What the Front Office Has Done Wrong

There are words and phrases that I hate.

Among my least favorite these days is, “Held accountable”.

“The Coaches should be held accountable!” “The Polians should be held accountable!” “Jim Irsay should be held accountable!”

What does that even mean? Blamed? Fired? Given a stern talking to?

I believe people should say what they mean instead of tossing around weak euphemisms devoid of meaning. The Colts dropped to 0-8 yesterday in lackluster fashion.

You can take your accountability straight to the unemployment line.

I’ve been steadfast in arguing that this dumpster fire of a season was inevitable. I don’t believe a better coaching staff would have won more than a game or so this year. I also don’t believe this coaching staff has a clue what they are doing and it’s the wrong crew to lead the Colts going forward.

I’ve also been adamant that the Colts front office should not be fired, and that anyone claiming they should be is either incredibly short-sighted or rankly self-involved. The Colts have just had an unprecedented run of success, and one losing season, no matter how bad, does not undo or invalidate that. It’s foolish to say otherwise.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been mistakes by the front office. There have been. There are four primary areas in which the Polians particularly deserve blame for the mess that is 2011:

1. They have let Caldwell persist in being too conservative.

After Caldwell cost the Colts a Super Bowl with his over-conservative coaching, Bill Polian should have sat him down and read him the riot act. He should have pounded it into Caldwell’s head that aggression wins games. Whether Polian believes this or not, I don’t know.

But he should believe it. It’s true.

Caldwell’s coaching style has a lot of positives, but he completely fails to grasp game situations. His field goal attempt down 20 in the third quarter was one of the dumbest plays I’ve seen a coach make since, well, he tried to punt against KC a month ago. More than giving Caldwell the freedom to take chances, the front office should have held his feet to the fire demanding that he do so.

You want accountability? “Jim, if you freaking punt on fourth and short, you’re fired.”

That’s accountability.

2. They have fostered an atmosphere of arrogance.

Bill Polian is an arrogant guy. He has a right to be. He’s one of the greatest team builders in NFL history. Arrogance is not a helpful quality in an organization, however. What I have seen from the Indy coaches this year has been an atmosphere of arrogance.

When Peyton went down, they did not convert to a run heavy offense.

When Painter came in against Pittsburgh, they did not convert to a run heavy offense.

In New Orleans in a raucous dome, they did not convert to a run heavy offense.

Yesterday, they threw on the first 8 plays.

That’s either heinously stupid or just plain arrogant.

The Colts coaches have acted like it’s the system that has produced all these wins over the past decade. It’s as if they believe that if they just keep doing their thing, it’ll all work out.

Newsflash: IT’S NOT WORKING OUT.

This unwavering almost blind belief in their own talents and processes is foolish. It filters straight from the top down through the coaching staff. There’s been little change or alteration to the system in 8 weeks. Other than fewer deep routes (which Indy barely ran at the end of last year anyway), the Colts offense looks the same. Lots of Painter throwing short passes.

I have an unwavering almost blind belief too. It’s in Peyton F. Manning.

You see, he’s the one who has been winning games for the last decade, not the coaches. He’s the one who made the system work.

3. They rebuilt the wrong part of the team.

The Colts needed to rebuild the secondary. Instead, they focused on the offensive line. HUGE mistake. The O-line is better, but o-line play is not nearly as important to winning as a good pass defense. I railed all last off-season about the pass defense. They focused on the line. The results: a team that can run great and can’t stop the pass. Yippie.

I told you months ago: they learned the wrong lesson.

4. They have alienated the local media.

I don’t care much about this one. Media people don’t realize that ‘normal’ people generally dislike and distrust the media. They don’t care that the Colts are draconian in their policies. They don’t care that the special teams coach isn’t allowed to talk to the press. They cheer when media guys get stiffed.

In this case, however, the Colts front office has made this season more painful and unnecessarily fraught with danger by their actions.

The worst, and I mean the WORST, thing Jim Irsay could do in response to this year would be to fire the Polians. It would be a mistake of cataclysmic proportion. Yet there are many in the local media that are openly rooting for it. Why?

Because the Polians have made their lives miserable for a decade.

Let’s face it, a new regime in Indianapolis would be great for the press. It might even mean internet journalists had half a chance. It would be awful for the Colts, but the press would love it.

The Polians have hastened their own demise by treating people like dirt. That’s too bad.

They blew it back in 2009 when they failed to inform fans they would be pulling starters against the Jets. The decision was correct, and I have no problem with it, but when you don’t tell people who bought tickets for Christmas what the plan is, then you engender wrath. The Colts aren’t media savvy. Now is when you need to call in favors. Now is when you need goodwill with the local press and fans. Now is when you keep people from calling for your head.

If the Polians get tossed, it’s their own fault for treating people like crap. It will hurt, even devastate the team for years to come.

It will also be their own damn fault.

The following things are NOT crimes committed by the front office:

  • Bad drafting. This point has been proven a thousand times over. This team drafts well. Anyone arguing differently is not being objective about the draft. Yes, Jerry Hughes was a bust. We get it. So was almost everyone else taken around him (ESPECIALLY Rodger Saffold). As for guys like Don Brown, I blame the coaches. He’s a talented player. They just haven’t figured out how to use him. That’s a coaching problem, not a front office mistake.
  • Cutting Tryon. People need to let this go. Justin Tryon is not a difference maker. Was it a weird move? Yes. Was there a reason for it? I suspect there was. It might even have been a pretty good one. Their only screw up was not coming out and announcing why they did it. This goes back to #4. They don’t care about how they are perceived by fans and the media. They should. It would help the team in the long run.
  • Signing Kerry Collins. For FOUR MILLION DOLLARS!!!! Listen, everyone backed Collins at the time as a good move. Did it work? No. Did it matter? No. And don’t give me that “$4 million could have been used somewhere else” crap. You think any decent free agent is coming to Indy for a one year $4 million contract? Seriously? Please. Hey, did I mention FOUR MILLION DOLLARS!!!!
  • Not having a real backup plan to Manning. Again, having a real backup all these years would have weakened the rest of the team. Trading a win or two from 2007-2010 might have cost the Colts a playoff spot and would have netted them an extra couple of wins this year. NOT WORTH IT! Building the team around Peyton was absolutely the right thing to do. They maximized the roster and made everything fit around Peyton. That was stone cold the right way to go. This season doesn’t invalidate the Colts’ strategy. The previous 10 seasons are more than enough validation.
  • The Cover-2. Hiring Larry Coyer…that’s a sin. The Cover-2 is failing because Coyer has bastardized it. The team has no coherent vision on defense. Coyer has turned a simple scheme into something apparently so complex that corners can’t figure out their depths. Want to kill them? Kill them for Coyer, not for the Cover-2. We need MORE Cover-2, not less. 2011 doesn’t invalidate the Cover-2 any more than it invalidates the no-huddle just because Curtis Painter sucks at running it.

The Colts need a new coaching staff. This one is philosophically bankrupt. Coaches are easy to find. Top level front offices are much more difficult to construct.

Blame the front office for the mistakes they’ve made. They aren’t perfect. They aren’t without fault.

As for those who want to run the Polians out of town…you will be held accountable.

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