Happy New Year! These two news items may seem unrelated, but actually they are in the mind of this blogger. As I was watching the 2012 Rose Bowl (where Oregon beat Wisconsin 45 to 38) at The Brickyard In San Francisco (a great place immortalized in a series of YouTube videos I made) a ‘news ticker’ ran across the bottom of the screen announcing that Colts Owner Jim Irsay had fired Indy General Manager Bill Polian. For some reason I let out a loud rebel yell in the freaking middle of the establishment, and didn’t care who wondered if I was a crazy man.
The reason for my reaction is that, with no disrespect intended to Polian personally, he was as much the architect of the Colts failure as he was Indianapolis’ success. Mr. Polian comes from another time in NFL Football, when defenses could draft smaller than average lineman and still be an effective, championship-winning, force. He adopted the philosophy promoted by legendary now-former Colts Head Coach and now NBC Analyst Tony Dungy, and had its most recent success with Defensive End Dwight Freeney, but the problem of the ever-increasing size, strength, and speed of NFL offensive linemen has made that approach a thing of the past.
It’s simple physics, really. Take the extreme logical conclusion of such an idea: it means that someone 5 feet tall can effectively get around a 7 foot offensive lineman. That may be the case, but once the offensive lineman gets a clean block on the 5-footer, it’s all over.
In other words, to what degree, or how far, can one go with that idea? When do you stop? The time seems to be 2012, because teams like the Baltimore Ravens are leading the league with defensive tackles over 6-4 and 300-pounds like Haloti Ngata. Meanwhile, the Colts DT’s clock in at just over 300 pounds, some under, and none over 6-4.
Another problem is that the Colts have drafted a ton of great players, but in working to keep Peyton Manning well-paid, let those players leave for other teams. Finally, the Colts seem to have allowed their offensive system to be molded and shaped by one person, Peyton Manning, and not the coaches. That’s bad unless the Colts stick Manning with the tag of ‘Quarterback / Offensive Coordinator.’
Finally, the Colts were also hampered by the constant selection of undersized offensive linemen. While not to the extent of the defense, it was recognized by football observers as a problem.
All of this falls to Polian, who as the GM could have altered his approach but failed to do so. This is a hypothesis, but it’s possible Irsay didn’t see Polian as capable of making a change in style at this stage of his career.
The move took Peyton Manning by surprise, who, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, was meeting with Polian when Irsay called Bill in to announce the decision. He told the Indianapolis Star “I’m very surprised and shocked.” That’s an expected reaction considering that Polian built the team around Manning.
What About Andrew Luck?
The firing of Polian suddenly places the idea that the Colts will draft Andrew Luck in jeopardy, if you can call it that. Some were pointing to the relationship Bill and his son Team President Chris Polian had with Andrew Luck and his father, West Virginia A.D. Oliver Luck as evidence of Andrew being a shoe-in 2012 NFL First Round Pick.
But this news, coupled with the announcement that Baylor Quarterback and Heisman Trophy Winner Robert Griffin III (Rg3) is coming out after his successful junior year, means the Colts might opt for RG3 rather than Luck in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Considering that RG3 finished light years ahead of the already productive Luck in 2011 NCAA Passing Ratings (167.50 to 189.48), and Luck was the sixth-best QB where Griffin was the second best QB in 2011 NCAA Passing Ratings, it’s hard to make an argument that Griffin would not be a great selection for the Colts.