Photo: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Paul Kuharsky broken the news yesterday that the Colts have seemingly given up on offensive lineman Tony Ugoh. The 2007 second round draft pick (which the Colts obtaining by trading a first round pick in 2008) was placed on the waived-injured list. This means that if no team claims Ugoh off this list, he goes to IR and is done for 2010. That the Colts placed Ugoh on this list is significant in that if he were truly 'done' for 2010, and his toe injury was so bad he could not play, the Colts would have placed him on IR. IR protects the player from other teams making claims on him.
By placing Ugoh on Waived-Injured, the Colts are effectively saying, 'Anyone want this? Anyone? Anyone? No? OK, we'll put it in storage now and dump it later.'
The legacy of Tony Ugoh with the Colts, and his status as possibly the worst draft bust of Bill Polian's tenure as president of the team, are the real stories here.
After the jump, more Ugoh discussion...
This was a big off-season and preseason for Ugoh, who was moved to offensive guard during OTAs. At training camp, people were raving about his new mental attitude. He seemed relaxed, calm, and focused. Ugoh's work ethic was never the issue with him. It was his mental toughness. Under new offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars, Ugoh spoke of a new start, and how much he liked what Metzelaars was doing. Ugoh was not viewed favorably by former-line coach Howard Mudd.
However, despite being moved to guard and seemingly penciled in as the starter there, Ugoh did not get to play the position in any preseason games. Left tackle Charlie Johnson injured his ankle the first week of training camp, and Ugoh was forced back into his old position of left tackle. This provided Ugoh a truly golden opportunity to possibly win his old job back, or to make his coaches re-evaluate his value there. Ugoh was drafted to be Tarik Glenn's replacement. The Colts wanted Ugoh at left tackle for the final ten years of Peyton Manning's career.
Again, you don't invest first round draft picks in someone, especially a left tackle, unless you feel the guy is a franchise-type player at the position.
Yet, despite being handed this excellent chance to possibly show to the coaches that he (again) deserved to start at left tackle, Ugoh struggled (again) to play the position. All throughout preseason, Ugoh was used exclusively at left tackle, until he injured his foot sometime after the second preseason game. This shelved Ugoh for several weeks. Now, he's gone.
Gregg Rosenthal of PFT summed up Ugoh's legacy in association with Bill Polian quite well:
Colts G.M. Bill Polian rarely swings and misses near the top of the draft. Tackle Tony Ugoh is one reason we have to write "rarely" instead of "never."
Drafting Ugoh was a rare first round bust for Bill Polian. Yes, one absolutely has to consider Ugoh a first rounder considering the team invested a then-future 2008 first round pick to take him in 2007. While Bill is a master of making sure his first round picks are indeed worthy of that draft, in Ugoh's case he was, quite simply, wrong.
Of course, there's nothing bad or terrible about Polian missing on Ugoh. I don't understand how anyone can possibly try and rationalize that he was anything other than a bust. Bill Polian is a great football talent evaluator, but even he screws up.
In the case of drafting Tony Ugoh, it was indeed a mistake. Hence, the word 'bust.' If other people think differently, then fine. They're in the extreme minority.
Post-Ugoh, an already weak area for the Colts (the offensive line) has gotten weaker. New Colts Joe Reitz seems to have been acquired simply for depth. Reitz is an undrafted player who played at Western Michigan. With Ugoh gone, only one player along the Colts offensive line was drafted above Round Four. The highest drafted player is Mike Pollak (second round in 2008), but Pollak seems to be just as big a bust as Ugoh was. Despite being the first player picked in 2008 by the Colts, Pollak (again, like Ugoh) lost his starting job last year and is now backing up Jeff Saturday.
After Pollak, you have Ryan Diem (4th round in 2001), Kyle DeVan (undrafted), Jeff Saturday (undrafted), Jamey Richard (7th round 2008), Joe Retiz (undrafted), Jeff Linkenbach (undrafted), Jaimie Thomas (7th round 2009), and Jacques McClendon (4th round 2010).
If there is one weakness for Bill Polian, it is his inability to effectively evaluate high quality offensive linemen in the draft. As you can see, the current Colts o-line is made up of people who, quite frankly, are not of great 'draft stock.' Normally, this does not matter, but to see this many undrafted and low round picks in one area is very troubling. The Colts have not invested enough quality draft picks in the offensive line, and the numbers show it. The Colts have had consistent problems running the football the last two years despite investing two first round picks (in four years) in running backs.