Ever since we learned that Russ Purnell will not be re-signed, I've had the same thought running through my head over and over: Are the Colts going to hire Brian Polian for the job? Why did I immediately think that? He's the Special Teams Coach at my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. He's been there since Weis took over in 2005.
Four years is long enough to get a decent body of work, so let's take a look at how the Irish Special Teams fared (all stats came from NCAA website):
|Year||KO Return||Punt Return||KO Coverage||Punt Coverage|
Some notes on the bolded rankings:
- I knew this before writing this up, but ND finished #1 in Kickoff Yardage Defense in the NCAA this season. It was an amazing turnaround from each of the past 3 seasons, and it was thanks to 2 absolute studs: David Bruton and Mike Anello (a former walk-on!).
- In 2005, Weis (and probably Polian as well) decided to try Tom Zbikowski at Punt Returner. Whoever thought of it was a pretty smart guy. He'll be returning kicks for the Ravens this weekend, by the way. Here's an example of his work, and you'll see that, while the blockers helped get him to the 30, Zibby did the rest on his own:
Zibby Return (via bluegraysky)
Looking at all those other stats though, would you want him coaching the Colt's special teams? This past season, we had 2 burners returning kicks (Armando Allen and Golden Tate), and only averaged 21.6 yds/return. Considering some of the teams we played this year, it should have been much, much higher. I know I was always completely frustrated with kickoff returns on Saturday, as well as Sunday this season.
If I put on my ND fan hat, losing Polian would be bad news, as he is (arguably) our best recruiter. I actually feel this is the only reason he is still on the staff. He can walk into a 17-year old's house, introduce himself, and tell him,
My dad is the best General Manager in the National Football League. I know how to get you to the NFL. Come play for us.
Now, I have no evidence he's actually said this, but I can imagine he's said something similar in the past. Weis's whole mantra since he started was about how he can get his players into the NFL.
In a completely unscientific poll of 4 of my buddies, asking how they'd feel if Polian left to go to the NFL, I got:
Bad for recruiting, but I think it would be easy to upgrade the coaching.
Good recruiter, that's about it.
I don't think Brian Polian is ready to take over the Colt's Special Teams. He hasn't shown me nearly enough in 4 years at Notre Dame to instill confidence in me that the Colt's ST would improve. We need somebody who's done it in the NFL. It needs to be an obvious upgrade from Purnell. That is not Polian.