Kravitz: Who's to blame for 0-8 Colts? Chris Polian, for one
If I'm properly reading between the lines, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is more committed to staying the course with the Family Polian than he is coach Jim Caldwell.
Asked this week about both, Irsay thought it was "pretty radical'' to even ask the question about the Polians' future, but when asked about Caldwell, he said, in part, "When it comes to changes and Jim's status, it's something that eight games going forward, more will be revealed. This situation is always changing. But it's really going to be always what's best to give us a chance to win."
Which leads me to this question: What has Chris Polian done to assure his long-term security?
I've spoken to several former Colts people in recent weeks, and while none of them will go on the record -- many have non-disclosure agreements and fear public comment will hurt their NFL job prospects -- virtually all of them told me Chris Polian has been a toxic force who has brought this franchise to its knees for reasons other than Peyton Manning's injury.
This may be Chris Polian's first full year with complete control over the team's daily operations, but since he started moving up the organizational ladder in the early 2000s for no apparent reason other than being a Polian, he has been instrumental in hastening the exits of scouts and assistant coaches who led the Colts to previous greatness.
The following men were here in 2004 and are no longer here in 2011.
Scout Tom Gamble, gone after the 2004 season.
Scout Paul Roell, out after the 2006 draft.
Director of college scouting Mike Butler, out after the 2006 draft.
Scout David Caldwell, out in 2007.
Coordinator of player personnel John Becker, out in 2008.
Area scout Ryan Cavanaugh, out in 2008.
Assistant general manager/scouting Dom Anile, pushed out in 2009. Anile was a precious resource as one of the few men who would tell Bill Polian things he didn't want to hear.
A fairly direct line can be drawn between some of those departures and the decline in the quality of the Colts' drafts.
In 2007, they drafted (in order): Anthony Gonzalez, Tony Ugoh, Daymeion Hughes, Quinn Pitcock, Brannon Condren, Clint Session, Roy Hall, Michael Coe and Keyunta Dawson.
In 2008: Mike Pollak, Philip Wheeler, Jacob Tamme, Marcus Howard, Tom Santi, Steve Justice, Mike Hard, Pierre Garcon and Jamey Richard.
In 2009: Donald Brown, Fili Moala, Jerraud Powers, Austin Collie, Terrance Taylor, Curtis Painter, Pat McAfee, Jaimie Thomas.
In 2010: Jerry Hughes, Pat Angerer, Kevin Thomas, Jacques McClendon, Brody Eldridge, Ricardo Mathews, Kavell Conner, Ray Fisher.
Then there are the longtime assistant coaches who left, in some part because of troubled relationships with the Polians, specifically Chris.
Howard Mudd, the offensive line coach, who left Indy after the 2009 season, returned to the Colts briefly, retired after the Super Bowl loss and then came out of retirement to join Philadelphia. Mudd was thinking about leaving for some time, but when Bill Polian blamed the offensive line for the Super Bowl loss, he knew he wasn't welcome to return.
Gene Huey, the running backs coach, who was shown the door in 2010.
Tom Moore, the offensive coordinator, who was gracelessly cast aside without notice or fanfare after the 2010 season. Over time, Moore was cut off at the knees, his voice no longer audible.
Tell me, what has Chris Polian actually done besides win the genetic lottery? If the Colts were doing a national search for a new general manager right now, would Irsay even glance at Chris Polian if his name was Schwartz or Smith?
All Colts decisions are made by the entire front office, but I'm told the Ugoh draft, the decision to get rid of Ryan Lilja, the failures to reconstruct the offensive line, the doomed Corey Simon signing, all of them had Chris Polian's fingerprints all over them.
Give him credit for what appears, at least now, to be a pretty solid 2011 draft class. Before they got hurt, Anthony Castonzo and Drake Nevis looked like keepers.
But beyond that?
As Chris' star rose in recent years, others in the organization bristled at what they viewed as clear nepotism. Bill would stroke his son in staff meetings, remind everybody what a huge impact he made. Meanwhile, scouts and others saw Chris getting raises and promotions without doing what they perceived to be the necessary legwork.
I can appreciate Irsay's commitment to continuity. On the face of it, there wouldn't seem to be a reason for panic, even after a horrible season that was hastened, in large part, by Manning's injury.
But Irsay has to look as long and hard, and as critically, at Chris Polian and the Polian regime as he does his coaching staff.
It wasn't Caldwell who chose to start the season with a paper-thin secondary. It wasn't Caldwell who woke up one day and said, "Gosh, I'd really like to start the season with four offensive linemen who are either starting for the first time or playing a new position.'' It wasn't Caldwell who held on to Curtis Painter, then showed so little faith in the quarterback he went out and spent $4 million on Kerry Collins.
If Caldwell is going to be judged on this season after going 26-10 his first two years, shouldn't Chris Polian?