I really hope people understand just how frustrated I am today with Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian. Once again, the crotchety, angry, 'get off my lawn you dirty kids!' jerk has resurfaced, taking unnecessary shots at the very people who make this game as popular and wonderful as it is: The fans.
We're very pro fan here. The fan is everything. The fan is more important than the players, he stadiums, the owners, and, especially, Bill Polian. The reason Bill Polian makes his yearly seven figure salary is because fans are willing to fork over $26 million in yearly operating costs for Lucas Oil Stadium and yet still have to pay and arm and a leg for tickets.
So, when the Grand Grump of All Grumps decides to shoot his fat mouth off again, needlessly attacking the very people who make this game possible, it is going to piss off fans like me. The very fans that booed him and his cowardly decision to bench starters in Week Sixteen of 2009.
Yesterday morning, on the local Indy radio station 1070 The Fan, Joe Staysniak and Michael Grady had Polian on to discuss the NFL Draft. Staysniak asked Polian about the team drafting two offensive linemen with their first two picks and how that was going to improve Indy's terrible running game (ranked 32nd in 2009 and 29th in 2010). It was a perfectly logical and appropriate question. Most normal, non-jerk types would answer safely that they hope the new players can help them in all facets of their offenses, running and passing.
Bill Polian isn't that type of person. He's a colossal prick, especially to fans.
Yesterday, rather than answer Staysniak's question with any semblance of dignity and respect for his listeners, he decided to launch into a completely unprovoked attack against fans who have been justifiably critical of Indy's running game in recent years.
At a time when fan anger towards the owners for their greed during the lockout is reaching a critical level, it is not wise for a senior executive like Bill Polian to be lashing out this way.
From the radio interview [emphasis mine]
Staysniak: What do these guys, Castonzo and Ijalana have that are going to help with that running game?
Polian: Well, first off all, let me say that the discussion of the running game is way off base. This is a stat geeks looking at a stat and saying, 'Oh, gee. Indianapolis has a problem.' We finished first in the conference and, I believe, second in the league in total offense. We're always among the top four or five in scoring every year. The object of the game is to score. It's not to make stat geeks happy in terms of yards per carry. And I'm criticizing people who, make no bones about it, who deal only in statistics. The object of our running game, because we are such a high scoring, high powered offense, is to run effectively; i.e., run in the red zone, which we do very, very effectively. And run in four minutes and short yardage, which we have no done effectively.
OK, I'm not going to go into all the obvious contradictions, near-insane logic, and blatant shifting of the goal posts (to use a football term) that Polian is doing here in order to rationalize why he, the coaches, and the players haven't been able to run the ball well since, really, 2007.
We've often said around here that running the ball is overrated, because it is. Two years ago, the Colts ran all over the Saints in Super Bowl 44, and lost. Last year, the Packers had a terrible running game going into the playoffs. Didn't matter. They dominated due in large part to Aaron Rodgers and the passing game.
That said, there is nothing 'effective' about being ranked 32nd and 29th in total rushing yards, respectively, in 2009 and 2010. If Bill Polian doesn't see that as a problem, Bill Polian should be fired right now. I think he does see it as a problem, but in typical Polian fashion, he's trying to deflect blame. Bill rarely stands up and owns up to obvious mistakes. He's above that, or so he thinks. This way of thinking got him fired from Buffalo and Carolina, and the only reason he hasn't been fired (yet) from Indy was because of Tony Dungy.
But let's set aside his ridiculous logic (first in the conference- HA!) and focus instead on his unprovoked attack on 'stat geeks.' I honestly don't know why he chose to use his forum on the radio and a platform to insult people who look at simple statistics (1,483 total yards rushing, 3.8 a carry, 29th ranked in NFL) and come to a fairly logical and reasoned conclusion: The Colts run game stinks.
We can all turn to sites like Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus, and Pro Football Reference and see a ton of stats that more than back up the claim that Indy's rushing numbers are embarrassing. These are the people Polian was taking shots at in his radio interview. Dedicated fans like Jason Lisk and Aaron Schatz, who do great work breaking down plays and attributing stats to them. It's thankless. It's boring. But, it is to be commended because it helps make the game more enjoyable to watch and understand.
Bill Polian, clearly, doesn't like this. He'd prefer us all shut up and take his word as God.
If you read a lot of Polian's comments about advanced stats, you can see a general theme: "Fans in general are morons who know nothing about football."
But, let's forget for a moment about 'stat geeks' like Schatz and Lisk. Let's talk about other folks who aren't 'stats geeks' but have written and said some pretty negative things about Indy's running game in recent years.
Joe Staysniak, the man who asked Polian the question and who played football as an o-linemen for Indy in the 1990s, has been talking about how poor the run game is on his radio show for a while now. Former Colts tight end Ken Dilger talked about the sad state of Indy's running game with me in November of last year. All last year, Indy Star reporter Mike Chappell wrote detailed articles talking about the woeful state of the Colts running game. Heck, back in June of 2009, Colts owner Jim Irsay himself called the running game 'unacceptable.'
Are these guys 'stats geeks' too, along with Lisk and Schatz?
This doesn't take into account the hundreds of fans who call into stations like 1070, or the thousands that read Stampede Blue daily, who all agree (based on looking at stats AND watching the games) that Indy's running game sucks. Drafting Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana are seen by all as clear signs the team was serious about upgrading the run game.
Several of us on Twitter (@LovinBlue, @XL950, @mgrex03, @ProFootbalFocus, @StampedeBlue, @FO_ASchatz) were discussing the Polian rant yesterday, and we were all quite honestly stunned by how mean-spirited and douchey it was of him to lash out at fans.
The best Tweet in response to Polian's attack at 'stat geeks' came from LovinBlue:
And yet, I believe Polian is a mainstay at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference
I wonder if Ole Bill will stand up before that crowd and utter the same hateful garbage he yapped about on the radio yesterday. Doubtful. Bill Polian doesn't have that kind of courage. He prefers to take shots at 'stats geeks' over the phone rather than in person.
Speaking of stats, here's an interesting one from Matt Grecco:
@mgrex03 Colts are 2-10 when Manning throw 50+ passes
Wrap your mind around that one, Bill, and maybe next time you'll be a bit more respectful of the people who pay to watch this game.
But, that's just me. Another 'stat geek.'