Was Gene Huey Fired To Scapegoat Bill Polian For Crappy Colts Running Game?

FILE: Gene Huey, running backs coach of the Indianapolis Colts talks to players during play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 9, 2008 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Colts won 24-20. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

As you all know, Gene Huey, 19-year runningbacks coach for the Colts, was fired today. The question is, why?

From Paul Kuahrsky:

Huey’s been a loyal part of a culture that’s produced great success for the Colts.

It’s a cliché but correct to say that only time will tell us if his departure is part of broader changes that produce results or if he's some sort of sacrificial scapegoat.

From Phil Wilson, Indianapolis Star:

I think they are looking for scapegoats.

From me earlier today:

From the looks of things, seems like Caldwell and Bill Polian are scapegoating Huey for the shortcomings in the running game the last few years.

As you can see, the reasons seem pretty clear for some of us. Bill Polian is certainly not a stranger to using scapegoats to cover up his own mistakes, and Gene Huey might just have been another causality of Bill's overgrown ego and out-of-control arrogance.

After the Super Bowl loss to the Saints, Polian cut veteran guard Ryan Lilja for reasons that still have not been explained to both the fans or to Lilja himself. This was done a few weeks after Polian made public comments critical of the line's play.

For much of the 2010 season, the Colts struggled to find a suitable replacement for Lilja. As the running game went no where and protection for Peyton Manning looked less and less reliable, the scapegoated Lilja started looking less and less like the reason for the o-line's decline. It also didn't help Bill Polian to see Lilja perform brilliantly with his new team in 2010: The Kansas City Chiefs.

With o-linemen Tony Ugoh (second round 2007) and Mike Pollak (second round 2008) both busting as picks, the Colts rushing game suffering near the bottom of the league in 2010 as it had done in 2009. Once again, it looks as if Polian needed to find another scapegoat.

Exit, Gene Huey.

Of course, like cutting Lilja last year, this move makes little to no sense. I'm sure that people will make excuses for it' afraid to accept the notion that Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell might well have made another very stupid mistake. For me, the only thing I need to see are the rushing averages and records earned by the players Huey coached. Even this year, behind a terrible offensive line (built by Bill Polian), Gene Huey produced tangible results. He had to work with multiple running backs due to various injuries to the starters. Here's what they generated:

Joseph Addai: 4.3 a carry
Mike Hart: 4.3 a carry
Dominic Rhodes: 4.6 a carry
Donald Brown: 3.9 a carry

Even Javarris James, an undrafted rookie, ran for 6 touchdowns, which tied him for second among rookie runningbacks.

Also, because the line was so poor this year at pass blocking, the backs had to stay in more to pass protect. Runningbacks for the Colts in 2010 had a total of 55 receptions. In 2009, Joseph Addai himself had 51 catches while the backs overall had 70. In 2008, the backs had 79 catches.

If any assistants should have been fired for their performance, it should have been Pete Metzelaars and Ron Prince, the offensive line coaches. It's worth noting that Polian has a long history with Metzelaars. Polian drafted him as a player in Buffalo. With Huey, he was part of the staff when Polian was hired back in 1998, a holdover from Ted Marchibroda's stint as head coach in Indianapolis.

Huey worked under Teddy, Lindy Infante, Jim Mora, Tony Dungy, and Jim Caldwell. He took people like Marshall Faulk and turned them into potential Hall of Famers. He also took 'nobodys,' like Zack Crockett, Lamont Warren, and Dominic Rhodes and got the absolute most potential out of them.

The problem with the running game wasn't Huey. The problem was the putrid offensive line.

So, instead of addressing the problem and, perhaps, holding some of the people responsible for the poor line play accountable, what we seem to have here is more petty, useless finger-pointing. Jettisoning THE best runningbacks coach in football is not the solution to fixing the Colts poor rush ranking.

Perhaps if the Colts got rid of the guy who keeps busting first round picks, especially those involving the offensive line, then that might fix the problem.

That said, our best to Gene Huey. He will be missed at the Colts complex.

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