Bill Polianis 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: A tough loss to Tampa Bay last night for a few reasons, one being the injury to DT-Eric Foster. Can you give us an update on Eric?
A: It was a serious injury and certainly a gruesome looking injury. Fortunately, because the medical teams, both Tampa Bay and ourselves on the field, were so careful with him and so cautious because they recognized it was a partial dislocation of his ankle, they were able to get him into the x-ray room and stabilize it. It stayed stable all the way through the time that he was transported to the hospital. I was down in the x-ray room with him, and our doctors did a great job with him. Their x-ray technicians did a terrific job. A lot of people have asked, 'Why did it take so long on the field?' The answer is because they wanted to make very sure that they were not going to have the ankle slip out again. As it turns out, Eric was operated on today. It seems that everything has gone well. He should be back here Thursday. While it was a frightening episode and a gruesome looking episode, I think it's, in the long run, going to come out okay.
Q: Is it too early to know about all the injuries?
A: Yes. We don't have any details yet because we didn't get back here until five o'clock this morning. The players did not come in until a little later this afternoon. They're still seeing the doctors. We had three offensive tackles out last night. It's a tough situation to be in. We'll see how it progresses as we go through the week. I'm not sure we'll have a real strong feel for where we are until perhaps Friday.
Q: You probably didn't think Ben Ijalana would be playing left tackle in his first appearance and on Monday Night Football?
A: No, and he did magnificently. He was really tremendous. Of course, that's where he played in college. It's a far cry from blocking the people he blocked at Villanova to blocking some of the people whom he blocked last night. He did a great job.
Q: Before the game you activated Mike Tepper. That came in handy?
A: Yes. He had to come in and play tackle. He's not a tackle by trade. He had to play right tackle at the end. Link (Jeff Linkenbach) had to go to left tackle. We were really in the soup there. Obviously late in the game, they were going to come with everything they had knowing how crippled up we were offensively. It made for a tough last eight minutes. We hung in there and really did a great job. In the end, we just didn't have enough bullets in the gun. The defense got worn down because we had no defensive tackles. The guys that went in there and played did a heck of a job. We had two defensive ends playing tackle against a team that prides itself in blasting you off the football and sending LaGarrette Blount in there like a missile, or a tank is more like it. They did just yeoman work but in the end, we didn't have enough bullets in the gun. That's what it amounted to.
Q: At 0-4, there is no give up, but how tough is it to deal with?
A: It's very difficult to put yourself in a position where you have given as much as this team has given in each of the last three weeks and come up empty. It's hard to fathom. It's hard to deal with. You tend to become bitter, but that doesn't do any good. Baying at the moon is a great reliever of stress. In the end, it doesn't achieve anything. You just have to steel yourself to the fact that you have to keep chopping wood, keep doing what you know will be successful and have faith that in the end, things will work out for you. The wheel turns. Really for the last two years the arrow's been pointed at us. Don't forget, we had eight or nine great years before that, so these things have a way of turning around, both pro and con. We're on a little bit of the downside of it right now with injuries, bad luck and things of that nature. It will turn, and you have to be ready when the wheel turns to your number. You have to have put in the work and the effort, and that's what we are doing. You have to keep a resolute frame of mind. It's hard to be positive. You have to take something positive away every time you go out and complete. There were a great many positives in each of our games this year. There's no problem there. We're doing a lot of things very well. You just have to be resolute, compete and go out there every week and say, 'I'm giving it my best. I'm a professional. As long as I do my best, in the long run, everything will come out okay.' You have to believe that. Sometimes it's hard to do. Certainly it's hard to do when you're surrounded by all the sound and fury that surrounds the National Football League these days. You just have to do it.
Q: This team stays together during hard times, doesn't it?
A: This is a close group. It's a group with a lot of character and a lot of resolve. Many of the new players who have come in here are those same kinds of players. Tyler Brayton is a good example. Jamaal (Anderson) is a good example. Those guys went in there and played tackle even though they are defensive ends. They are big, tall, lanky guys. They went in there and mixed it up with those big elephants in the trenches and did the best they could. (Mike) Tepper is a guard. He went in there and played tackle. This is a group that works very hard and is willing to give everything it has to give. You have to be proud of them for that and feel good about them. I do, we do and everybody in this building does. You have to say, 'Keep after it, keep after it. Sooner or later, our turn will come.' You have to believe that, and it's hard to do. There are lots of voices outside the building telling you, 'No, you can't, no, you can't.' You have to have faith that you can. History proves that you can.
Q: Drake Nevis really played well, didn't he?
A: He's played well every, single week. He's really a great addition to this team. I saw Anthony (Booger) McFarland on the field before the game, and it was great to see him. Drake has many of those traits about him. He's a hard-working, tough-minded, physically tough guy. He's a great addition to our team. As we mentioned before, Ben Ijalana grew up right before our eyes and did a terrific job. Those are two, young guys who have come in and made a mark, along with Anthony Castonzo, who did a great job.
Q: What can't we put Curtis Painter more often and let him show he can do the job?
A: I think he's going to be on the field. I don't see any reason why that would change. He did a terrific job last night for a player who has only had two full years in the league and hasn't played very much. He did a terrific job. You could not fault him at all. He had three of four balls dropped on him. He made a couple of throws he might have wanted back and wanted to go to another guy, but he was under duress for the entire fourth quarter because of the injuries on the offensive line. I thought he a terrific job, and he'll be in there.
Q: Jon Gruden talked about how far back our linebacker and secondary played. Is that our strategy because of the guys we have on the field, or was that to prevent the deep ball and keep the score down?
A: We're always trying to keep the score down, that's the objective. Scoring defense is the one statistic that really counts above all others on defense. Without the aid of a telestrator, it's hard for me to do this verbally, but I will do my best. When Pat (Angerer) is back deep, that is a coverage normally called, 'Cover-2,' where the two safeties are wide, they're beyond the hashes (hashmarks), almost to the numbers (on the field). Pat essentially is a third deep defender. He's covering a deep zone. That's the basic premise of Cover-2. You take the middle linebacker, run him back into what's called the 'deep third' and make the quarterback make a hard throw. The antidote to that, which they employed, was to throw the ball underneath, so-called 'check-down passes.' We handled that pretty well, but we will play Cover-2 with Pat back deep almost aligned back deep like that in really long-yardage situations. You may be referring to the third-and-19 and the third-and-14. They did complete a pass for the third-and-14 that had nothing to do with Pat. I think one of our corners got influenced by a deep receiver and didn't react to the ball quickly enough. That's a zone defense. They have to see the quarterback, and they have to react to the ball. There was one play where they had a third-and-14 and we had a coverage bust. A crossing receiver came open and he (Josh Freeman) scrambled a little bit. I do not hear the broadcast, but I did see on the screen at one point a clock that indicated how quickly the passer was getting the ball off, or how long he had to get the ball off. In order for Cover-2 to be effective, you really have to make him get rid of it quickly. There were times where we did that tremendously well, and there were other times we didn't. If you don't, the likelihood is you'll get a completion.
Q: Josh Freeman's like Ben Roethlisberger, right?
A: He's a big, strong guy. I counted four what we call 'shrug offs,' where we got a hand on him and he just shrugged it off and made a play. Twice, once on a bootleg and once on a scramble, he made big plays. He's capable of it. He's a horse, that's for sure.