Before I begin, this story is in jest. I am not equating Polian to any of the brutal Middle East dictators and think well of Polian as a person and, perhaps surprisingly, as a GM. This being said, I couldn't help myself...
As some of you may have known, I've spent the last 8 months reporting on the Arab Spring in the Middle East. I've witnessed revolutions first hand in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya and Bahrain. I've been attacked by government thugs, tear gassed by state security and had a friend shot by a government controlled army. Suffice it to say, I've spent a fair amount of time covering rattled leaders and authoritarian regimes in their final throes.
So I couldn't help but chuckle after Bill Polian's comments when he said "Some people are just rats who lie about people" before following it up with "it's the job of the team to 'throw the rats in the sewer."
Such comments reek of desperation and imply a deeply unnerved leadership. If the Arab Spring is any indication, such words also mean an end to the Polian reign may be near.
The similarities between Polian's tenure, his latest remarks and the Arab Spring are stark.
The most applicable comparison to Polian's rat comments, were analogous to the messages echoed by the late Moammar Gadhafi. Like Polian, Gadahfi called the protesters 'rats and cockroaches' and blamed the uprising on foreign media and unknown infiltrators. Likewise the Colts GM used the term 'rats' to denigrate the media and imply that infiltrators, not his own perceived incompetence, is to blame (perceived, because I still think he's a good GM).
Of course Polian didn't go as far and wasn't as barbaric as to say that he would 'extinguish the rats' as Gadhafipreviously did, but his "throw the rats in the sewer" did make clear that Polian is intent on getting rid of anything/body who threatens his regime.
The rats metaphor was the initial prompt that led to the comparisons, especially since Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, the Crown Prince of Bahrain and al-Assad in Syria have unleashed similar rants with unsavory symbolic references to the media, foreign influence and spies, but the parallels run deeper.
Like in Tunisian and Egypt, Polian enjoyed the prominence and impunity from criticism that comes with being the undisputed leader. Ben Ali and Mubarak used iron fists and torture while Bill used his 6 Executive Of the Year Awards and threat of pink slips for dissenters for staffers to silence critics. Either way a clear order of command and authority was established and remained firm... until suddenly it wasn't.
In the blink of an eye the Middle East was ablaze. The Colts collapse was just as stunning and unexpected.
No longer feared, authoritarian regimes crumbled. Similarly, the reputation of Bill Polian suffered a crushing blow as his draft genius and ability to build rosters has been exposed. All regimes use falsehoods to prop their commands. For Polian, it was the promise that the Colts were more than just Manning.
In the midst of an devastating season and un-winnable (literal and metaphorical) predicament, Polian, like the rest of the dictators who hung on/are hanging on to power for too long, is choosing to go down swinging.
The obvious answer as to why Polian - like many of the dictators - wouldn't ride off into the sunset and enjoy retirement is egotism. For Bill it goes beyond that. Polian is determined to protect his legacy and lay the foundations for his son Chris to take over. His fatherly instincts of protecting his son from criticisms and condemnations are kicking in. Anyone who challenges Chris must go.
While such a sentiment is noble in theory, Polian is incidentally making things worse. The Colts best coaches - Gene Huey, Howard Mudd and Tom Moore - have all been let go over differences in philosophy or personality with Chris. The Colts highly regarded coaching staff has been decimated by blind nepotism. In the end everyone loses.
Not sold? President Mubarak was set on passing on the presidency to his son Gamal. Instead, both currently sit in jail. Egypt's al-ahram writes how Gamal's path to succeed his father 'brought the whole house down." Sound frighteningly familiar?
Before Polian vociferates any more he might want to bone up on the lessons learned during the Arab Spring.
If Bill and Chris want to remain and want to win back the faith of their fan base, they must stop with the opaque criticisms and admit their mistakes. They must recruit the smartest football minds to help rebuild the Colts regardless as to whether or not they disagree with what they have to say and they must operate in a more transparent way.
The Polians have had a great run. The question now is whether or not they have overstayed their welcome.
How long is it until they lose their grip and hit rock bottom?
For a general manager who has helped turn the Colts into the best team ever in a generation, it is sad to see Bill Polian stoop to such lows. If he humiliates himself and tarnishes the Colts reputation any more though, maybe it won't be so hard to see him go.
Bill Polian is better than this. Hopefully he realizes it before its too late.
* A while back I wrote a piece on "The Last 12 Steps of a Middle East Dictator." Figuratively Bill Polian is somewhere around 6 right now.