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: Say the team wins this weekend have the second pick, would you go for a mobile quarterback? Also is there a chance to get another hard-hitting player like Bob Sanders?
A: Not without two number one picks. We were very lucky to get Bob, but you bring up a great point. There's a story to be told here. First of all, I don't know that we're necessarily going to finish second with a win. The league has not told us that and said they won't be able to tell us that until after the games on Sunday. We'll have to wait to figure that out. Secondly, would we consider a mobile quarterback? I think every quarterback that might be coming out in the draft this year is mobile. The answer is yes, because you'd be looking at every quarterback that is potentially draftable. The vast majority of them are mobile. That's what the colleges are producing these days. As to Bob Sanders, Bob was considered a solid, mid-round number one pick when he came out. We were drafting low that year, in fact, it was Tony's (Dungy) second or third year. We were drafting low, in the 20s. Everybody is talking about us drafting 'this player' or 'that player' this year. Here's the story. In late March (that year) I walked into the meeting with the doctors. They begin to go over the players. They say, 'Listen, we know there's a guy you really like and you should know that he's failed a physical.' I said, 'Oh yeah, who's that?' They said, 'Bob Sanders.' My heart sunk. I asked, 'How could Bob Sanders fail the physical?' It turned out that he had an operation in college and had a plate and screws in his foot. Many doctors around the league would not pass him because that would be a long-term, limiting condition. They simply would say, 'You can't draft him.' Fortunately, we have Dr. Dave Porter, who is our foot specialist, and who is world-class specialist. He was able, after doing some research, to figure out that we could draft Bob and he would get him fixed in time for Bob to play the season. We did, and he did. We ended up drafting Bob right around 40, trading down twice because it was clear to us that there were many teams who had taken him off the board. The moral of the story being, 'Don't expect to draft anyone. Go through the process and make sure that every base is covered. You never, ever know until you touch every base what a player may or may not be like.' What some guru is saying now could be 100 percent false, or 100 percent nullified come March or April. You have to go through the process. You have to be able to say, 'Okay, if this player can't work out, then who do we take?' You don't quit and say, 'Well today's draft is an awful one.' You find a way to get good players. You got a longer answer than you bargained for, but you surely struck a nerve there. The question is would we take another Bob Sanders? In a heartbeat.
Q: Is it possible that Gary Brackett can be moved to outside linebacker since Pat Angerer is playing well in the middle. Also, would there be any cap hit in Brackett's case if he were to be released?
A: Let me answer the questions in detail. First of all, it's possible. We're back to the original Tony Dungy configuration of this defense. It's possible that you could move Pat (Angerer) to 'Will,' which is sort of the marquee position in the defense and put Gary back at middle linebacker. Pat played 'Sam' a year ago as a rookie. You don't make quite as much of an impact at the 'Sam' position as you do at 'Will.' I'm confident and I'm not farming (defensive coordinator) Mike Murphy's land here, I'm confident that if you had to Pat could play any of the three positions. He's already played two, and you would think that at 'Will' he would be just as effective and as instinctive as he is at middle linebacker. Now, it's also true that we drafted him to be a middle linebacker, there's no two ways about that. That's what he played at Iowa, and that's what we expected he would be. He's played outside linebacker. I think if you were going to consider him to be an outside linebacker, 'Will' would be the position you'd want for him because that's the impact position in the purest form of Dungy defense. With respect to veteran contracts, I don't have the numbers in front of me so I'll take your word for it that Gary has seven million to amortize. The answer is that if you were to waive, trade or cut a player before June 1, the entire seven million would hit your salary cap that particular year. If you waived, traded or released him after June 1, then only 3.5 million of it hits your cap that year and the remaining 3.5 is amortized the following year. That's called the 'June 1 Rule.' That's why lots of veteran players who have signing bonus amortization are released after June 1.
Q: It seems teams these days have big, tall, athletic tight ends. Do the Colts have these types of players already on the roster? If not, are you looking for some in the draft?
A: What you're referring to is what we refer to as the 'athletic tight end.' We think we've got two of them in Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme. Dallas is shorter than (Jermichael) Finley or (Jimmy Graham), but Jake is right up there with them height-wise. Both are every bit as speedy as those guys. It's ironic you ask the question because we have been criticized for years for using athletic tight ends who can't block, and now everybody else in the National Football League is following suit. It's just a function of what the colleges are producing more and more with the spread formation. You have the so-called 'athletic tight end,' who is big and fast and who's not a great in-line blocker, but who creates a mismatch (for the defense). Dallas has been doing that for years and Jacob, of course, had a great year last year filling in when Dallas was hurt. He hasn't been as productive by the numbers this year, largely because I think he's been working with new quarterbacks. He drew a key penalty the other night. We feel really good about both those guys.
Q: Any update on Dallas Clark for this week?
A: It will be touch and go I think. He's improved but we'll have to wait until the end of the week.
Q: Do you still use the philosophy of having key 'anchor' positions that you build through the draft. Do you still use the same philosophy, or have you altered it through the years?
A: Not really, no. The main cogs, if you will, in any winning professional football team are basically third-down positions. They're players who make plays on third downs – quarterback, defensive end, those are the two hardest to find, cornerback, wide receiver, running back, defensive tackle who can rush, that may be the hardest to find of all. Then the two sort of intangible positions, if you will, although that's changed with the advent of Troy Polamalu and Bob Sanders, safety and center. Those are the premier positions where you have to have top-flight guys. (The) kicker is another, but you can acquire kickers differently than you can than others. A kicker is your first special teams ingredient because he wins games. Those positions have remained the bell-weather and over time, the only thing that's really changed is that the safeties, that big-hitting, explosive, powerful safety that makes game-changing plays, have become more of a force. Now, perhaps with the new rules, that may lesson. We'll see over time. That's something to watch. To boil it all down, you want playmakers that make plays on third down. That's the key.
Bob Lamey: Since you've been here, those positions have been filled pretty well, haven't they?
A: Yeah, they have. We've stayed with our blueprint. We've had basically very good players at virtually all those positions. (We had) Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden during the Super Bowl years (playing) at the corner (positions). Left tackle, we've been good there. Dwight Feeney and Robert Mathis obviously, Bob Sanders, Antoine Bethea and Jeff Saturday for all the years (have been key players for us). That's the blueprint for winning. If you're able to do it, and it's easier said than done – as Marv Levy used to say, 'What it takes to win is simple, but it isn't easy' – you can achieve success, and it isn't just one position. That's why I give short shrift to people who say, 'The quarterback is all you need. If you have the quarterback, everything else will fall into place.' That's not true at all. This is a team game, and it's the ultimate team game. In basketball smart people like Larry Bird tell me if you have three (players) who can take over a game, you're in pretty good shape. In baseball as we've seen virtually every year, if you have great pitching you can go a long, long way. In football, you need both sides of the ball, and it's a more difficult task, I think, than it is in some of the other sports.
Q: Is there any thought of moving Jacob Lacey to a safety position alongside Antoine Bethea?
A: Well the answer to that will be no. As I just mentioned in answering the last question, corner is really a very important position. It's an extremely important position in the Dungy defense, which we're now back to playing whole hog. That's part of the reason I think Jake has shown up a lot better in these past four or five weeks. He's back playing techniques that he knew and learned and felt comfortable with. His future is at corner. He needs to get better in certain areas, particularly in terms of coverage. He's been doing a great job instinctively and a terrific job physically attacking the run. Believe it or not, he's not a very big man as defensive backs go but when he's playing like he's played the last four or five weeks, he's plays big and it leaves you with the impression that he is a much bigger man than he actually is. He's courageous and tough and hard-nosed, and he's just turned his season around in the last five weeks. If that keeps up, we've got ourselves a really good corner.
Q: Can you summarize the best advice you have had in your career to get you through hard times? Is there any difference between the Dungy defense played here versus how it was played in Tampa Bay?
A: The answer to the Tampa-2 defense is that, first of all, we're now playing what we played when Tony was here, which was certainly good enough to take us to two Super Bowls and lots of playoffs. Secondly, statistics really don't mean much with respect to how we view the defense. The two statistics that count are points against and turnovers, and that's been improved dramatically. As far as getting through the tough times, I learned a long time ago a saying from George Paterno, whose brother, Joe, you may have heard of. I worked for George for five years as an assistant coach and he said, 'Tough times don't last, tough people do.' You have to have the ability to persevere through the hard times and make sure that you keep doing the right thing. If you do, the rest will take care of itself.