Finding Buckner: Search for the Colts' Scapegoat - Day 3

Andy Lyons

Every franchise has one - the player/fan/coach that kept you from getting to the top when you should have. In Boston it's Bill Buckner. In Chicago it's Steve Bartman. In Buffalo it's Scott Norwood. Who is the biggest scapegoat in Indianapolis Colts history? That hasn't been determined - yet.

Welcome to Day 3 of the search for Indy's scapegoat.

If you missed Day 1 (shame on you) you missed a blowout with #1 seed Mike Vanderjagt easily handing the #8 seed Aaron Bailey - as any good #1 seed should. At last check, Vanderjagt had nearly 97% of the votes.

You can look at Day 1 by clicking here.

If you missed Day 2 (you really should stop by more) you missed a convincing win by our #2 seed, Jeff George. I won't lie, Nick Harper got a lot more votes that I thought he would - but at last check George had 75% of the vote.

You can look at Day 2 by clicking here.

For anyone that is reading this for the first time, here's a recap of how we got to where we are - A couple of months ago I reached out to Colts fans via Twitter (follow me @ColtsInsiders) and asked who they would nominate for such a dubious crown. In other words - in Indianapolis Colts history, who do you love to hate? I got about 12 different names. I selected the best of the best and took the liberty of seeding the top eight.

  1. Mike Vanderjagt
  2. Jeff George
  3. Jim Caldwell
  4. Hank Baskett
  5. Ron Meeks
  6. Bill Polian
  7. Nick Harper
  8. Aaron Bailey
Our first round match-ups look like this:

#1 Vanderjagt vs. #8 Bailey - VANDERJAGT ADVANCES
#2 George vs. #7 Harper - GEORGE ADVANCES
#3 Caldwell vs. #6 Polian
#4 Baskett vs. #5 Meeks

Our Day 3 match-up should give us our first 'close' vote of the tournament. Former head coach Jim Caldwell, the #3 seed, will face off with the #6 seed, Bill Polian. I'll make the case for each one and you can vote for the winner below.

#3 Jim Caldwell

Profile: Jim Caldwell played defensive back for the University of Iowa before getting into coaching. His collegiate coaching career included stops at Iowa, Southern Illinois, Northwestern, Colorado, Louisville, Penn State and his first head coaching job at Wake Forest. At Wake Forest Caldwell's record was 26-63. In the NFL, Caldwell coached for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens. He has been to the Super Bowl three times as a coach (once as a head coach) and has two Super Bowl rings. His NFL coaching record is 26-22 including an impressive 14-2 in 2009 and an NFL worst 2-14 in 2011.

Years with the Colts: 2002-2011

Best Moments as a Colt:

  • Tony Dungy, one of the most respected men in Colts history, handpicked Jim Caldwell to be his successor in 2008 and officially handed him the reigns in 2009.
  • Jim Caldwell tied a franchise record with 14 wins in the 2009 regular season and has the best start of any head coach in NFL history by winning his first 14 games.
  • Caldwell becomes just the fifth coach in NFL history to lead his team to the Super Bowl in his first year on the job.
  • Why he is on the list:
    1. Following a 2-14 season (without starting quaterback Peyton Manning) Jim Caldwell is fired. Caldwell is criticized for not adjusting his gameplans to compensate for the loss of Manning.
    2. Against the Jaguars in 2010, with the game tied and Jacksonville seemingly willing to let the game go into overtime, Caldwell calls timeouts and allows the Jaguars to drive for the game winning field goal.
    3. In the playoffs against the Jets in January of 2011 Caldwell again calls a timeout, with the Colts leading 16-14, after New York seemed content to let the clock wind down and attempt a 51 yard field goal. After the timeout Mark Sanchez hits Braylon Edwards for 18 yards and the Jets win on a 32 yard chip shot. Peyton Manning shows clear signs of confusion and frustration on the sidelines after the timeout was called. This was the last game that Manning would play in for the Colts.
    4. At 14-0, and faced with the opportunity to become the first team in NFL history to go 19-0, Caldwell pulls his starters in the second half against the Jets. The Jets go on to win the game and some fans believe at that moment Caldwell lost the respect of the locker room. (Note: Blame is assessed to both Caldwell and Polian for this decision - you will see this on both lists)
    5. Part of coaching is developing young talent and fans blame some of the failures of Tony Ugoh, Jerry Hughes and Anthony Gonzalez on Caldwell and his staff.

    Caldwell Time Out (via abm1)



    Summary : The biggest knock on Caldwell was that he wasn't able to adjust his gameplan to fit his personnel. When Peyton Manning was down in 2011 there were no adjustments made on offense or defense to reduce the increased pressure on Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky or the defense - while in Denver, John Fox was gaining the respect of the league for completely changing his game plan to fit Tim Tebow. Another thing that always bugged me about Caldwell was his lack of 'presence'. Perhaps it's intangible but some people have 'it' and some people don't. I never thought Caldwell had 'it'. Could more Super Bowls have been won with a different man at the helm?


    #6 Bill Polian

    Profile: Bill Polian is a six time winner of the NFL Executive of the Year Award (twice in Indianapolis). He was the GM that built the Buffalo Bills team that went to, and lost, four straight Super Bowls (he was fired after the third one). From 1994-1997 Polian took over the Carolina Panthers and got the expansion team to the NFC Championship game in just their second year of existence. He took over as President of the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 and was part of the braintrust that drafted Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf. Polian was fired after the 2011 season when the Colts finished 2-14.

    Years with the Colts: 1998-2011

    Best Moments as a Colt:

  • Bill Polian drafted star players in Indianapolis like Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Edgerrin James, Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders.
  • Polian won an elusive Super Bowl title after the 2006 season.
  • Presided over a team that made the playoffs a record 9 straight seasons and 124 wins in a decade (second most in league history behind the Patriots).
  • Why he is on the list:
    1. Despite his reputation of successful draft picks, Bill Polian is crticized for his poor selections later in his tenure, including: Anthony Gonzalez, Tony Ugoh, Mike Pollack, Donald Brown and Jerry Hughes.
    2. Some say Polian had too much power within the organization and was difficult to work with. This pride and stubbornness led to the hiring and alleged bullying of Jim Caldwell, never allowing him real control of the team.
    3. Polian's insistence on not investing in free agents has been criticized by Colts fans who felt the defense was the only thing keeping the Colts from a Super Bowl title for years.
    4. Polian promoted his son, Chris, to GM without much merit - and he was accused of nepotism and offended many people who had worked for years within the organization.
    5. At 14-0, and faced with the opportunity to become the first team in NFL history to go 19-0, Polian tells Caldwell to pull the starters in the second half against the Jets. The Jets go on to win the game and some fans believe at that moment Caldwell and Polian lost the respect of the locker room. (Note: Blame is assessed to both Caldwell and Polian for this decision - you will see this on both lists)


    Summary: No one is denying that Bill Polian is a hall of fame GM - I want to make that clear. The question is, is he the reason the Colts only got one Super Bowl win? Some of Peyton Manning's best years were used up - wasted- with poor defense and special teams and the 'team architect' has to carry some blame for that. The Colts were not prepared at all to play without Peyton Manning in 2011 - Polian has to share or carry that blame, too.

    I've presented both sides. Now it's your turn.

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