Offended Line

Much is being made right now out of Jeff Saturday’s comments about the offensive line.

The whole hullabaloo started when Polian made disparaging comments about the line’s play in the Super Bowl, despite some evidence that they had a decent enough game.

While I totally understand Saturday’s desire not to see his brethren be made the scape goats for losing the Super Bowl (especially when Caldwell and Hank Baskett are so readily available), I think people are missing the point behind what Polian said originally.

The only play the line can clearly be faulted for was the 3rd and 1 debacle at the end of the first half.  Granted that was a huge, game changing play but the O line was only half responsible for it.  The real blame falls on Caldwell for making his first massive tactical error of the day.  Some wackos acted like Polian was trying to protect Manning by blaming the line.  He wasn’t.  Manning needs no cover.  He played great.  By blaming the offensive line, Bill Polian was covering Jim Caldwell’s butt essentially saying, “it was a good call to run, but the players didn’t execute”.  The Colts have handled this entire offseason by placing a deflector shield around Caldwell.  He didn’t answer questions after the game.  He hasn’t talked about his massive brain cramp in sending in Stover yet.  He hasn’t had to answer for anything he screwed up that last night.  That tells me that he must have taken the loss pretty hard.  Maybe he blames himself, I don’t know.  I certainly blame him.

Moreover, I took Polian’s comments about both the offensive line and the special teams as a signal that change is coming to those units.  Was it fair to say the O-line cost Indy the Super Bowl?  No, absolutely not. Is it fair to say the O-line is mediocre at best and was one of the weakest units the team has had for the past two seasons?  Without a doubt.  Other than Saturday and Lilja, the Colts have no linemen that could be considered even slightly above average.  Every statistical analysis shows that quarterbacks are more responsible for sacks than linemen.  So given the fact that the Colts line is awful at run blocking, I’d say it’s safe to say it’s a problem area.

Anyone analyzing the Colts right now would put offensive line and special teams as the two biggest priorties for improvement heading into 2010.  That makes it unsurprising that Polian would single those units out.  It is unfair, but he’s preparing the ground emotionally for changes to come.  The Colts can’t do anything about the real reason they lost the Super Bowl.  They aren’t going to fire Caldwell for being too conservative, and obviously Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon are safe.  What they can do is fix the special teams (which were a massive problem: bad return, missed FG, failure to recover onside kick), and the offensive line.

Essentially Polian was throwing players under the bus who aren’t going to be playing (or at least starting) for the Colts next year.  It’s unfair in the specific sense and sort of heartless, but it keeps him from having to kill his coach or his star wideout or a young good player like Garcon.  By blaming the O line, Polian gets his scape goat AND when the Colts open up 2010 with a new left tackle or a new right guard he can say, “we fixed the problem!”.

And he’ll be right.  The offensive line IS a problem.

Just not in the final game.

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