Colts' Bill Polian gets earful from fans during radio show

December 29, 2009
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Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian only appeared to bench himself during his weekly radio show Monday night on WLHK-FM 97.1.

It was presumed he did so to avoid injury from a stream of angry Colts fans still miffed by the team's refusal to pursue the perfect undefeated season.

Kent Sterling, program director for Emmis Communications, which owns WLHK and WFNI-AM 1070 (where the show was simulcast) said the show was not cut short. In actuality, Sterling explained, due to the show's compelling content, producers allowed Polian's show to run longer than normal without commercial interruption. As the hour ended, Sterling said, it was necessary to run a backlog of commercials.

The show's listeners became upset (more upset than they already were about Sunday's loss) when they perceived that Polian pulled the plug early on the show, which aired Monday from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. It appeared the show ended abruptly when a caller had Polian on the ropes about his philosophy of resting injured players.

Maybe WLHK officials were merely in a hurry to get back to Waylon and Willie. Not true, Sterling said.

The show's host, Bob Lamey, said Polian did not dodge any callers or questions and stayed until several minutes after the show ended.

The highlights of Polian's show were many, including Polian accusing one caller of using talking points in her argument.

The final blow came when Polian tried to explain to another caller that the team emphasizes putting forth maximum effort. The caller responded that pulling starters at a critical time in the game is not giving maximum effort to win.

Polian wanted to know if the caller felt the Colts should play injured players this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in a meaningless game. Polian obviously still doesn’t get that fans don’t think the game would have been meaningless if the Colts had been pursuing perfection.

The caller countered by saying he didn’t object to resting injured players, but to pulling starters Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne who were not injured in any way. It was at this point that the plug was seemingly pulled on the broadcast as quickly as the game against the N.Y. Jets.

I want to state here that Bill Polian has never been anything but professional and polite to me in my countless interview requests in my 11 plus years covering sports business for IBJ. He’s been patient in explaining complicated issues such as the salary cap and NFL collective bargaining agreement, and accommodating when I’ve requested phone or in-person interviews even on short notice.

But Polian seemed less than patient with callers to his show Monday night. Many Colts fans have emailed me calling Polian’s response flat out rude.
One thing is certain. It will take the team’s PR department a bucket of very hot water and a large bottle of extra-strength Mr. Clean to rinse the stain deposited since Sunday on the once shiny Colts’ horseshoe image. In time, the loss may be easier to swallow than the perceived dismissiveness of the fans by Colts brass. At this point, there are more than a few Blue Crew fans wondering, "Is anyone at West 56th Street listening to us?"

I have to wonder if Polian and Colts owner Jim Irsay ever considered the backlash they would face over their decision to tank the perfect season. Surely they didn’t see the surly tsunami that would broadside their 12-year effort to build the Colts into a model NFL franchise. Whatever their transgressions, they’re smart enough to understand it’s that effort that assures the cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium will be filled for years to come.

Still, some would say this misjudgment shows just how out of touch they are with the common fans paying the freight.

The relationship between Colts management and fans has certainly soured a bit.
But, alas, this is the season for forgiveness. Perhaps too it is a season for listening. And for learning.  If it is, at this point, you’d have to wonder what Polian and Irsay have learned.

To err is human. Ahh, but perfection is divine.

  • Stung by the loss
    Polian can't handle angry fans. Interesting! If he and Caldwell are truly that out of touch, then one has to wonder why they are in the positions they are in?

    Go back to the moment of Painter entering the game. Would either of these two gentlemen have put themselves into the game as an untried rookie in the face of the league's number one defense? I think not. Sad for Painter being thrown to the mat as the Jets feasted on him.

    How does that look to leadership and team comraderie now, oh wise ones? How are you going to make nice with fans and disgruntled players? Some fans say the Colts are now a long shot for making the Super Bowl. Perhaps they are also a long shot for keeping key players for next year. You think Saturday, for example, wants to stay around for another year of Caldwell's mind numbing deer in the headlights look? Me thinks perhaps not.

    Polian and Caldwell are going to get what they asked for. Decreasing loyalty from fans and players because they forget the basics. PLAY TO WIN. That is what a true TEAM does and that is apparently what the players wanted! Oh, but I guess what the players wanted wasn't important to the genius management.

    As for me, I'm taking down the blue. While I wish the team well, I will no longer pledge loyalty to a Caldwell guided team - EVER! Enjoy your bus ride out of town, Mr. Caldwell, the sooner the better.
    • Colts vs Jets(Bill P.)
      As a season ticket holder and a hugh fan of the colts I hated to see (US) give up on a game that I felt meant alot. But still just because I dislike one decision Bill made there is no reason to run him out of town. We could have been talking about Ryan Leef.....any many other players that Bill was smart enough to skip over.
    • Complaints

      Intelligence and wisdom have a lot to do with understanding the importance of playing to win. That is what a TEAM is supposed to do. That is what they're paid for and what they are motivated to do. NO GAME is meaningless (excluding preseason games). If so, then why not just forfeit so no one gets hurt???

      Judging by your spelling abilities, perhaps you aren't capable of grasping this?

      Just a thought.......
    • Entertainment Folks
      I am disappointed in all parties involved with the dispute. In no particular order - First, the disgruntled fans. Come on guys - we still have a shot at the super bowl. You are right in saying that the coaches/owners made the wrong decision to take Peyton/starters out, but don't start saying we have given up our chance at a super bowl. Second, I am disappointed with the decision to bench Peyton/starters. The NFL and the Colts organization is in the business of ENTERTAINMENT. Not allowing the Colts to even try for a perfect season is taking away their primary product from the fans. Note... it is the FANS who supply the revenue for these teams to operate. If you tick them off too often, they may stop following. I think it was a bad business decision (among other implications)!
    • Winners?
      Lombardi said it best: "Winners never quit and quitters never win."
    • Reality is...

      This is not new in the NFL but maybe you are a new fan. The Colts and many other teams have pulled starters in order to prevent injury prior to the playoffs. It's happened before and will happen again.
      • Dissappointed
        I too like many, many fans was very disappointed. Several reasons.(1) I pay for two season tickets to see a play it out is something I pay to view. (2) Resting professionals who want to play this once in a lifetime opportunity out, took something away from fans and players. To forfeit the opportunity tells me you are not up to the challenge, that does not feel good. I do remember the New England Patriots in their perfect season as a team that put it all down on the line. They did not lose that game because they competed in December they lost a game to the New York Giants in a great Super Bowl battle. First time I was disappointed in the a time where cash is hard to spend I will think twice before I write that next check. When the players like Manning, Saturday, Clarks, Wayne etc are gone from the Colts organization I hope you have something to sell because your leadership indicated you might not be this lucky again. Long term planning tells the young player in the stand hide from the challenges that may seem unobtainable. Wow that stinks.
      • Logic Failed
        If the Jets game was meaningless then Peyton and Associates should have never been in the game in the first place. They probably shouldn't play in the Bills game as well. Polian and Caldwell's logic has little merit.

        If the Colts don't win a Super Bowl, this will go down in Colts history as one big boner.
        • Colts Have A Problem
          Bill Polian is just repeating the same behavior he showed to local media at a legislative hearing regarding the CIB financial problems.

          When the media asked him if the Colts were going to pitch in to save the CIB, he clearly didn't like being asked the question, got hot and cut the interview short with a few less than polite jabs.

          In so many words saying go s@*& yourself.
        • Blown perfection
          I think Mr. Polian's talents lie in the managment of the team and assessing draft/free agent talent. By no means should he be the sole decision maker on who plays or not in a game. The teams goals are certainly similar as all the teams in the a playoff position, secure home field advantage, win the super bowl. Those are goals for every team. The BS he was spewing last evening during his radio show diplayed his talent ceiling. Stick with what your strengths are. Of course this needs to be identified at the top (ownership). The teams goals for this last decade were never to have the most wins, most consecutive wins in a regular season, etc... These milestones were reached by working to acheive the 3 main goals every season. As you get closer to these milestones, the harder you work to attain them. Sure, nothing was to be gained this year by going 16-0, BUT it's 16-0 and when you are 14-0 and have a City behing you!!!! When you are that close, throw your philosophy out the window and make adjustments. The players could taste a perfect season and just as important so could the fans. I think whats been said is true. Without fans there are no Colts and many fans work very hard to purchase season tickets. Sure ownership can say they have done Indy a favor by even staying in this city, but if they had pulled this somewhere else, I would guess the hammer would be coming down much harder. Mr. Irsay, manage the situation: keep Mr. Polian focused on his stregths. I am not sure his football "philosophy" is 100 percent correct. The radio last evening was an embaressment. We will wait for the apology.
        • Time to rest
          I have this dream where Jim Caldwell is bowling . . . 8 frames and 8 strikes . . . then Bill Polian walks up and informs Caldwell that his "hand-eye coordination" is not what it should be. And Polian makes Caldwell put down the ball and rest. After all, he can always bowl another time.
        • Trying to get a second stoplight!
          We are in a city that is trying to get it's second stoplight. It would have been great for the city to have the INDIANAPOLIS Colts go undefeated. Thanks to Irsay and Polian it won't happen. We will be a Second String city always.
        • Polian show fall out
          This is good stuff too.
        • WIN
          I understand the disappointment of Colt fans this past game. Going undefeated all season would have been great, BUT, this Colts team and the rest of the teams in the NFL, This is about winning a SUPER BOWL, NOT going undefeated, this was a business decision. People, please stand behind the Colts and what was decided and move on. The same thing will happen the next game, just hope our backups can pull it off. GO COLTS
          • question
            Why play Manning, Clark, Wayne et al at all? If the game means nothing and you are not trying to win then why play them more than one series? A player can get hurt on the first series (see Brady) as he can on the last. Stop playing scared. What a joke.
          • Fighting with Fans Is Bad
            I suspect you will be waiting for a very long time before you hear an apology from Bill Polin.

          • Think again!
            I hear a lot of carping about the Colts's decision and remember all the years where there wasn't a playoff to worry about. Look at the injured reserve list and think about how easy it would be to add another key player to it. Everybody seems to be forgetting that there are two goals left to achieve not one. The conference championship comes before the Super Bowl. That means 4 games left to play, if we're lucky.

            Get off their backs. They have gotten us this far and the last 10 years have been pretty terrific.
          • Luv it!
            Come on colts KNEW it was going to happen! You HOPED it wouldn't, but Polian came thru. Don't blame Caldwell -- he's just following orders (didn't Manning say the same thing). When did they win the SP? When they came into the playoffs with a full head of steam. Now the sails (hearts) have been deflated and a lackluster performance is coming against the bills. What is that tried and true saying...those that don't learn from history will repeat it? And Polian ignored BOTH history lessons. I look forward to the colts choking, again, in the playoffs after pulling the starters to blow, another, undefeated season. Are the "dolts" back for good?

            Bring on the ripping of me and the Bears since you've got nothing else. Nothing.
          • From Emmis
            This from Emmis program director Kent Sterling: The Polian Show, as with every radio show, has a certain amount of commercial content that must be played. The first segment that generally ends at 6:13p or so ended last night at 6:23p. That forced the rest of the show to feature a denser load of commercials, and that debt was satisfied toward the end of the show.
          • Disappointed
            I am a Colts fan, but do not live in Indy (I am military). I always take the harassment package dished out to me in NFL cities like Houston, New Orleans, and San Diego, but I have still have worn my Colts blue jersey with pride...until this past Sunday when MY team (since 1984 at 11 years old) gave up the fight, took their offensive & defensive weapons from the 'battlefield,' and surrendered to the opponent, while utterly disrespecting their fans.
            It is true that a perfect season wasn't a stated team goal. But it has ALWAYS been a fan goal! Who doesn't want their team to be perfect? Name the past two Super Bowl winners, and most people have to think about it. Now ask which teams have had an undefeated season, and most will quickly say the Dolphins and the Patriots. We remember perfection because it doesn't happen every year! The coaches/organization took that away from the fans. (And who is paying for that new stadium and the player's salaries?)
            Because I do not live in Indy, I only get to attend a game when they play close to where I live, or when I come home for Christmas. If I had dished out the cash for this game, I would have felt ripped off. You pay to watch your team play hard and WIN, not to 'rest the starters,' or to see the JV team play. You only watch JV when your son/daughter is playing. I will go to the pre-season games if I want to watch the 'up & coming' players; not a regular season game with hopes of completing it undefeated!
            I hope that the Colts win the Super Bowl, otherwise it will be a huge disappointment. My dad used to say that Colts stood for - Count On Losing This Sunday. I guess for (at least) this next game on Sunday, my dad was right again...
          • Perception is Reality
            I like many die-hard Colts fans am completely frustrated from last Sunday's decision to "rest the starters". Having lived here (Central Indiana) for most of my life, one takes complete pride in our sports franchises and its personnel.

            Last Sunday's 3rd quarter decision really needs a full apology from the Colts franchise management. If that is done - I believe all will be well within the community. I agree with another's comment - Mr. Polian had no idea the "tsunami" that would be released from people who give undying support to the this decades' winningest NFL team.

            A couple of points for us to ponder:

            If this past Sunday's game "did not matter", why did the Colts organiztion play everybody and go for the win against Jacksonville? I believe the playoff position was already secured by 12/17/09, therefore that game would be "meaningless" too.

            If one (1) of your goals was to not go undefeated - when you reach 13-0 or 14-0 why wouldn't you "re-adjust" your goals like the rest of corporate America?

            If you truly appreciate your twelfth (12th) man as the Colts organization tells us - why wouldn't put your very best on the field to compete? Why wouldn't you want to reward your faithful base by at least delivering an undefeated season at home and further, send a message to the rest of the league "you are not going to come into our house and win"?

            With history on the line, fans screaming, booing, supporting their team to "run the table" and make NFL history - a very significant part of the emotion, energy and perception died last Sunday afternoon. Sooner or later the Colts organiztion must issue a statement expressing their deepest regret for their error in judgment in removing Peyton and the boys thus "robbing" those who paid to see a competitive game. The GM / President needs to swallow his pride and state, "we just flat out messed up"!

            In closing - Mr. Zupanzic and his Colts marketing staff will have to issue a warning label for all current and future season ticket holders. I imagine it would say something like this on all future tickets and / or invoices: If the Colts record during this upcoming season is 12-3 or 13-2 or even 14-0, "football logic" as Mr. Polian stated "will at some point come into play" and you will probably not get a chance to see "the all pro players or stars" compete during last couple of games. Please still though buy some seats and support your NFL team no matter what decision the front office makes "in the midst of the run".

            With that kind of philosophy it kinda makes you want to go out and drop $4,000 or $5,000 grand for some nice season tickets ... doesn't it?

            How 'bout that apology Mr. Polian???
          • Philosophy
            If the Jets game was meaningless, then the Bills game is even more so. If avoiding injury is what was important...and that is what I am hearing the reason for pulling startes was....then the ONLY reason to start Peyton against the Bills is so his streak of starting games can be extended. Is that streak important? More important than an undefeated season? I guess we will see. Maybe the lesson I should take a way is that in the lesser important meetings I have a work I should send in one of my staff members so that I can rest up for the more important meetings. Suppose I could get away with that as an explaination?
          • Bill...Wrong!!!
            No team starts the season with the goal of going undefeated. It's unrealistic. However, if the opportunity presents itself, you absolutely seize it. The Colts threw away history on Sunday, and they will be justifiably criticized about it whether they win the Super Bowl or lose it. If they win, then they should have pushed for destiny. If they lose, they lost because of their history of resting starters bit them in the you-know-where again for possibly the 4th(?) time.

          • Just Another Good Team
            They could have been forever known as the greatest team that ever played the game. Now the best that the Colts can hope for is to win a single season championship game - just like 83 teams before them. So at best they will merely be considered among the best 84 teams in history, and forgotten just as quickly as the rest.
          • 110%
            If a player sat down at half time to save himself for the next game, he'd be the laughing stock of the league and would be fined to hell and back by both the team and the league offices. If a coach or team exec does that to the starting lineup it's called "strategy." Hypocrisy? Whatever became of the sports mantra, "Give 110% of your effort?"
          • Let's compare . . .
            What if Danica is up in the Indy 500 by a half lap with 2 laps to go? Well since she's looking at Nascar now, she better slow down, she doesn't want to get in a wreck and miss the Brickyard.

            In my opinion, the big question is how to get the TEAM motivated after this. Just look at the faces of Manning, Wayne, Clark, etc. during the Painter debacle (not that it is all Painter's fault, his hands are apparently the size of a 10 year old's). After watching that and being obviously disappointed by missing an undefeated season, how do they get back to where they were? The brakes have been slammed on this momentum train and I just hope the Colts win the big one. If they lose in their first playoff game, the fans won't soon forgive this franchise. I agree with others, someone wins the Super Bowl every year, but a perfect season happens every 30+ years, but its looking like 40+ years for us now at a minimum.
          • admit wrongdoing
            Polian needs to step up to the plate and admit that they made the wrong decision and apologize to the fans and season ticket holders. He's so arrogant that he won't admit it and stands besides his stupid decision. I'm grateful that we have such a great team to cheer for but it's getting so hard to be a fan when this happens all the time.
          • How easy they forget.
            Well, it looks like Bill Polian did not learn from the last time we rested players! WE LOST IN THE FIRST ROUND TO TEAMS WE WERE BETTER THAN! I am not upset that we lost, I am upset that we gave up! If the Colts don't win the Superbowl, I have six season tickets for folks on the waiting list! I refuse to pay that much money to watch a team quit! I love the Colts, and Reggie, DFree, Clark, and Manning will always be some of the greatest to watch, but the uppers attitudes must change.
          • Whose Decision?
            Picking up on the notion that the NFL is all about entertainment, and recognizing that it does a phenomenal job at producing an amazing product, is it not possible that the decision to bench the starters came not from Caldwell, and not from Polian, but from the NFL, who might have been looking at possible future match-ups and TV markets and umpteen playoff scenarios, and decided that letting the Jets live another day would benefit the League as a whole?

            Just looking at the faces of the players, and watching the conversation they showed on TV when Peyton seemed to be pleading with Caldwell, and the latter just kept his head down, one would have to conclude that everyone's hands were tied.

            Just a theory.
          • Bait and Switch
            I agree with 100%. It seems quite clear that Caldwell and whomever else made some decisions about Sunday's game KNEW the starters were going to be pulled. That being the case, it should have been said before gameday therefore allowing people who were considering going to either still go or not. By not saying anything before, how many people at Lucas paid at least face value, if not way above, for tickets in hopes of seeing the Colts continuing to pursue a perfect season. Besides that, the decision to pull starters was equivalent to a mob-like throw the game in the most blatant of manners. I also think by the looks on the starters face's, this benching them was not told to them either. The disgust and "anguish" in watching their perfect season go down the toilet told the real story and feelings they will never say in public. As much as I think the Colts are a top notch org, this move was as dirty as anything that Belicheat as ever done in New England.
          • Very Simple
            The Colts were much closer to going undefeated than they are to winning the Super Bowl, something only achieved by 2 teams in the history of the NFL.

            There is certainly no lock to winning the Super Bowl given how good all the teams are in the playoffs.

            If the Colts go 16-0 and lose in the playoffs, at least they went undefeated. If they go 14-2 and lose in the playoffs, then they are left with nothing.
          • Sit 'em down
            I sure hope Peyton gets to play part of the Buffalo game, as there is such a thing as too much rest.
          • Polian
            Polian swallowed his own poison pill. I can see it now if Pittsburgh gets in the playoffs and they play the Colts.

            Uh oh...........
          • not convinced
            I'm not convinced that Polian didn't exit stage right before the show was over. For those of us listening on Hank FM last night, it sure sounded like an abrupt and premature ending to the show. If it was not intentional, it was certainly produced unprofessionally.
          • Wrong
            To the guy that said sitting starters is nothing new....I challenge you to find me one case ever in major team sports where a team that had a shot at an undefeated season pulled their starters and did not try for the undefeated season. You wouldn't have this uproar if the Colts had been 13-1 and rested the starters. It's because going undefeated is something special and has meant more to every team before them. Evidently the Indianapolis Colts are the only team in history to not value the legacy of going undefeated. When I think of the truly great coaches in history (Lombardi, Wooden, Bob Knight, Bill Belicheat, etc.) can you imagine any of these guys doing this?
          • selfish
            Here is the point that seems to be overlooked. Polian keeps saying it was not one of "our" goals to go undefeated. The problem is, he never defines who he means when he says "our" goals. If he would it would be clear that what he really means is that it was never one of "his" goals. It was clearly a goal of every player on this team (and from the look of Caudwell on the sidelines during the game, it looked like it was one of his goals as well.) Ask any football fan of any intellegence what team went undefeated. They will know it was the 72 dolphins. they will also know that the coach was shula, the players included grise, czonka, morris, etc. The fans remember the coach and the players. But who was the GM of the 72 dolphins... most people, including me, don't know or care. Why does going undefeated mean nothing to Polian... because it meant nothing to the person making the call... Damn everyone else, who it mean something to. That is what i trully call selfish... an entire city of fans was cheated, and more importantly all of the players who strived all season were cheated out of a chance of immortality. Why because it didn't matter personally to the man making the call.
          • I'll hold my tongue - for now
            Even though seeing the Colts beaten in the first game I have attended in person in over 10 years was a disappointment, I have to admit what the Colts management team has done over the last decade is pretty amazing.
            Another concern I have is the Colts history when we rest our starters. We seem to lose every time. The weeks leading up to the playoffs we rest our starters, get out of sync and get embarrassed. All but one time when we eventually won the super bowl. Then we had to play our way in and couldn't afford to rest the starters. They had to play or we go home. Was this history taken into consideration or have we not learned from our mistakes?
            All this being said, if we lose in the playoffs, especially early on, the discussion on this decision will get even more ugly in a hurry. But for now, I'll hold my tongue.
          • wrong
            No team has ever pulled its starters when 14-0, going on 15-0. Bad move for the NFL and for the Colts.
          • Get a clue
            ...that so many people even care about a buncha millionaire athletes/ team about considering taking all the money people throw away on football (and other stupid games) and spending it on educating children, providing care for the sick and elderly in our community, build some more parks, fix the roads, etc...I've never in my life sen a more idiotic, whiney bunch of people than 'sports fans' along with the morons who play the games, own the teams and the idiots who write about them...get a clue and a life would y'all?!!!

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          5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim