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Did Bill Polian Make The Right Trade With Marshall Faulk?

With Marshall Faulk most likely heading into the Pro Football Hall of Fame later today, several stories are surfacing about the Spring of 1999, when Faulk was traded from the Colts to the St. Louis Rams, seemingly giving his career a second wind, and surely headed to the Hall of Fame.  Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports had an interesting article today, in which he found out from former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Jimmy Johnson they desperately wanted Faulk:

"Yep, we offered the Colts a first-round pick," former Miami Dolphins coach and current Fox commentator Jimmy Johnson said Wednesday, referring to the No. 24 overall pick the division-rival Dolphins held that year.

We also learned that other teams coveted Faulk, including the Ravens, Bengals, and Patriots. It's unclear whether these teams would have traded a first round pick for Faulk, but the Patriots did have 2 First Round picks in 1999, so I'm sure they would have parted with one for him.  So why did Colts GM Bill Polian take a second and fifth round pick for Faulk?

Simple: He wanted Faulk out of the AFC.

Even though one of the Colts reasons for not offering Faulk a long-term deal was that he was "out of gas", actions speak louder than words.  Both the Dolphins and Patriots were divisional rivals at the time (the Colts were in the AFC East at the time), and Polian took less to ensure Faulk wouldn't beat him and the Colts year after year.  But was this the right thing to do?

Absolutely, 100% was. 

The Rams pick in the second round, which the Colts received for Faulk, was pick number 36, only 12 after where the Dolphins #24 pick would have been.  The Colts took OLB Mike Peterson at #36, and conceivably could have taken him at #24 as well, just with less value.  Only 3 LBs were chosen between picks 24 and 36, and I couldn't have seen Polian drafting Andy Katzenmoyer or Al Wilson, who were both MLB.  At pick 35, the Eagles took Northwestern OLB Barry Gardner, who could have been on the Colts board, but Peterson ended up a much better player.

With the fifth round pick the Colts selected DT Brad Scioli, who was a solid part of the Colts D-line for 6 seasons.  According to the St. Louis Dispatch, Polian was actually talked down from a 4th round pick to a 5th by the Rams, another sign that Polian really wanted Faulk out of the Conference.

Cole also had a couple other hypotheticals, if Faulk had been traded to Miami.  One of these directly affected the Colts:

Would Jon Gruden have gone to Tampa Bay and Tony Dungy to Indianapolis?

One of the first daggers which former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy took during his run in Tampa was losing the conference title game to the Rams in the 1999 season. That loss led to the firing of offensive coordinator Mike Shula and the degeneration of the Bucs offense, which ultimately led to the firing of Dungy after the 2001 season. Dungy then went to Indianapolis and the Bucs acquired Gruden in a trade with the Oakland Raiders.

Had Dungy won the Super Bowl with Tampa, he would have gotten at least 5 more seasons, considering Gruden stayed for 6 seasons, including 3 below .500 years.  That means he would have not been available in 2002, and the Colts would have gone in a different direction.  Who knows who they would have hired, or what would have happened after that, but it is something to think about.  It's amazing how many things change based on just one decision.

The 1999 draft set up the Colts for the next 10+ years, and Polian went 2-for-2 on these gigantic decisions:  Not trading Faulk within the division, just to get a pick 12 spots higher, and drafting Edgerrin James over Ricky Williams. The Colts really could have wasted the early years of Peyton Manning had Polian not made these difficult decisions correctly.