ENGLEWOOD, CO - MARCH 20: Quarterback Peyton Manning looks over at the podium during the news conference announcing his contract with the Denver Broncos in the team meeting room at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre on March 20, 2012 in Englewood, Colorado. Manning, entering his 15th NFL season, was released by the Indianapolis Colts on March 7, 2012, where he had played his whole career. It has been reported that Manning will sign a five-year, $96 million offer. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
This isn't about kicking an injured player while they are down, though I'm sure someone while whine that it is. This is about getting to the the truth of the matter, determining whether or not a second round pick from just two years ago is a bust or not. If he is, it will continue to set the Indianapolis Colts franchise back, and it is the franchise, not any one player, that is what we follow and root for here.
Yesterday, word came out of Anderson that second-year player Ben Ijalana re-injured his knee, ending his season. He missed most of last season with the same ailment. From a purely productivity standpoint, he's a busted draft pick now. He's injury-prone and can't stay on the field, and in the NFL injured players are useless players.
Harsh reality of this game. If you don't like it, baseball and the Olympics are on right now. Enjoy.
When the 2012 season ends, Ijalana will only have played in a total of four games, never as a starter. For a second round pick that the Colts traded up to grab at the 49th overall selection in 2011, that's extremely damaging to the franchise.
Just like with Anthony Gonzalez, part of the issue with Ijalana is just bad luck. He'd never been an injury-prone player at Villanova, and it's not like Ben is some kind of lazy, Haynesworth-style bum. However, after doing some digging, talking to some people, and hearing the chatter on Indianapolis sports talk radio, it's become clear to me that, even before the knee injuries, Ijalana had the makings of a bust.
Again, as WFNI's Jon Michael "JMV" Vincent mentioned a few days ago, Ijalana wasn't wowing coaches this offseason. It seems he was in danger of being cut even if he hadn't re-injured the knee. The current group of coaches weren't the only ones who didn't think much of Ijalana, the player, either.
A certain "laser-rocket-armed" quarterback that you might have heard of over the past 14 years apparently wasn't high one Ijalana at all.
In an interview with Colts beat writer Mike Chappell yesterday, WFNI host and former-Indiana University basketball coach Dan Dakich dropped the following information:
Dakich: I was told last year by a great source, not a good one, that Ben Ijalana "can't play dead."
"Can't play dead." Yeah, that's a pretty harsh criticism, but not as harsh as what Chappell followed up with immediately after Dakich. Keep in mind, this exchange happened before the official word came out of Colts camp that A.J. Edds and Ben Ijalana were done for 2012:
Chappell: Obviously. Ben Ijalana, I don't know. He's got the knee. I remember talking to Peyton Manning last year, and he was very skeptical about Ijalana. He just felt there was something missing.
The rest of the juicy parts of the Dakich-Chappell exchange are after the jump, including speculating on Dakich's "great source" (who seems so obvious I don't understand why he's protecting him).
Here's more of the back-and-forth with Dakich and Chappell on Ben Ijalana:
Dakich: That's what I heard, man. I heard this exact quote, and I'm not quoting me. I'm quoting this source, who is a great source, and [Ijalana] "can't play dead."
Chappell: Sounds to me like a Howard Mudd quote.
Dakich: I'm not saying. I'm not saying. I'm just saying.
Chappell: But are you denying?
Dakich: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'll deny. Because I don't care if I'm honest or not. I'll just deny.
Chappell: I've heard similar things. Skepticism. It came from different levels of college football.
I'm pretty certain Mudd is the source there. That's a Mudd saying, "Can't play dead." Also, Dakich didn't do much to protect the identity.
Ijalana played his college ball at Villanova, a school in the Colonial Athletic Conference. While he certainly looked good there, he wasn't lining up against players from Michigan, USC, LSU, or Stanford. He was playing against the Drexels, the George Masons, and the University of Delaware-type schools. Sure, some fine NFL talent has come from those places, but it's a much different world than Big Ten, ACC, or SEC play.
The skepticism about Ijalana's ability to play coupled with his recent injury history make it difficult to see him making an impact for the Colts going forward. If he's even on this team next year this time, I think I'll be surprised.
Again, this is not to kick someone while they are down. And really, is Ijalana all that "down?" When 2012 ends, he'll have made roughly $1,658,000 in salary and bonus money playing in only four games over two years. The average income employee in Indiana would have to work 40 years to earn that. So, while I am upset that a kid like Ijalana might not have much of a future left with the Colts, it's difficult to get too sappy over it.
However, even though things don't look good for Ijalana right now, I sincerely hope he can make a comeback. It might not be in Indy, but a comeback somewhere.
It's also important to keep in mind that Ijalana busting is NOT the fault of the current front office. Ijalana was drafted by Chris Polian, the Colts former general manager who only got the job as general manager because he's the eldest son of the former president, Bill Polian. Chris Polian was quite a terrible G.M. You might recall that it was Chris who orchestrated the trade in 2007 that got the Colts Tony Ugoh. Ugoh was a classic bust in almost every way.
And, like Ijalana, Ugoh was selected in the second round after the Colts traded up.
No, this not yet another opportunity to play BASH THE POLIANS! It's to provide context. Bill and his son were very bad at their jobs from 2007-2011. They weren't fired in January because they were assh*les (even though they are). They were fired because they were Matt Millen-style bad at drafting players during that time, and the more players that bust from that era, the further back it will set the current, "new era" Colts.
Dakich even brought up the Polians in his chat with Chappell.
Dakich: Honest to god, what were the Polians doing?
Chappell: I don't know. Fiddling while Rome burned? I don't know. I saw that Tony Ugoh retired. You can miss of a seventh round pick and get by. Who miss on those guys, and-
Dakich: Chappy, these are, we're talking about first and second round picks!
Chappell: I know. I know. When you miss on them, again, we go way back, I remember Peyton talking about [Anthony] Castonzo, he said that was supposed to be a wide receiver. Well, you had to get the tackle because you whiffed on Tony Ugoh.
Look, the positive is they are gone, and good riddance. There was a reason Matt Grecco and I turned this blog into a "FIRE THE POLIANS" rallying cry last year. We have a new regime now, and so far things are looking up. So, it's not all doom and gloom.
However, the sooner the Polian era busts of the last six years are shipped out, the sooner the Colts can get back to being what they once were: A great football franchise.