That doesn't mean the gentleman involved was not a good person or even a good coach. It just wasn't the right fit. We made that change and, fortunately under Mike Murphy, this defense is back playing the way it's supposed to play. Relative to the type of defense we play, and let's take it all the way back to the Super Bowl years when, in effect, Tony Dungy was the architect of the defense and Ron Meeks coordinated it. One of the things that was important to us in getting Tony Dungy here was bringing that defensive expertise. Secondly, I wouldn't trade Tony Dungy's defensive expertise for any other defensive coordinator in the history of football, much less now in the league. This defense is never going to finish in the top 10 in the statistics, never. In fact, it's probably not going to finish in the top half in the statistics because the only two statistics that we count are the score and takeaways. (We were plus two in giveaway-takeaway and we held them to 13 points). The objective is to hold the opponent under 17 points, at 17 or under every week. We reached that. The objective is to take the ball away more than our opponent does. We did that. As a result, we won the game. That's the way our defense is supposed to play. We will give up short passes. We will give up some runs. We're not going to be a 'We'll stop the run first and scheme the pass rush' type of defense. That's not the way we play. It's not well-suited to the talent we have. It's not really ideal in this building (Lucas Oil Stadium) because of the noise that our crowd can generate. We're much more like the Detroit Lions, who play virtually the same defense and the Tennessee Titans, who play virtually the same defense. I have a world, a world of respect for Wade Phillips. Wade Phillips is, in terms of utilization of talent everywhere and anywhere he goes as a defensive coordinator, absolutely the best. He can go into a situation, as he's done in Texas, and he can take the existing talent and build upon it, make it twice as good as it was before. If you say to me, 'Would you like to have Wade Phillips?' Absolutely. I'm a Wade Phillips fan and have been since the time he was in Buffalo. Dom Capers, if you want a 3-4 pressure package, Dom Capers is your man. He, along with Bill Cowher, are the architects of it in Pittsburgh. No one in football creates a game plan, pares down a game plan and calls a game in a 3-4 pressure package better than Dom Capers. That's one man's opinion. People may argue with me. When you talk about defensive coordinators, Wade Phillips and Dom Capers and Tony Dungy in my mind are three of the greatest in the game's history. I've had the pleasure of working with two out of the three, and Wade came to Buffalo just after I left. I'm certainly very conversant with his work. We had one of them – Tony Dungy. I don't think you can argue with the results. I don't think you can argue with the way we played. Up until yesterday, we hadn't played a complete game the way our team was used to playing. Yesterday, we did. For the previous two weeks, we had really gotten a lot better each week. (We) played a good second half each week, but hadn't put it all together. We did yesterday. A player for whom I have a world of respect spoke to me about seven or eight weeks ago when we were watching a team that plays a defense similar to ours playing our next opponent, so you got a view of them. He said to me, 'Bill, that team plays like we used to.' That made me almost sick because we did "used to play that way." That was us. Well, we played like we used to yesterday. You can argue that maybe the 3-4 is better statistically, maybe the 3-4 pressure package creates more sacks, maybe you like it better from a fan's standpoint, but in terms of making use of the talent we have and doing the things we're used to doing and feel confident doing, what Mike Murphy has done is fine. It's replicating Tony Dungy.
Q: It's no secret the entire team was built around Peyton Manning. The defense can't play without a lead and an offensive line that blocks better for the pass. With our draft selection being where it is, do we trust that Peyton Manning is going to be back and the team will continue in the way it's organized, or are we looking somewhere else in the draft. If the draft choice is not Andrew Luck, are there any other quarterbacks we could take who could keep us going?
A: First of all as I've said numerous times before on this show, many of the quarterbacks that the gurus are talking about are underclassmen and will not declare until the 15th of January. Therefore, I can't speak about them and won't, because it's foolhardy. We don't know if they're coming out or not. Secondly, I would respectfully disagree with you on the catch-phrase that our defense is built to play with a lead. Statistically, that's absolutely untrue. In fact, up until this year we led the National Football League in fourth-quarter comebacks. Also, yesterday was the first time we had the lead all year, almost (laughs). For the last three weeks, the defense has played pretty darned well, particularly in the second half when we were behind. That is not true, the defense isn't built to play with a lead. It's built to play with speed and aggression. It's built to take away the big play. That is much more accurate, which is not measured adequately statistically. In terms of the construct of the team going forward, there's no doubt in my mind in the modern National Football League the passing game is predominant. You must have the ability to get big chunks of yardage in the passing game, regardless of what type of offense you use, whether it's a West Coast offense, whether it's a one-back, three-wide receiver offense as we have been, whether you call it at the line of scrimmage like we have, whether you call it in the huddle, it doesn't make an iota of difference. You must somehow create big plays in the passing game. It's much harder to create big plays in the running game. The way you get chunks of yardage is in the passing game. That isn't going to change. How do you do that? There are any number of ways to skin the cat. New England by the measure of most gurus and statistically has been the team that is up there in terms of wins with us over the past 12 years or decade, I guess. Bottom line, those two offenses are similar. Would you somehow or other say that's the right way to go. I don't know. I'm not sure. You can do it other ways. Green Bay is very explosive offensively, and they're a different type of offense. The Giants are a different offense than that. They're a much more run-oriented offense. Baltimore, who has a 9-4 record, has a much more run-oriented offense. There are different ways to skin the cat. A lot depends on what your personnel is. To go back to a question asked of me earlier in the show, 'What do we need?' We need young, explosive play-makers. Once we get those guys on board and we add them to what we have now, which is a very good nucleus, then we can decide how best to utilize our personnel. That's the decision we'll make going forward in this off-season. That's the objective of the work we're going to do this off-season.
Q: When you look at the Houston roster from opening day until now, there are changes. Matt Schaub is not there. Mario Williams is not, there, but they won the division.
A: They won the division, and congratulations to them. I think the biggest difference in their team from this year and year's past is Wade Phillips. (There's) no question he has reconstructed that defense and made it one of the best in the National Football League. That's a huge plus for them. Coming into this game, we have our own concerns. The first, of course, is the short week. We gave a heck of an effort, particularly defensively, yesterday. To have to come back on a short week is tough. Of course, we have a short roster because of injury. That part of it is difficult. Practice this week will be really more of a walk-through, tempo and pace. We won't be out in pads at all. Really since the players were off today, and rightly so, we really only have two days of practice. The short weeks are very difficult. This is a team (Houston) that runs it more than they pass it. They have run it 485 times for an average of 4.4 yards per carry. They have passed it 419 times. That's a rarity in the National Football League. In T.J. Yates, they have a quarterback who is very similar to Matt Schaub. We liked him a lot coming out in the draft last year, a great pick for them. He's got mobility. He's accurate. He's sharp. He played four years at North Carolina. He was a starter for most of that time. He's a competent guy, very focused and doesn't get flustered. He can operate that offense quite well. Their running backs, they are what they are. Arian Foster and Ben Tate, we got our fill of them on opening day. That's the biggest challenge for us, to stop that run. We've got to get that in check and not let them make big plays in the running game, as they did down in Houston. If we can do that, we'll be halfway there. The other part of it is we have to eliminate big plays in the kicking game. It seems like every time we play them they get a big play in the kicking game. We've got to cut that out and keep them in check in the kicking game. If we're able to keep the big plays in the running game down and keep them in check in the kicking game and not let them create big plays, then we have a chance to be in this football game, because it means our defense won't be on the field a whole heck of a lot, and, secondly, we have a chance to make some plays on offense ourselves against a very good defense. In truth, on a short week against a team like this, this is a tall order.