In Week One against the Houston Texans this year, both Bob Sanders and Anthony Gonzalez were injured. Between the two of them, Sanders (torn biceps tendon) had the more severe injury. Both players remained on the active roster up until Week Six. Gonzalez returned that week from an ankle sprain to play against the Texans, only to get hurt again (this time, his knee) on a cheap shot out of bounds courtesy of Bernard Pollard.
The next week, the Colts placed Gonzalez on injured reserve, but kept Bob Sanders on the active roster despite numerous injuries to the wide receiving corps (among other areas). By IRing Gonzo, but keeping Sanders, the message sent (intentionally or not) was that Gonzo was 'more hurt' than Sanders and that the probability of Sanders returning in 2010 was higher than Gonzo.
Well, last week, Sanders was placed on IR. He was never cleared to practice after surgery to repair his tendon tear, which essentially means he was kept on the roster purely out of desperation. Now, as the Colts gear up for the most important game of the season, Phil Wilson of the Indianapolis Star tells us that, despite being placed on IR over a month ago, Anthony Gonzalez is indeed healthy.
The latest injury didn't require surgery. Gonzalez said he recovered quickly but understood the Colts needed the roster spot.
"When it first happened, it was really swollen. It was hard to know what was going to happen with it," he said. "We've had so many injuries, the roster was tight. I certainly understood. They did what they had to do."
Yes, the roster was so tight that the Colts could afford to keep an oft-injured safety with a torn biceps tendon who hadn't practiced since September, but they couldn't keep a wideout with a swollen knee who, six weeks after hurting it, is now just fine.
Yeah, that's a pretty big screw-up on the part of the Colts personnel managers, especially when you look at Peyton Manning's interception numbers the last month.
I know the excuse of 'hindsight is 20-20' will be used, but part of what these personnel people are judged by is whether or not the calls they make end up hurting or helping the team going forward. The 'hindsight is 20-20' excuse never works with coaches. If it did, people like Brad Childress and Wade Phillips would still be employed. Same with players. I'm sure Hank Baskett would get a pass if you buy the 'hindsight' excuse.
If players and coaches don't get a pass, why should the Polians?
Regarding Gonzalez, for me the act of placing him on IR shows how very little the Colts regarded him. During the same game against the Texans, Clint Session sustained a broken arm. Two weeks prior the Texans game, running backs Mike Hart and Joseph Addai were knocked out with injuries. Addai, who hasn't played since, has a pinched nerve in his shoulder similar to Brett Favre's ailment.
Instead of IRing Gonzo, why weren't Session, Addai, or Sanders IRed?
Any one of them could have been shutdown for 2010, and with good reason. Addai returning this season is unlikely, and though Clint Session has been cleared to practice this week, players like Pat Angerer, Tyjuan Hagler, and Kavell Conner have all played well at his position. Is Session that essential? If he is, then why is Gary Brackett making $33 million? With Sanders, the reasons to IR him back in October were obvious. If anyone truly expected him back in 2010, they were living in a fantasy world.
Meanwhile, the one area the Colts have struggled in this year is wide receiver, which is amazing because going into Week One wide receiver was an area no one was worried about.
The game after the victory over the Texans, Austin Collie was knocked out with a concussion. He has not been the same since. With Pierre Garcon struggling all year with inconsistency and Reggie Wayne battling a knee injury, would it not make sense to hang on to a supposedly quality wideout like Gonzo over, say, a linebacker with a broken arm or a safety with a torn biceps tendon?
By IRing Gonzo, the message I see is that they didn't view him as 'essential.' Clearly, the opposite was viewed for Sanders. Only last week, with roughly 14 players on the injury report, the Colts finally have to give up on Sanders returning in 2010. Because of the injury to Melvin Bullitt, the unheralded player whose excellent play in recent years has provided Bill Polian cover for his botched signing of Sanders to a $37 million dollar contract ($20 mill guaranteed), Colts management had to know that their only hope of possibly getting back to a Super Bowl was with Sanders. I mean, you don't hold onto a player for thirteen weeks unless you think he is vital to the success of your team.
In the meantime, with Collie still recovering from concussions, Blair White getting confused on what route to run, and Peyton Manning throwing 11 INTs in three games, Gonzo is collecting more pay checks while watching from the sidelines in street clothes, apparently healthy.
I understand this Gonzo injury screw-up is minor in the Grand Poobah of screw-ups that the Polians have made in 2010. But, in many ways, it's a microcosm of how awful the front office has been in recent years. Like Carl Peterson in Kansas City, the luster is wearing off of Bill Polian as being an 'untouchable' personnel 'genius.' When the mistakes start outnumbering the wins, changes are in order. We aren't there yet, but we're unfortunately getting there.
For Gonzo, I feel a bit sorry for him in the sense that he will never get a chance to prove himself with these Colts. Gonzo's last year of a five-year contract is next season, which will see his salary escalate to roughly $2.4 mill. With Collie and Garcon entrenched, Gonzo is still little more than a back-up, and with significant issues on the offensive and defensive lines, $2.4 mill for a back-up WR is just not an option.
Also, I'm pretty certain the Polians aren't happy with Gonzo chirping again to the Star about how things haven't worked out with the Colts. Gonzo all but called Jim Caldwell a liar prior to the start of the season when he said he wasn't allowed to compete for his old starting job (which he claimed he was 'promised' he'd be given the opportunity to do).
Gonzo's gone after 2010. If he isn't, and his contract is not re-negotiated, add that to the list of front office screw-ups.
For a bit more on this, check out Colin's Gonzo article from last week.