A FanPost from reader Next Man Up got me thinking about Chris Polian, especially after reading this little segment:
As I see it, Bill Polian has his bags packed and figures to retire after this year. Since a majority of blame can fall squarely on his shoulders, he'll scapegoat himself allowing his son to take over. By doing so, he makes way for the next era of Polian leadership, Chris. He then can cut ties with the coaching staff and blame them for the piss poor performances this year. He'll have no problem saving his own skin from getting axed by pointing out this years improved draft class. Enabling him to use the next draft to truly put his mark on the franchise. Like his father before him, he'll have a future quarterback awaiting for him with the first overall selection. Critics of thecan then be satisfied knowing enough of the bad apples have been removed from the bunch.
The reader is on to something here, and we Colts fans need to examine it. Bill Polian is indeed one foot out the door. He didn't change his title and scale back his weekly working hours just cause. He's slowly walking out, and his plan is to have his son Chris succeed him. If people like me are angry and upset with how the Colts have performed this season, or in years past, Bill will happily take all the blame and retire. Thus, he'll ensures his son starts his tenure as Colts president with a clean slate.
Here's my issue with this: This 0-8 season is just as much Chris Polian's fault as it is Bill's. Maybe more so. Knowing that, what about Chris Polian says he deserves to run this franchise going forward? How has he earned that right? Is he really a great talent evaluator, or just the son of a once great football executive?
Jim Irsay should seriously be asking himself these questions, and when he's done doing that, he should make himself aware that the fact the he's even asking them tells an awful lot about Chris Polian's lack of distinction as a football executive.
Chris' ascension to the team's general manager position was viewed by pretty much everyone who cares about this kind of stuff as unapologetic nepotism. Chris reportedly forced longtime Colts personnel guru Dom Anile out the door, and it might not be a coincidence that, when Anile stopped being such a strong voice in the draft war room and Chris started taking over, the Colts began busting first and second round picks consistently.
It was Chris who orchestrated the now infamous Tony Ugoh trade. He also fired longtime executive Clyde Powers, demoted public relations man Craig Kelley, and hired his own brother Dennis as a senior level executive position within the team.
Oh, and his first year in charge of the Colts has resulted in a winless first half of the season.
Knowing all this, here's my question: If the Colts are truly an elite team, as Jim Irsay and his buddy Bill Polian often like to brag they are, why are the keys to this supposedly 'elite' organization being handed to someone like Chris Polian? Why are they simply handing the future of this franchise to an unaccomplished executive who, were his last name not 'Polian,' wouldn't be offered this type of position anywhere else in the National Football League?
To be fair to Chris, I did some digging the last few days, sending out emails to reporters and NFL insiders around the country. I even got some input from some local people who have access to the Colts. The subject I asked for input on was Chris Polian, and the question was: If he got fired at the end of 2012, would anyone else in this league hire him in an equal capacity that he is right now in Indianapolis.
Everyone said no.
I'm keeping their names out of here because, like his father, Chris doesn't like it when people talk bad about him, even if that 'bad' is completely justified and fair. But from national sports writers who have covered this league for decades to local people in-the-know with the Colts, not one of them told me Chris Polian would get this kind of power with another franchise. All agreed that the only reason he is in this position is because he's Bill Polian's son, not because he's some 'super G.M.' that has risen up the ranks on his own and made a name for himself, like Thomas Dimitroff did in New England before landing his current gig in Atlanta.
Again, I go back to this idea that the Colts are supposedly some kind of 'elite' franchise. If a franchise is truly 'elite,' don't you think that the best talent in this league would be kicking down the door to work for Jim Irsay? This goes for talent evaluators as well. If Indy is a destination job, why not interview these great people and see how they stack up to Chris Polian?
All Chris has ever done is work for his dad. He's never had a job outside his father's sphere of influence. Chris was never a real scout, earning his way by working for other teams, and he never truly ran a team's scouting department unless directly under the guidance of his father. The only other places Chris has worked are Buffalo and Carolina, and the only reason he was employed at those franchises was because, at the time, his father ran them.
Now, I've read profile articles like this one from three years ago, and while it's nice to have people like Marv Levy and Tony Dungy say nice things about Chris, it's difficult to take those words of praise seriously. Levy and Dungy are good friends with Bill Polian. Levy's known Chris since he was a kid.
What I find telling is that, in the limited profile information we have on Chris Polian, no one from the player personnel side is speaking up and lauding him. Even when former G.M.s make lists of the best and brightest young personnel execs, I'm not seeing Chris Polian on them.
Even more telling is that Chris has, in the past, been linked to openings within the 49ers and Falcons. He didn't get either job, and in the case of the Falcons, I highly doubt the interest was serious considering owner Arthur Blank eventually hired Thomas Dimitroff in 2008, viewed by many to be one of the best up-and-coming personnel execs in the league. Unlike Chris Polian, Dimitroff had been a real scout, working in the CFL and for several NFL teams, before becoming the director of college scouting for the Patriots from 2003-2007. During Dimitroff's tenure as director, the Pats won two Super Bowls and drafted players like Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins.
Side note: It was reported recently, in Michael Holley's book War Room, that in 2006, Bill Belichick overrode the scouts in New England and drafted Laurence Maroney in the first round out of Minnesota. Dimitroff was the director of the scouts then. Maroney was drafted, in large part, due to the influence of then-Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and we all know how much of a talent 'guru' McDaniels was in Denver. Dimitroff left New England two years after Belichick selected Maroney, and it's not a stretch to say the Pats front office has missed him. New England's draft record in recent years has been about as bad as Indianapolis'.
The point here is Dimitroff had a much more impressive resume in 2008 than Chris Polian. Thus, I don't think Chris-to-ATL was ever a real option. The Falcons wanted the far more accomplished Dimitroff, and they got him. If Atlanta can do that while they were transitioning away from the embarrassing actions of then-quarterback Michael Vick and the abandonment of their head coach at the time, Bobby Petrino, why can't the Colts?
Aren't the Colts, after all, an 'elite' franchise? If the dumpster fire that was the Falcons could lure Dimitroff, can't Jim Irsay get someone in Indianapolis better than Chris Polian? What about Chris distinguishes him from people like Marc Ross (NY Giants director of college scouting), Doug Whaley (assist G.M. in Buffalo) or the outstanding Kevin Colbert (G.M. in Pittsburgh)?
Go back and read this Indianapolis Business Journal profile article on Chris Polian, and pay close attention to Irsay's reasoning for keeping him:
"Having guys like Chris grow within the organization is what we're looking for," Irsay said.
He's not saying Chris is the best talent, or that Chris is someone they need to keep or another team will snatch him away and turn themselves into a dynasty. The reasoning for keeping Chris is continuity, the same excuse they used for keeping Jim Caldwell when Tony Dungy retired.
While some might laughably call this as a 'hit piece' on Chris Polian, I think the question of whether or not he's the best person to run this organization is one we fans should seriously be asking. More importantly, Jim Irsay really needs to take a step back and look at this objectively. Just because Chris is Bill Polian's son doesn't mean Chris should take Bill's place. The person who should take Bill's place should be the best talent evaluator Jim Irsay can get his hands on, and if the Colts are truly 'elite,' they shouldn't have trouble doing that.
Keeping Chris Polian purely for the sake of continuity is insanity. The franchise is 0-8, people. It might not win a game in 2011.
I'm on record as saying both Chris, Bill, and anyone else with their last name should be sent packing at season's end. The front office is a mess, and the team's overall talent is severely lacking. Since it's the job of the G.M. to load the team with talent, it kind of calls into question Chris Polian's skills. And since the first season with him truly in charge has resulted in one of the biggest collapses of a franchise in NFL history, that too should raise a big red flag. If Jim Irsay is still convinced Chris Polian is right for the job, and if his reasoning for that is continuity, then the Colts could be in for several seasons of bad football. This market can't support that kind of model. Fans will turn away in big numbers if the franchise struggles consistently going forward, and the myth of Indy truly being an 'elite' franchise will melt away.
Should Jim Irsay wish to avoid that, he might want to seriously re-think Chris Polian, whose contract ends in 2012.