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 first installment:
Q: You had a chance to watch tape today. A loss is a loss, but you had to see a lot of good things, didn't you?
A: Yes, we did, a tremendous amount of good things. Defensively, it was as good a game as we've played around here in quite some time in the front seven. Really, we did give up 16 points, which is the magic number. If you give up 17 or less, you're probably going to win 80 percent of the time in the National Football League. Unfortunately, we had the sack-fumble which resulted in a touchdown for them. It's a loss but nonetheless a lot of heartening things, particularly the play of the front seven. Those guys did a great job rushing the passer. They did a great job playing the run. The linebackers were out of this world, particularly Pat Angerer. Twenty tackles, that's unheard of in the National Football League. Every one of them was a good, solid, knock-him-back tackle. Kavell Conner, Philip Wheeler keeps getting better and better every week. That part of it is very heartening. We talked last week about the canard of, 'run (the ball) and stop the run.' That holds true this week. The Steelers, who pride themselves on running the ball and playing physical football, ran 28 times for 67 yards, a total of 2.4 yards a carry. We ran 21 times for 97 yards, 4.5 yards a carry, including an absolutely phenomenal run by Joseph (Addai) at the end of the game to score the touchdown. The areas we absolutely must improve are held out in stark reality in statistics. They were 25-of-37 with one touchdown and one interception, a passer rating of 97.1. I'm not a big believer in the passer rating, but it's just a benchmark, something to compare something else against. We were 18-for-40 with no touchdowns, no interceptions for a passer rating of 55.5. Therein lies the story of the game. Now, that's not all on the quarterbacks by a long shot. We have to clean up the play in the secondary, both from an assignment standpoint and a technique standpoint. We have to get better sync and timing in our passing game, as well as catching the ball. We have a few too many drops for everybody's liking, and that's not something we normally do. That also is in some measure due to the fact we changed quarterbacks last night and everybody has been catching Peyton's (Manning) ball forever. There is a change there but bottom line, we have to get better at it.
Q: Where is the improvement in the running game coming from?
A: The bottom line is it's all across the board. The backs have always been good backs. Joseph (Addai) hasn't lost a thing. He came back from the injury tremendously well. Delone Carter has been a breath of fresh air. He's been a big addition, and Donald Brown hasn't had a chance to play yet. He's a good player. We're in pretty good shape there. (Chris) Gronkowski did a nice job on the three plays he was in at fullback, so that gives us another opportunity to even get better running the ball. The big change has been on the offensive line. They're coming off the ball. Their techniques on double-teams and on 'slip' blocks and on 'combination' blocks is better. They're not as good as they can be or will be on cutting off backside pursuit, but they're getting a lot better at it. So they're giving Joseph an alley on the backside which he got two big runs out of last night. That's a real positive, and it will continue to get better. The pass protection by and large has been pretty good, but we had key breakdowns as we did last night causing a sack-fumble. You can improve on that, too. The fact is there's another team on the other side of the ball that's pretty darned good. All in all, (it was) a particularly disappointing ending. We were probably six inches away from ending the game with a sack, but we didn't do it. So, 'Shoulda, coulda, woulda.' That's for losers, and we lost the ballgame. The bottom line is we know where we have to improve. We're seeing improvement in certain areas, and that's good. We can improve in others. You take a lot of positives away from last night's ballgame.
Q: Picking up blitzes, Delone Carter and Joseph Addai are good at it, aren't they?
A: Joe always has been great at it but last night he…I don't know how he got (Troy) Polamalu. Polamalu had slipped inside the tackle and Joe saw him coming and somehow picked him up. I don't know how he did it. He's great at it. He's really tremendous at it.
Q: Troy Polamalu really played well, didn't he?
A: He has great instincts. As I said last week on the show, he and (Baltimore's) Ed Reed are a lot alike, except that he is much more like a linebacker than Ed Reed is. Ed Reed plays the pass as well as anybody in the league. He does both, and he can stone you when he blitzes. They put him in positions where he can make plays. You have to recognize where he is and try to pick him up. By and large, we did a good job of it. He's a force. He's hard to block. When he hits you, he comes with a ton of bricks. He's an All-Pro player, no question about it.
Q: They have so much experience on that defense that (defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau turns them loose and they can do what they want, right?
A: There is a plan for what they do. It's very well conceived. (Troy) Polamalu doesn't freelance. I'm sure they give him keys to work from and once he reads the key, then he knows what to do. He can alter his alignment because they all have played together for so long, especially he and Ryan Clark. He can alter his alignment so you have a hard time picking him up. Again with quarterbacks that are not necessarily used to playing against him all the time, he can give you a problem in that regard. You think he's not coming and he turns on the jets. Normal human beings can't come from as far away as he does, but he can. There's a plan to it. The thing I really like best about what they do is how well they play their techniques in the secondary. They are really, really well-coached everywhere. The secondary is outstanding. They hold you off. They have their hands in the right place. They keep leverage. They do all the things a smart football team should do. Part of that is experience, but part of it is paying attention to detail and technique. They're really impressive to watch.
Q: Will Curtis Painter keep getting chance to play? He really seems to know the offense.
A: You're right. Curtis is more familiar with the offense than Kerry (Collins) is. In many ways, they're different styles. Curtis gets rid of the ball a little faster, but he's not quite used to seeing NFL defenses and making all the checks you need to make to get out of bad plays. I agree with you. He has a bright future. He did a good job last night. The sack-fumble was not his fault. He's going to get a lot of playing time, and he will develop over time.
Q: Is there an update on Kerry Collins and the concussion he had? What are the plans for this week and the future? It was good to see Curtis come back from the sack-fumble to run the drive.
A: It spoke well of his poise and his confidence and his ability to perform under pressure. It's pretty hard to give up a sack-fumble like that and come bouncing right back and take it down the field. It's very much to his credit. If you know Curtis, that's something that does not surprise you. He's unflappable. He's very, very good at putting bad plays behind him. Kerry felt a lot better tonight than he did last evening, but tomorrow and the next day will tell the tale. I can't give you any indication of whether he will or won't play until we go through the next couple of days and see what his symptoms might be as he begins to ramp up his exercise.
Q: What is the latest on Peyton Manning?
A: Well, I don't have anything new to elaborate on. Nothing has changed. The protocol hasn't changed one iota. He's still on the active roster, and we have said time and time again that we will leave him on the active roster until the doctors tell us that there is no chance he can come back this year. He is not in a rehabilitative mode even yet. He is still in a recovery mode. He is exercising. He's doing more than he did a week ago. We said we aren't going to give a 'blow by blow' every day. Otherwise, you'd never stop doing it. The bottom line is nothing's changed. He will have some examinations and tests down the line, quite a little while from now. It's not imminent. At that point that will be a milepost along the road. The doctors based on those tests will then determine what he can do going forward, but I don't want to give the impression that that's going to be a definitive answer because we're still dealing with two separate issues. The first is the surgery and the recovery from the surgery and the fusion and the healing that has to take place there. The second is the re-generation of the nerve that controls the triceps muscle, nothing has changed. I've chosen not to speculate. I live in a very different world than the media world. I understand that oftentimes the twain doesn't meet there. And truthfully, I'm sorry about that. I wish I could be more helpful but the bottom line is there aren't any answers, and there won't be for quite a little while so there's no point in speculating."
Q: It's not like this is a high ankle sprain where you can give a recovery and return time frame, is it?
A: No, in fact any intimation of that would be 1,000 percent wrong. There is no answer for this. Only time will tell. I will quote one of the doctors and I think I may have told you this either on or off the air earlier, one of the doctors, a very eminent physician, said, 'There is no magic potion. There is no operation. There is no device. There is no X-ray technology, laser technology, anything that we can use or suggest that will tell us when this nerve will re-generate.' When it does, it will. That's all there is to it. Knowing that, there is no point in speculating. Let's just continue on as it is. When the doctors tell us something then we'll know something."
Q: As far as Kerry Collins whatever his status is that will determine later this week what the team will do. Is that correct?
A: At least we will have an answer there in a couple days. I understand Jim's (Irsay) position entirely. He's asked questions and you have to try and respond, but there is no concrete evidence one way or the other at this point and won't be for quite a while."
Q: Is there any possibility of reaching out to Kurt Warner with the injury situation at quarterback?
A: We haven't really given that much thought. I guess my feeling is if you've been away for a year or more, and it's almost a year and a half (in his situation), it's tough to come back especially for an older player which Kurt is, so it wasn't something that we thought was highly practical. He's a great player, no question about it. If he had been playing, no question if he were available we'd think long and hard about it, but he's been away quite a while and that makes it much more difficult."