Posted October 16, 2013

Colts-Broncos media dust-up is more about Bill Polian, less about Peyton Manning

Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts
Bill Polian (left), Peyton Manning, and Jim Irsay in Aug. 2010, before things got weird.

Bill Polian (left), Peyton Manning, and Jim Irsay in Aug. 2010, before things got weird. (Michael Conroy/AP)

The only thing better than a prime-time matchup between two great NFL teams is one in which there’s a compelling backstory with histories that go back years. And the only thing better than that, perhaps, is a backstory that somehow creates a media feud in the middle of the week before the game. That’s what he have on our hands in preparation for the Sunday Night Football game between the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos at Indy’s Lucas Oil Stadium. Peyton Manning will return to Lucas Oil as a player for the first time since the end of the 2010 season, as he missed the 2011 season with a series of neck and shoulder injuries. Colts owner Jim Irsay made the tough decision to release Manning before the 2012 season began, and turned his first overall draft pick (earned the hard way through a 2-14 record without Manning the year before) into Andrew Luck. The Broncos signed Manning to a five-year, $96 million contract in March of 2012.

It would seem that both teams got what they wanted. The Colts passed on Manning’s $28 million bonus and grabbed the most highly coveted quarterback prospect of his generation. Luck has lived up to all the hype — a nearly impossible task. The Broncos are on pace to set all kinds of records for offensive dynamism, and Manning looks better than ever.

A win-win? Seemed like an obvious conclusion. However, when Irsay spoke with USA Today‘s Jarrett Bell about the move from Manning to Luck this week, he said some things that got pretty far up the nose of Broncos head coach John Fox. Irsay recalled in the article that with his departure inevitable, Manning told the team owner that he had to select Luck in the draft.

“I think it’s perfect,” Irsay said. “What’s happened is what Peyton and I hoped would happen. The desire was for him to get well and get to a team that has a chance to win another Super Bowl before his career ended. And our desire was to be able to transition to Andrew. To be so good so soon is stunning.”

BENOIT: Breaking down Luck vs. Manning, a battle of QB heavyweights

Still all good, right? Well, it was until Irsay delved into what he saw as a very necessary franchise implosion.

“We’ve changed our model a little bit, because we wanted more than one of these,” Irsay said, pointing to the ring his team earned by beating the Chicago Bears, 29-17, in Super Bowl XLI.

The Colts went back to the biggest game three years later, only to lose, 31-17, to the New Orleans Saints. From there things started to go downhill.

“[Tom] Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these,” Irsay recalled to Bell, pointing again to the ring. “Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two and we had one. That leaves you frustrated. You make the playoffs 11 times, and you’re out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin [Harrison] and Reggie [Wayne]. Mostly, you love this.”

“This,” of course, is the ring.

Fox went on his weekly appearance on SIRIUS NFL Radio this week and blasted Irsay for the take on the single Super Bowl won.

“To me, in my opinion, they were disappointing and inappropriate,” Fox said of Irsay’s coments. “I mean, Peyton would never say anything. He’s too classy to do that. But they sounded a little ungrateful and unappreciative to me for a guy that has set a standard, won a Super Bowl, won division titles, won four MVP awards. I’d be thankful with that one Super Bowl ring because there’s a lot of people that don’t have one.”

Irsay, as he’s wont to do, responded comprehensively on Twitter.

And in the end, Irsay was right — he had to hire people who could create a more well-rounded team. Because in his last five years with the Colts organization (2007-11), team president Bill Polian gave the franchise little to work with. None of his first-round picks (receiver Anthony Gonzalez, running back Donald Brown, defensive end Jerry Hughes, and offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo) have played to that level, or anywhere near it. And from a depth perspective, only receiver Austin Collie (fourth round, 2009), defensive tackle Fili Moala (second round, 2009) and linebacker Pat Angerer (second round, 2010) have made the kinds of strides one must expect from players taken deeper in the draft. There is no other way to succeed consistently in the NFL. If you start blowing your drafts, you will fall to earth with a massive “thud,” and it doesn’t really matter how good you are — even at the game’s most important position.

Irsay hired general manager Ryan Grigson to replace Polian and head coach Chuck Pagano to replace Jim Caldwell, and Grigson’s first draft provided more immediately valuable players for the Colts than Polian’s had in five years.  Luck lived up to his promise by redefining the franchise, but the new brain trust also made wise decisions in tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, running back Vick Ballard and receiver T.Y. Hilton. The Colts went from 2-14 to 11-5 in one season with the balance Irsay desired, and they’re one of the AFC’s top contenders at 4-2 right now.

On his weekly SIRIUS appearance, Polian expressed his own sense of confusion regarding Irsay’s comments.

“I really don’t know what to make of it to tell you the truth,” Polian said, via CBSSports.com’s Ryan Wilson. “I do know that he was very upset after the loss in the second Super Bowl and I think it’s pretty telling that getting to the Super Bowl in his mind doesn’t count. And for anyone who is in the game and who has to make that journey from training camp to the Super Bowl, you know that it’s awfully difficult to get there.

“And as John Fox said today, if you have one, you count yourself lucky. I’ve had teams that have been to six Super Bowls and won one. I’m not ashamed of that record by any means, and I’m certainly not ashamed of what we did in Indianapolis.”

Polian, currently an analyst for ESPN, has nothing to be ashamed of when one looks at the whole of his career. He’s a six-time NFL Executive of the Year who has turned three franchises — the Colts, Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills — around. But when it comes to the primary reason for the Colts having to blow things up and start from the foundation, Polian can point primarily to himself.

And with that, onto the game. Please.

67 comments
DoctoreOenomaus
DoctoreOenomaus

Peyton won his only SB ring in one of his worst playoff runs. Coincidentally, it is when the defense decided to show up that he won it. What does that show you all? Now as much as people blame Bill Polian for not being so genius, the man is one of the best to ever do it. His biggest blunder with the Colts though was letting his incompetent son take over at GM. All those draft picks mentioned(Remove Castonzo from that list as he has been one of the better LTs this season) were Chris' doing!!! How he got a job with the Jags is beyond me.

DonaldFrazier
DonaldFrazier

Bad blood goes waaaay back.  Irsay Senior was so widely known as a sh,,,.., well, an undesirable franchise owner to work for.  Players almost never get to pick and chose.  But one did.  John Elway had been drafted number one in the NFL  But he was a baseball star as well, playing 1B for the Oneonta Yankees. He said he'd rather just blow off football completely than play for Irsay.


The only way to get value was to trade him, and Elway chose the Broncos.

MarkTerry
MarkTerry

Elway went to the Superbowl several times and did not win until he got an excellent running game so the pressure was not all on him to win it or to make or manufacture plays, more than this the defense had to account for the running threat which also took pressure off Elway.  Irsay may have been unfortunate in his comments but in the end he was right, whoever stood at QB deserved a stronger team around him.  Peyton could have stayed but the team around him would not have been strong, he likely would have had a great regular season but in the playoffs you are meeting the better teams in the NFL.  Unfortunately, unless Denver's D improves, the playoffs will likely be short for them.  Last year, despite the unfortunate throw Peyton had at the end of the game, if the D had not blown assignments leading to an easy TD, the Broncos would have moved on.  The guy at the wheel gets the blame and Peyton owns part of it, but if he had a complete strong team around him he would take less risks and would rarely lose.  But then this is true of most good QBs.


tigercub88
tigercub88

Polian deserves a LOT of criticism for his incompetence in the draft for the Colts. When you have as many flat out first round busts as Polian had during his tenure, you tend to lose your rep as some kind of "genius."  Man up, Bill, and admit that your failures in the draft, many on defensive picks, is one of the main reasons the Colts only won one Super Bowl during the Manning era.

tigercub88
tigercub88

Irsay is EXACTLY correct and SHOULD expect that the Colts would've won more than one Super Bowl during Peyton's tenure. How many years were the Colts the #1 seed in the playoffs only to lose in the first round? However, Irsay loves Peyton too much to lay out the facts that several of those first round losses were as much Peyton's poor play as much as poor ST and Defense. This is not a slap at Peyton, who I believe is CLEARLY the best to ever play the QB position and more a slap at Polian, who to be honest, has a history of building great regular season teams that failed to win it all.

saschuel
saschuel

Irsay is now ungrateful?  If you pay someone $20MM a year, do you also need to be grateful for them?  These comments or so over-sensationalized, makes you rue the day we moved to a 24 hour news cycle because of ESPN needing to find some crap to make news off of.  The more we jump all over people for saying these things, the less people will say anything interesting at all.  LAME!

sunalsorises
sunalsorises

It's a shame Peyton only won one Superbowl.  It's a bigger shame that Eli won two.  In one case a guy under-utilized his talent and in the other, over-achieved.  In neither case do I feel sorry for the Manning family.  

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

Aside from good drafting and FA signings, and a very good QB it takes a lot of luck to win the Super Bowl. Irsay has confused that with drafting the name 'Luck'. They're 2 different things. Fewer QBs have had worse luck than Manning along the way, which also explains why his far less talented little brother has one more ring. On that note, a great defense helps too...

Fisherman695
Fisherman695

Irsay=Bozo he was lucky to have Manning, when Manning got hurt 3 wins,Manning in the game 11 to 13 wins and one superbowl. Now he has Luck who is real good,I don't know of many teams that had 2 star QBs in a row. Manning will kick butt this weekend,2 TD win or more.Hope they show Irsay in booth.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

the new brain trust also made wise decisions in tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, running back Vick Ballard and receiver T.Y. Hilton.


Yeah right. Fleener of the zero stats who's injured all of the time. Dwayne Allen? Who? Vic Ballard? Don't you mean running backs Trent Suckchardson and Ahmad 'China Doll' Bradshaw? Hilton? Maybe, we'll see. What a joke. Once again the QB will do all of the heavy lifting in Indy and have few rings to show for it. 

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

Colts finished last the season Peyton missed leaving Colts with only one option which did not include keeping 2 elite QBs on a last place team

Pat11
Pat11

Irsay better enjoy that 1 ring because thats the only one he will probably ever have. What free agents are gonna wanna play for a team that cut probably the best QB of all time.

DennyCrane
DennyCrane

I can understand his frustration. Work hard, spend all that money, have a team that is supposed to be a dynasty but have only ONE win to show for it all. Manning has always been very good at padding personal stats during the season and then choking in the playoffs. Last year in Denver was the rule and not the exception. He is the holder of worst qb postseason record; he's the king of one-and-nones. Even his little bro has two rings. Event Trent Dilfer has one ring. For all his promise Manning couldn't deliver in Indy despite having great players around him.

Imagine what Joe M would have done with that kind of talent. So if Irsay is ticked off he should be and he has the right to be. The goal is to win the SB not play in one. Anyone satisfied with showing up and then losing should be back in pop warner.

TheBigStroonzo
TheBigStroonzo

Seriously, this is why I allowed my Sirius subscription to expire.

A lot of hot air about...nothing. Irsay said it best, CONTRO sells, but usually smells since it is manufactured B/S.

TheVon
TheVon

It's pretty obvious that Irsay was discussing the salary cap issues when he discussed the problem of only having one Superbowl ring, not Peyton when you read the USA Today article.  And he is right.  If Peyton had gone back to Indy, the salary cap issues would have kept them from contending.  

John Fox just spouted off his mouth to give Denver fans some red meat.  Its a total non-issue.

jtstaley88
jtstaley88

Peyton Manning career QB rating in the Playoffs = 89.

QB rating in the Playoffs the season the Colts won the Super Bowl = 66.

Career Playoffs record = 9 wins, 11 losses.

Just the facts.

MichaelC
MichaelC

Jim Irsay is a silver-spooned moron whose daddy built the family fortune ... the team was handed to him. He's never done anything in his professional career (he "joined" the Colts right after college) and inherited the Colts. He likes to hear himself speak. He likes to feel important. He thinks very highly of himself.

WilyCoyoteSuperGenius
WilyCoyoteSuperGenius

What a load of nonsense. More media efforts to create a story where there isn't one.

NoQNoSuperBowl
NoQNoSuperBowl

I used to think Baltimore got screwed by the Irsays. Now I realize those jerks did Baltimore a favor. 

Fannish
Fannish

Seems to me it takes 11 guys on offense and 11 on defense plus special teams and back-ups. Yes... some players can lift performance of an entire team. (Think Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, and....... Peyton Manning). Remove that lift and you end up with a 2 - 14 seasons. Lift does not mean a ring, it means consistently  performing beyond where they would with someone else.

tfaw
tfaw

This is about Polian - 5 times a bridesmaid and once a bride...No one really remembers second place much in any sport.

RCH
RCH

If you asked Peyton point blank if he was disappointed that he only won one I sure hope he would say yes.

If I'm paying my QB 20 mil a year he damn better be disappointed.

drunkLobster
drunkLobster

Ok, you had one of the best QBs in history, and only one Super Bowl ring.  I think that points to a failing at the front office moreso than on the field.

mts
mts

Why is this controversial?

Shouldn't he be disappointed and frustrated they "only " won one?

I know Favre is disappointed they only won one at GB.  I'm sure Elway was disappointed until his last two years.

MichaelLawrenceDpm
MichaelLawrenceDpm

What he is saying is just plain the truth.  Peyton has a distinct history of choking and did so last season as well.  Fox and Elway will be saying the same if they don't get a ring out of this deal and my money would say they will not.  Obviously a great talent, one of the best seasonal QB's ever.  Post season not so.

gymviking
gymviking

Peyton Manning may be the best regular season quarterback in the history of the game, but his playoff record is 9-11. Quarterbacks are judged on championships. Joe Flacco has as many as Peyton and Eli and Ben have twice as many. The Colts, during Peyton's time, were a little like the '90s Braves teams, in it every year, but always (except one year) falling short.

Thomaas
Thomaas

@sunalsorises you shouldn't. Peyton makes more off papa johns then your entire family history made in the last 200 years times 100

tigercub88
tigercub88

@Fisherman695 It was Polian that put those teams together and Peyton's sheer greatness that masked how crappy they really were without Peyton. When Peyton went down, Polian's abject failures in the draft and free agency were laid bare for the world to see and 2-14 was the report card.

DoctoreOenomaus
DoctoreOenomaus

@Joebuckster Are you serious? Dwayne Allen is a stud. Coby apart from a few miscues here and there is an above average player. TY is a straight up super star in the making. Why he isn't used often and behind DHB is beyond even us Colts fans. He took the best secondary in the NFL to the woodshed and not just with speed but with nifty moves to get open. Now as for the running backs I do agree it's a little odd how they underperform but I don't like the telegraphing of run plays.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@DennyCrane Manning 'choking' in the playoffs if a myth tossed around by those who only understand the surface optics of football. Google "Peyton Manning 911 playoff record is a call for help' and do some self-edumacating, bozos...

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@TheVon Riiiight. Just wait until Luck gets his first payday in 1 year and you'll be right back to salary cap square one. Any team with a top 5 QB is paying 20 million per season, period. Luck is good, but he's no Manning. Denver 'lucked' out big time...

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@jtstaley88 Just the facts? You mean 'just the surface optics' for those who don't have a clue about football. Bozo.

EdStephens
EdStephens

@jtstaley88 The Ravens probably helped kill that rating. If the officials weren't instructed to keep their flags in their pockets Indy would have been out in the first round once again.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@NoQNoSuperBowl And now it's Joe Flacco screwing the Baltimore Ravens with his huge contract and mediocre play. Hilarious!!

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@tfaw Anyone feel like listing all of those who are trying to catch the garter belt? Just about everyone else...

DennyCrane
DennyCrane

@drunkLobster Winners win. Losers lose than whine with a bunch of excuses. There's a reason Montana has 4 and Manning only has 1. And Manning can't even say he played on bad teams. The Colts had a very good team during their run; it was Irsay's misfortune to have a qb who melts down when the heat is on. Just like in Denver. PM king of the one-and-none record.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@MichaelLawrenceDpm Google and read "Peyton Manning 911 playoff record a cry for help". Maybe then you'll actually understand what you think you are talking about.

riley8
riley8

@MichaelLawrenceDpm So in your estimation there is one champion every season and 31 chokers.  This isn't tennis.  It requires a team.  

DennyCrane
DennyCrane

@gymviking Exactly. Manning is the king of the one-and-none post season. The only quibble I have with your post is that you forgot to mention that Manning has as many SB rings as the oft-vilified Trent Dilfer. The truth is on qb is guaranteed an SB ring. The fact that Manning has only one makes him not so special.

John64
John64

@Joebuckster  All Kacsmar does in that article is pick out any little tidbits he can and use them as excuses for his man crush, Peyton. 

Just like in the 2008 Wildcard game where he mentions Manning's 75-yard gift TD pass to Wayne... but then totally glosses over the fact that Indy's defense then forced turnovers on each of SD's next two possessions-- a goal line fumble and an end zone INT.  Peyton failed to take advantage of either gift.  Or that the Colts T.O.P. in that 4th quarter was just 5:31 as Manning could only muster 47 yds on 19 plays. 

That is unacceptable from the 2008 NFL MVP.

tigercub88
tigercub88

@Joebuckster @DennyCrane Exactly. While Peyton had a couple of first round losses where he performed poorly, his total QBR in the playoffs is on par or better than names like Bradshaw, Montana, Young, and Brady. All of those teams had MUCH better Defenses than the Colts with the exception of the Colts SB year.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@DennyCrane @drunkLobster Montana. Yeah - a string of the best offensive and defensive lines in the history of football, plus guys like, hmmm, Jerry Rice complementing him. What a joke comparison. You know that when your backup (Steve Young) comes in and wins a Super Bowl with virtually the same players you did that it was the team. You're an idiot regurgitating myths created by dumb football fans and bad sports journalists...

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@Michael223 @drunkLobster Anyone informed as to Polian's draft resume starting in the second half of the 2000s knows who's really to blame for Indy's underachievement.  The guy got fired for a reason.  

It's extremely telling to those who were paying attention that the Colts went from a 10-6 division winner in 2010 while having to field Blair White (if you're asking, "who?", that's exactly the point) as a starting wide-receiver, to one of the worst teams in recent history in 2011 when Manning was injured.

DennyCrane
DennyCrane

@riley8 @MichaelLawrenceDpm We have to listen to PK and the rest of the talking heads gush all oven Manning during the regular season when he can win any game. Then we have to watch Manning melt down in the first round just about every season because he can't win that game. Like Elway, Manning is all about the personal stats. But put him in a post season game that really matters? Well...just roll the tape of last Denver's first post season game from last year and you'll see the real many. There's a reason Denver had only one post season game and the reason is Manning.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@DennyCrane @gymviking I'll repeat this for Denny "dumb-dumb" Crane. Google and read "Peyton Manning 911 playoff record a cry for help". Maybe then you'll actually understand what you think you are talking about.

John64
John64

@tigercub88   Manning proponents cite his high passer ratings and/or QBRs in the postseason as if it somehow absolves him from any blame in those losses.  But yet, as we saw in Super Bowl 44 and last year's Ravens contest, all it takes is ONE PASS to put a huge dent in a great QB's legacy... That one pass won't affect the stat line too much, but games aren't played on paper are they? 

gymviking
gymviking

@Joebuckster @DennyCrane  Ha...hate to tell you this, but I've watched Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Trent Dilfer, Rob Johnson, Jim McMahon, Phil Simms and many others in the Superbowls over the years. I've also seen Eli go from a solid but non Superstar regular season quarterback to an unstoppable force in the playoffs....twice. And I watched Peyton go conservative and lose to the Ravens last year. Of course everything is not on the Quarterback and there are many reasons why teams win and lose, but despite Scott Kacsmar's analysis, apologies and rationalization, Peyton has not distinguished himself in the playoffs in the same way he did in the regular season. Deal with it. It may happen again this year.