It's Time To Seriously Talk Regime Change With The Indianapolis Colts

To our beloved readers...

For the first time since 1997, the year before Peyton Manning got drafted No. 1 overall, the Colts have started a regular season 0-5.

For some of you, you might not have even been born the last time the team was this bad. For others, you were either too young to remember, or you just didn't start caring about the team until No. 18 came on board. This has been a long, fun, very memorable run of success for a franchise that, as recently as 2002, was talking about possibly moving to Los Angeles.

It's worth noting, for the sake of history, that after the Colts started 0-5 in 1997 (and wound up finishing the season 3-13, the worst record in football), Jim Irsay sent the team's head coach and front office leadership packing. The vice president of football ops at that time was a man named Bill Tobin, a well-respected personnel guru known for his hot temper and uncanny ability to draft quality players. Tobin turned a team that was the laughing stock of the NFL into a playoff contender. They made the post-season twice in four years, including a trip to the AFC Championship Game in '95.

It was Tobin who drafted Marshall Faulk, stood by the embattled Jim Harbaugh, and brought in quality free agents like pass rusher (not the singer) Tony Bennett. Prior to arriving in Indy, Tobin was instrumental in the moves that built the 1985 Chicago Bears, considered one of the greatest teams of all time.

Still, despite his success in both Chicago and Indianapolis, it was obvious that, after a very disappointing 3-13 season, due in large part to injuries to the team's then-35-year-old quarterback (Jim Harbaugh), it was time for a change. Tobin and head coach Lindy Infante were let go, and were replaced (respectively) by Bill Polian and Jim Mora Sr.

Flash forward fifteen years.

The Colts are 0-5 once again. Their 35-year-old QB is hurt. Injuries have decimated a flawed roster, and just like in 1997 (when the team invested their two early round picks on offensive linemen Tarik Glenn and Adam Meadows), the Colts used their first and second rounds picks in the 2011 NFL Draft on offensive tackle tackles Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana.

Like Infante in '97, Colts head coach Jim Caldwell has not only lost the fans, he's lost the media. Beat writers are openly questioning his competence, and fans are fairly united in their opinion that 2011 should be his last as a head coach in Indianapolis. And while not all fans think that Bill Polian is as incompetent as Caldwell, the general sense many are expressing is that, like with Tobin in '97, it's time for change. It's time for a fresh set of eyes to evaluate this roster.

With the 2011 season lost and the franchise in complete disarray, it's time to talk about regime change again in Indianapolis. It's time to start advocating that the Colts to fire Bill Polian, and purge the organization of anyone with his last name. This type of advocacy is a shift in the way we at Stampede Blue have covered the Colts. Despite my personal dislike for Bill Polian and the incredibly disrespectful way he treats fans, media, and employees of the team, I've never openly advocated that he be fired. My hope was that, by calling him out and drawing attention to the mistakes this front office has made, that it would apply pressure to them and motivate them to, you know, do their jobs better.

After this 0-5 start, and the colossal mistakes this front office made during the off-season, we see now that it's time to hold the Polians (Bill and Chris) completely accountable. It's time to send them packing.

Many might not have noticed this, but regardless of my personal dislike for Bill Polian and his son Chris (who is little more than a younger, less accomplished clone), I never openly advocated for their removal from the front office. First and foremost, I'm a Colts fan. I don't enjoy trashing the front office or the coaches. Overall, I want them to succeed, even though I dislike them as people.

After Sunday's game though, I can't root for these guys in the front office anymore. I no longer have any faith in Bill Polian, his obedient son, or the spineless whelps that pass for coaches within this organization. It's time to blow it up. It's time to turn a page.

I really, truly, genuinely hope you readers know that I don't make statements like 'fire this guy' lightly. Firing Bill Polian is like the Patriots kicking Bill Belichick to the curb. But, as a fan, I just don't see how this team can win another Super Bowl with Bill and his son Chris in charge.

I could go through the laundry list of mistakes, but I'd just be rehashing everything we've written about over the last two years. We all know about the poor drafting, the refusal to bring in quality free agents, the bad hires in the coaching staff, and their utter refusal to even acknowledge obvious mistakes. Add to this their brutish behavior towards fans, and their backwards approach to new media, and it's just not worth dealing with them anymore.

I can accept that they hate me personally. I can accept that they have contempt for fans and media. I can accept all this as long as they are good at their primary job: Building great teams.

But, since 2006 (the year they won the Super Bowl), this franchise has regressed. They've been one-and-done in the playoffs three of their four trips, and their 2009 run to the Super Bowl seems more like a fluke now than the by-product of great front office work. Bill Polian should not have won Executive of the Year in 2009. That's obvious now. If anything, Peyton Manning should have gotten that award, along with his MVP and, heck, give him Coach of the Year too! Peyton makes all the turds Bill Polian has brought into this organization look like tulips. And while Peyton is indeed Bill's first pick as president of the Colts, the reality is that Peyton at No. 1 in 1998 was a no-brainer, even at the time. 

I want to post an excerpt from a recent Michael Wilbon article that I think is fitting here. I've removed the name of the GM he's talking about because I'd like the sentiment to appear more universal rather than specific to any one person:

GMs always want players to be accountable; wouldn't it be nice for [name removed]  to stop covering his rear end and simply say, "Fellas, I needed to have done better." Executives shouldn't be immune from accountability. It won't help this team get better, but it might take some of the pressure off guys who shouldn't be shouldering it in the first place.

The GM that Wilbon is talking about in his article is Chicago's Jerry Angelo, but he could just as easily have applied his sentiment to Bill Polian or his son, Chris. GMs and other personnel execs should be held accountable, just like coaches and players are. And if we hold the Polians to the same standard we hold players and coaches to, then there is no defense for them to stay in their current capacities.

The other factor in this shift for us is that the Polians are just too divisive to keep anymore.

As a fan blogger, I'm just tired of listening to people argue with each other over whether or not Bill Polian is worth keeping. I'm tired of seeing Colts fans fight each other. The fanbase is divided. It has been since Week 16, 2009. Indy radio personality Jake Query of 1260AM suggested to me last week that it would be 'fitting' that the Colts go 0-16 two years after they threw away a chance to go 16-0.

He's right. If you step back and look at the big picture, it would be fitting. And that's sad. 

I really, truly feel now that Bill Polian's decision to throw the last two games of that regular season created the toxic atmosphere that currently engulfs the Colts fanbase. We spend more time arguing for or against Polian than we do anyone else associated with the team. He's as dividing a figure for the Colts now as Bobby Knight was for Indiana University ten years ago.

And like Knight in 2000, the Polians have overstayed their welcome.

Now, I'm sure there are a few I.U. fans out there who are quick to quip, 'Well, look at I.U. basketball since Knight left.' My response is I.U. was pretty much irrelevant in the final years of Knight's tenure, and immediately after he left, they went to the NCAA Championship Game. Their mistake was in hiring Kelvin Sampson a few years after Knight was jettisoned. But, I'm not one to mistake the decision-making of Rick Greenspan with Jim Irsay. It was Irsay who tapped Bill Polian to be Colts team president in 1997, and it was Irsay who pushed hard for the Colts to hire Tony Dungy as head coach in 2002.

Polian, as some recall, wanted Nick Saban, who he'd tried to hire as head coach in 1998, but had to settle on Mora Sr.

I know some of you out there are likely to start screaming that firing a man who led the Colts to seven straight twelve win seasons is insanity. I suspect Colts blogger Nate Dunlevy, a longtime Polian apologist (to the point where he still does not acknowledge that Tony Ugoh was a bust), would be first in line to dismiss talk of 'pink slips for Polians.' But, I cite the slow and steady decline of this organization since Tony Dungy and longtime personnel guru Dom Anile left. The current state of the Colts is one of dysfunction and chaos. The head coach clearly doesn't have control of who starts and who doesn't, and the draft record for the player personnel department has been putrid the last five years.

Perhaps Dungy's calming presence helped mask the insanity often associated with Bill Polian's temperament. Perhaps Anile's skills as a talent evaluator were just as important, if not more important, than Bill's or his son Chris'. It was Chris who was reported to have pushed Anile out the backdoor in 2009. The Colts called the firing a 'cost-cutting move,' which is ridiculous when you consider the Colts were estimated to be worth $1 billion in 2010.

Then-Colts writer John Oehser (now a writer at Jaguars.com) said that Anile was instrumental in the Colts draft room from 1998-2006. However, after '06, his role had been diminished while Chris Polian was moving up the ranks. It was at that point, when Anile's role was reduced in the Colts War Room, that the Colts started busting first and second round draft picks on a regular basis.

So, while it is common for people to associate all the good fortune in this organization with Bill Polian, the facts are that he is not THE reason this organization went from a league joke to a league standard. He is one part. An important part, but not the sole reason for the team's success. It was a culmination of several great football people, and, sadly, most of those people are no longer associated with the Colts, having since been replaced with relatives of Bill Polian.

Again, I don't write all this to dismiss the accomplishments of Bill Polian as team president (and later, vice chairman) of the Colts. Sure, I dislike him because he's an assclown and treats people like dirt, that doesn't take away all the amazing things he did for this organization since 1998. But, just as I used to get on Broncos fans for their silly 'loyalty' to Mike Shanahan, a coach and team president whose success in Denver mirrors Polian's in Indianapolis, at some point it is just time to turn a page and go in a different direction. Ten years ago, Carl Peterson was considered the best team president in the NFL (along with Polian). Peterson ran the Kansas City Chiefs, and was considered untouchable.

He was fired in 2008, two years removed from the Chiefs making the playoffs.

Like Polian today, Peterson and Shanahan outstayed their welcomes in KC and Denver, respectively. Both did wonderful things for their franchises. But, it was time for them to go, just as it is now time for Polian to go.

Two things before I close this out (and thanks for reading it, I know it's a whopper):

  • I don't expect Jim Irsay to make the kind of change we will advocate for at the end of the 2011 season. Irsay is too chummy with Bill Polian, and has ceded too much responsibility to him. A change is likely to happen when Jim steps down and his daughter, Casey Irsay-Foyt, takes over. For us at Stampede Blue, we think waiting for that is wasting the time and money of fans. Bill Polian and his kin need to go, and it's best to do it at the end of this season rather than stalling for two or three more years.
  • The downfall of the 2011 season is not the fault of the players. As we have all witnessed this season, every single member of the 53-man roster has played their guts out each week. It really is impressive to see these guys playing so hard for a season that is truly lost. 2011 isn't on them. It's on the front office. They are the reason this club is the worst in the NFL, not the players.

I hope this article effectively explains our shift here at Stampede Blue. As we often say, we are Colts fans. No one person is above the team. Not Irsay. Not Manning. Not Polian (or his kids). If we want our organization (which we fans and taxpayers invest $27.7 million per year in operating costs for the stadium the team plays in) to be on par with the Steelers and Cowboys, we need to stop putting individuals above the symbol of the team.

Landry was not above the Dallas star. Noll did not define Steeltown. They were a part of an intense lore surrounding their respective franchises. They weren't above or superior to it. And, just like everyone else, Tom Landry and Chuck Noll were let go because it was just time to do so. By the way, the men who replaced them did pretty well.

Obviously, anything can change. Maybe the 2011 Colts will go on some kind of miracle run and win 11 games in a row to make the post-season. But, that would be a fluke, not a result of great work done by the front office. It's time for regime change. It's time for a new direction.

Thanks again for reading. Hope you understand where we are now coming from. We just don't think this team can win another championship with the current regime in charge.

It's time for Jim Irsay to step up, take charge of his franchise, and pink slip the Polians.

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