Like many of you, last week I lapped up all the coverage on the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine provided by our writers Matt Grecco, Collin McCollough, and Mocking The Draft's Dan Kadar. They did a great job covering a Combine that was, given the current labor insanity, odd to say the least.
One of the more odd elements of this year's Combine was the very noticeable absence of representatives from the Indianapolis Colts.
In year's past, it was common to see Bill Polian, team coaches, and team media people roaming around Lucas Oil Stadium during Combine week. The event is, after all, sort of 'unofficially' hosted by the Colts. This year, much to the annoyance of many people in the media, the Colts essentially had ZERO presence at the 2011 NFL Combine. People saw the team video staff doing some work one day, likely interviewing folks like former-Colts great (and current 49ers head coach) Jim Harbaugh. But, that was it.
No Bill Polian.
No Jim Caldwell.
No nothing. None were made available.
Speculation after the jump.
We all know that the labor talks clouded the 2011 Combine. There was a sense that 'Is this 40 time stuff even important? There's no CBA!' So, with that in mind, it's not OUTRAGEOUS! that the Colts didn't have a strong presence at this year's Combine. But limited presence was not what folks were talking about. The Colts, quite simply, weren't there.
Now, this is troubling because...
- The Colts have a terrible relationship with the media in general, and essentially blowing them off at a major event hosted in Indianapolis is kind of a dickish thing to do.
- We are at a very critical moment in terms of NFL-Fan relations. If there is a lockout, if there is a work stoppage, the NFL will die. The popular sport that millions love will indeed lose a strong segment of its fanbase. By not being at a public event that is, by its very nature, loose and relatively informal, the Colts have lost another opportunity to repair their current and potentially future strained relationship with fans.
Again, Indy's presence at the 2011 NFL Combine didn't have to be anything grand. Why not have Tom Telesco swing by and answer a few questions? Why couldn't Chris Polian meet with a few select reporters and shoot the breeze? I mean, the presence at the Combine does not need to be Bill Polian. It's understandable if he's busy.
Though, Jim Harbaugh is certainly busy, and he made an appearance all the way from San Francisco. Polian was just 20 minutes away. And, in years past, ole Bill was a common site at the Combine.
My point here is that is seems the Colts chose not to have a presence at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, and if so that was a mistake. Another mistake is how they seem to have muzzled head coach Jim Caldwell. According to my count, Caldwell has only been made available to the media once since his controversial timeout call in the Colts playoff loss to the New York Jets back in January. This is a departure from years past, when Caldwell was a frequent and willing talker.
The only news we seem to get from the team nowadays is from Jim Irsay via Twitter, and even that stuff is a slippery slope. Roger Goodell supposedly ordered owners to not discuss the labor negotiations, and here we have Jimmy tweeting us updates.
The mercurial and often schizophrenic nature of the Colts media relations is often a source of chronic frustration for many in media. it seems owner Jim Irsay has his agenda while Bill Polian, whose title is now 'Vice Chairman,' has his own. Would things have been this locked down if Tony Dungy were still coaching? I have my doubts. For me, it feels as though Polian and Caldwell are retaliating, somewhat, against a critical media that pretty fairly roasted Caldwell alive for his coaching in the playoffs. There's no other logical reason I can think of.
I mean, if the labor talks are what is keeping Bill from chatting with the media, what's stopping Caldwell? It's not like he has anything else to do. Unless a CBA can be reached, there are no OTAs, mini-camps, or anything like that which can be scheduled. Seems to me that Jim has oodles of time on his hands, or, at the very least, 30 to 45 minutes he could spare on one day of a week long event.
In the end, as long as they follow whatever blanket NFL rule there is regarding media access, the Colts don't have to talk to anyone. The drawback is that the perception of them as media 'ogres' will continue to become more and more accepted. They'll also perpetuate the notion that they act like spoiled children in the face of valid criticism, and make it much less likely that people will treat them 'fairly' if and when another controversial situation arises.