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: Who is really responsible for all the number one draft picks we choose?
A: Well, I'm responsible. I don't know how far back you want to go and I'd have to…help me out on this Bob (asks host Bob Lamey for the list since 2005)…Donald Brown, Jerry Hughes. Neither of them have made a mark at this point so criticism there is certainly warranted. (Anthony Gonzalez) Gonzo had two years and then has been hurt since then, so you can't really consider that a bust other than the fact he hasn't been on the field, but that's no one's fault. You can't predict that and there was no evidence of that at Ohio State. (Host Bob Lamey reconstructs the picks of Marlin Jackson in 2005, Joseph Addai in 2006, Gonzalez in 2007, no number one in 2008, but Mike Pollak was second-round pick, then Brown, Hughes and Anthony Castonzo.) Marlin Jackson, not bad…Addai, pretty good. A mixed bag, and that's what you'd expect. We've drafted low in every case and that is what it is. You'd like to be there that's what you're striving for so you are not going to hit on every pick. That's another fallacy that you hit on every first round draft pick, you don't. I haven't throughout my career. I've hit on more than I've missed on. But I'm responsible and particularly if these last two are going to be criticized, than I'm the guy to criticize.
Q: You have to look at the entire draft, not just the first round, don't you?
A: That's true and we've had really great success down the line with collegiate free agents. But our caller was criticizing first-round draft picks and he's right to do so. That's my responsibility and the last two, now the jury is still out of course, but they haven't become starters. There's still time, though.
Q: On if the team wanted to challenge whether Colt McCoy was past the scrimmage line on the touchdown pass to Evan Moore?
A: We thought in looking at it that it might have been but then when you saw the replay, it was really kind of too close to call.
Q: How is Peyton Manning getting along?
A: He's convalescing from the surgery, and that will take a little while yet. Then at some point the doctors will bring him back and assess his situation. We aren't sure when that will take place. He's up and around, I can tell you that. I've talked to him, and he's feeling pretty good. But it is surgery and anybody that's had surgery will recognize there is a period of time afterwards where it takes its toll on you. That's where he is right now. It's fair to say he's coming out of that stage at this point and getting into the recuperation process, but nothing much more than that.
Q: What is the situation with Curtis Painter, particularly if the team were to draft a quarterback next year like Andrew Luck or Kellen Moore?
A: First of all, Andrew Luck is an underclassman. I can't comment on him at all. I hope we don't finish high enough to get the number one draft pick. But with respect to Curtis, my feeling is that Curtis has a chance to be a pretty good quarterback in this league. We went with Kerry because we assumed, and correctly so, that Kerry had the experience and the wisdom and the fortitude to be able to withstand what would be tough sledding at the outset. He's done a great job of that. Curtis being inexperienced, that's a tough load to put on a young guy, but I'm sure Curtis will get a chance to play before the season's over. No one here is quitting on Curtis. We think he's a darned good prospect. It's only his third year. A lot of players take a little while to play at that position. We think Curtis has a good future here.
Q: Is the loss of Peyton Manning exposing the quality of the defense?
A: No, I don't think so. We've won a lot of football games here. We have not had the kind of defense that the so-called 'experts' like because we don't have a lot of 350-pounders on the front. I've heard all kinds of statements made about our defense, 'We're built to play with a lead.' How many come from behind victories has Peyton had in his career? (Host Bob Lamey indicates more than 40.) So that's 40 some times we haven't had a lead and we won the football game. There are lots of bromides out there that don't really make a lot of sense. We were dominant down the stretch the year we won the Super Bowl. In (20)05 and (20)06, you could argue we were one of the most dominant defenses in all of football. Statistically I think that was true, and we didn't win the Super Bowl those particular years. The year we went 14-2 a couple of years ago and went to the Super Bowl we were darn good defensively. I don't think our defense has been as terrible as people make it out to be, if you will. Secondly, I think that when they do the things we ask them to do and when they play fast and fly as they did yesterday and play as physically as they did yesterday, they are a very good defense. Now as I said at the outset of the show, I believe we have some things to clean up on the back end, but we'll get that done. We can improve there, and I'm certain we will. I'm not at all down on our defense and in fact if anything, I'm really proud of how our defense front seven played yesterday. I should add the safeties as well. The way those guys played was really great against a team that really wants to come after you and run the ball and pound it and has a great pounding running back. Peyton Hillis isn't a name many people know because they haven't been on Monday Night Football and, as I said, the gurus don't talk about him a lot. He's a heck of a football player. We more than held our own with him. That's a positive sign. If anything our defense came out of that game feeling good about themselves, and they should.
Q: Also, the defense has been put in tough positions on the field and held opponents to field goals, correct?
A: We didn't play nearly as well defensively in Houston as we did yesterday. We really got after it yesterday. We knocked them around and gave it as well as we got. Fili (Moala) went out early with a high ankle sprain. Still playing a little short-handed at (defensive) tackle, we did a heck of a job. Our three linebackers just really stood in there toe-to-toe and dealt out punishment. They played good football and so did our front. All four ends played very well. It was really a good effort. I am very proud of the way they did (play). Our guys should feel happy and proud of what we did yesterday. We have to clean up the back end on third down but other than that, we did a fine job.
Q: Is there any way the officiating could be fair to both teams?
A: We have always coached penalty avoidance. We believe it's an absolute tenet of how to play well. Now statistically in recent years, that hasn't been as good a barometer as it used to be. It used to be in the '80s and the '90s, the teams that were in the playoffs were the least- penalized teams always. That's not true anymore. Truthfully, I don't know what that means. The bottom line is that we still believe that penalty avoidance is a good thing. There is nothing you can do about what the guys in the striped shirts do. I've long since stop worrying about it. You can't control it. It is what it is. If it goes against you, you just have to shrug your shoulders and move on and overcome it.
Q: Do you want to add one more comment to the last call?
A: We're not allowed to voice our opinion of the officiating, and that's fair. Any fan obviously is entitled to voice theirs. The one point that really should be emphasized is you cannot use it as a crutch. By that I mean we cannot use it – players, coaches, staff – as a crutch. You just can't. Forget about it. It doesn't exist, move on. The fans are upset. They have every right to voice their opinion, and that's fair.
Q: Pittsburgh bounced back from an opening loss to beat Seattle. They will be ready from the first whistle on Sunday, won't they?
A: They present a very difficult problem because they do so much blitzing, and they do it in so many creative ways. They make you find the open guy consistently. We have, ironically enough, always had pretty good luck against them, even a close game in the playoffs in '05, the year that they went to the Super Bowl. They present a very big problem to our offense. (First) knowing who to block and (then) trying to block them, not easy. Secondly, in (Ben) Roethlisberger, they have a guy who's pretty darn hard to rush. To get him out of the game yesterday, the other team had to commit a penalty. He only went out for two plays. He's a big, strong guy and he's been wonderful since he came back from the suspension and more power to him. I am thrilled for him. He's really done a great job. On the field, he can do anything you want. He can throw it 80 yards. He can run it. He can throw it 10 yards with touch. He can do anything you want a quarterback to do and, of course, he's very comfortable in that offense. They've re-made their offense a little bit. They still run the ball very well with (Rashard) Mendenhall, but they've got three flyers on the outside, (Mike) Wallace being the most notable of them who can really go get the ball. They have to me a guy who is, without a doubt, a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in Hines Ward. A great, great ballplayer, a tough guy, the leader of that team. All of these other guys get all this mention on television and radio and print. He (Ward) doesn't but you know what, he's had a better career than anybody.
Q: He's nearing 1,000 catches and only three guys have done that.
A: That's the company he belongs in.