Irsay, Polian and Manning must change Colts' course

January 10, 2011
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Any good business person knows that no matter how successful you’ve been in the past, the best result for the future sometimes requires a change in course. And that change can seem quite radical—even scary.

Despite all the winning seasons, divisional crowns and two Super Bowl trips, it’s now time for Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, team president Bill Polian and quarterback Peyton Manning to deviate from the course they’ve been on for more than a decade.

It might be wise for Irsay to stop the talk of making Manning the highest paid player in the National Football League and instead sit down with his president and franchise quarterback for a frank discussion about priorities.

If Manning’s priority is to get all that he has coming to him financially, then this off-season, when he becomes a free agent, No. 18 should get the fattest contract there is. There’s no argument here that he’s the greatest quarterback in the game right now.

But if his top priority is winning championships, he might want to re-think that. The Colts would be better served if Manning would take a pass on some of the millions he has coming to him so Polian can invest that in a few key acquisitions.

Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, might require some convincing. But I’m guessing at this point, Condon serves largely at the will of Manning when it comes to the Colts quarterback’s contract.

The next step for Irsay is to convince Polian that it’s time to change his strategy of building solely through the draft. Manning, who turns 35 on March 24, won’t be around forever.
There’s no longer enough time to merely build the Colts’ roster through the draft. Yes, they’ll get better just by getting healthy, but they still need a receiver and running back with breakaway speed now—not someone that will take two or three years to learn how to play football at the pro level. An offensive lineman who can blow somebody off the line of scrimmage would be nice, and the defense and special teams could also use a short-term boost here and there.

If Polian refuses to change his course, and the Colts fail to win another Super Bowl while they have the services of one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, I think NFL historians will revise their appraisal on Polian’s abilities as a team executive.

There will be plenty of blame to go around. Irsay, for all the good he’s done to step out of his father’s shadow and turn this franchise into a winner, will be remembered more for his brash, misguided promises of turning Manning into Richie Rich than the single Super Bowl title he brought to Indianapolis.

Changing course can be difficult to do. Especially when the old course has scored so much success.

But any football guru knows, you don’t run a standard offense when a two-minute drill is warranted.

  • Union Issue
    I don't believe other folks in the NFL will appreciate Manning taking a pay cut since their salaries are directly related to his. Polian is the best there is; he is not the problem. Injuries killed this team this year especially at key skilled positions (Gonzo, Collie, Clark, whole secondary, Sessions, etc.) where speed is so crucial. Colts will be back stronger than ever next seasib. Tony, however, hopefully you will not be. You stink as a reporter.
    • Agree with Partyville
      Well put. Injuries are what eventually brought this team down (and a stupid decision by the coach...again). Lot's of young players got experience that will make the Colts much better next year.

      Go Horse!!
    • Great Blog
      I could not agree with you more. The Colts have plenty of young guys that are showing promise. During the offseason, the injured players will rest up and come back stronger than ever. The primary goal should be making 2 or 3 key acquisitions to bring in veteran players that can help the Colts win the Lombardi trophy next year. Replacing the Special Teams Coordinator should be Polian's next priority.
    • I agree
      Even when they're healthy, the Colts have a couple huge weaknesses - the running game the front line are simply not up to snuff. Shore up the front line with a couple big veterans who can keep a hole open long enough for a run, and this team could be unstoppable.
    • Greatest Quarterback?
      You wrote: "Thereâ??s no argument here that heâ??s the greatest quarterback in the game right now."
      Outside of Indiana, the rest of the USA would argue that Peyton is clearly the "second-greatest" QB in the game right now.
      Just like the Pacers, the problem is the coach. Nothing else really is wrong.
    • Find someone else to write sports
      I wish I had time to go back through all of the dumb articles written on sports over the past year by this guy Tony. It always seems to convey little knowledge and its like it is there to try and get a bandwagon going....except people see that you are wrong. Every time the Colts struggle I hear people say Polian is at fault. Keep that up and he will end up leaving and the Colts will really suck. You don't change the strategy of building a team based on the failure of a couple of games. Most all of these players that are on IR are KEY to this team. And those KEY players were added through the draft. Keep up the good work done in the past Colts, and next year will turn out fine.
      • Waste of Time
        Your blog just doesn't make any sense, unfortunately Partyville is correct.
      • Peyton
        Glenn, don't get carried away. If you asked any NFL GM or coach who they would take as QB of their team, Peyton Manning would be on a very short list of 2. So the assertion that Manning is the greatest QB in the game right now is not all that far-fetched. Bill, the fact that you think this blog post makes no sense shows your ignorance. Have a nice day.
      • Haters, don't let the door hit you...
        If you don't like the content of this blog, don't read it. There's no reason to diss the blogger. Plus, I doubt any of you haters could write anything close to Tony's posts.

        As for the Colts, I doubt they'll suffer the loss of so many key players in one season again. In Polian I trust to know what's the best course of action for this team.

        Still, that was a really bozo timeout called by Coach Caldwell late in the game.
      • Time for change?
        Change? The only change needed is the coaching staff. I'm sorry but Caldwell is not a motivator or disciplinarian. Had I been Caldwell, I would've fired my special teams coach right on the sideline after that poor performance of kick coverage (the whole game stunk not just at the end). Plus that bone-head time out... oh yeah, how about the idea of letting the clock run out just before half time with 20+ seconds left and a time out to boot. Why not try for a field goal knowing Mr. Clutch is your kicker. Bye bye Caldwell.
      • Clueless Tony Award
        Tony did you just move to indy this weekend. Polian is a genius when it comes to building a franchise. This team lost over 33% of its front line roster to injury and still made playoffs. Next year the backups will be more experienced and the team will excell
        • Lee: Really?
          Say what you want about this year's injuries, but how long has it been since this team could run the ball and/or stop the run consistently? I'd say at least 5 yrs. since they could run it and never since 18 has been here have they been ever to stop it (consistently). Where is the accountability for that failure?
          What about drafting Hughes who hasn't done anything while Raheem Brock is getting a sack on every other play for the Seahawks lately? Ryan Lilja had a pro bowl-caliber year. Too bad it wasn't with the Colts.
          The biggest problem with Caldwell and Polian is that they cannot admit when they are wrong and then do the right thing.
          • What the Colts need
            First off they need to change their philosophy on defense. Along that line they need to get rid of Bob Sanders instead of "hoping" on him playing 2 games a year.

            2. Let go of Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez. Collie for his long term health and Gonzalez because he is out if someone breaths on him hard.

            3. Get a new RB corp. My God this year the free agent market is loaded with Free agent RB's not to mention the draft.

            4. Draft some high quality Offensive Lineman that can run block for the new running game.

            5. Either through free agency or the draft, acquire a couple tall athletic receivers for Peyton to throw to, we are constantly playing with a disadvantage having short receivers that can be covered easily.

            • New Coach
              I think it is time Jim "Chris Webber" Caldwell and his timeout calling goes on down the road!
            • injuries
              I think Anthony is asking a legit question.
              Could some of the $ that Peyton commands be spread to upgrade other areas of the team, including punt and kickoff returns and coverage, the O line (to produce a run game), even secondary back-ups?

              Granted, injuries to Clark and the secondary were a huge problem for the Colts this year. But the coverage teams and run game have suffered for years.
            • Special Teams
              Starting with the on-side kick in last years Super Bowl and ending with the kick return that resulted in our latest loss, we have a special teams problem that needs to be fixed. Maybe a new special teams coach would help.
            • Big 3?
              Where else but the colts would you you find a player given as much authority if you will as Mannning at the same level as owner Irsey and president Polian. Thats the problem to many cooks in the kitchen. #2 Manning's record in playoffs and division and championship games is a miserable 9 wins with 10 losses. Check out Brady's record.
              p.s Irsey has always had a big mouth!
            • Bad Draft Position
              The problem is that we aren't getting high round draft picks. When you pick lineman at the bottom of the draft, the talent pool isn't that big. Polian has been good at finding a few talneted guys to fill the holes but overall the talent level is not as good. Look at the upcoming draft. The Patriots have stockpiled picks for the draft that will give them the talent to build for another five year run at the top of the league. When the Patriot want to let someone go, they trade them early. They don't just let them walk away at the end of their contract with nothing in return like Polian.
            • dont be a blind homer
              sr: I hardly think you can lay the blame of all the playoff losses on manning. He is one guy. Lack of special teams, lack of balanced defense, lack of a running game have hurt them in many, many games, including the playoffs.
              @Partyville: dont be such a blind homer. Collie will not return. There are many issues that need fixing; IMO in this order (1) Head coach (2) Special teams (3) defense balance, @safety & LB, (4) O-line, esp at LT position. Losing Lilja was HUGE mistake, thanks Bill Pollian.
            • Just the Facts!
              bob:No blame here. Just stating the facts. The almighty Manning's record in big games sucks. This record does not put him at the top of the heep to be the highest paid player in the league. He is by far not the best quarterback in the game today. I would take Brady every day of the week and twice on Sundays over Manning. Brady is a proven consistent winner unlike Mr. Manning..Consistent being the key word and has delivered with far less talent at receiver over time than Manning has had.I bet if a little more research is done I probably could come up with a few more quaterbacks out there that have delivered for their teams in big game situations that would be far better than Manning's 9 and 10 loss record. The facts never lie!!!
              • Union is standing between fans and good football
                Football players are supposed to win games, not squeeze out every penny to set up the next four generations of their families.

                If Peyton is a real football player he will "settle" for 10-12 mil and leave the other 8-10 for two or three other studs
              • BTW
                Brock has 9 sacks on the season. He would have made $3.5 M if the Colts would have kept him this past season. There is NO way he was worth that kind of money.
                Given the injuries, Colts management and coaches did one hell of an amazing job of keeping this team highly competitive.
              • misguided
                firstly, manning has a horrible playoff record-only the superbowl-less marino's is worse. so whether he is best or not is debatable. Polian is not the best there is-he is 1 for 7 in superbowls and doesnt comprehend the art of free agency.manning must take a pay cut and need speed at wr and rb.
              • Polian not good
                Bill Polian stinks, 6 superbowl appearances, with Bills, and Colts. One win, enough said.Hes a great the best superbowl building loser in the buisness. Colts defense is horrible. Last year in the Superbowl they could not stop new Orleans in the second half at all, nice coaching staff, but you Colts fans keep believing, I hope he leaves their sorry butts. They should have at the least four superbowls with Manning at the helm. GM hires the coaches, Peyton go where you have a defense and running game while you still can, Brady always has had a defense behind him, thats why he will be getting his fourth ring with five appearances so far. Colts fans you live in fantasy land.
                • Brady better coaching staff by far
                  Remember to that Brady has always had the best coach in the game. Also Brady has ALWAYS!! had a superb defense behind him defense wins championships. They are both the best as far as i'm concerned, matter of who has the better coaching staff all around and Manning never has, he's lucky he has one being there in Indy. I personall hope he leaves their sorry butts.
                • Polian is a huge part of the problem
                  I disagree. Polian isn't totally to blame, but he's a huge part of the problem. He makes all the moves and decides who is drafted and it's his idea to build through the draft with undrafted rookies and 6th and 7th round picks. This strategy has been affective in the regular when you don't have to play the heavyweights, but come playoff time it should finally hit home that you need players who are naturally talented, not players who you've had to develop because other teams didn't want them. Why do you think the Colts suck every year come playoff time? Because they are one of the few teams who build solely through the draft and seldomly reach into the free-agent market. Manning should take a pay cut, to help his team get better. Brady is the best in the game and he took a pay cut. This past season showed us that. Injuries are no excuse as they are part of the game. Look at what Brady did with rookie tight ends and washed up has been receivers! The Colts coaching is also very suspect. I wouldn't have hired Jim Caldwell. He was a failure as a college coach, but somehow they thought he would succeed at the pro lever? Very dumb move!
                • Spygate Land
                  You think Brady will have a 4th post Spygate scandal? Ironic how you call Colt fans living in fantasy land when clearly, the Patriots have won those 3 that they have with the aid of that awful thing called cheating. Think twice before making remarks like that.
                • Colts
                  Polian is the best there is? Lets look at our past 4 1st round draft picks. Gonzo bust, Brown bust, addai is solid and plays his role good but not worth a first round pick and dont get me started on hughes who had 3 tackles this year. All of of our best picks come from the 5th 6th or 7th rounds. Bethea and mcaffee are a few to name. We need so much its not even funny.

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