The Rodger Saffold element of this has already gotten a lot of play, but I waited for the Colts' transcript of Bill Polian’s Monday night radio show to jump in on this.
Polian talked pretty extensively about the issues on the offensive line, and pretty much offered what fans would want from him on some of the issues -- a “my bad” on a poor second-round pick and on the failure to sufficiently address the personnel.
Here are the key pieces of what he said about the line:
“We find that what we're lacking on the offensive line is power and punch. If you said to me that was going to happen, I would have probably said we should have done more in the draft. Despite what was a less-than-stellar performance in the Super Bowl, I thought we would bounce back and be pretty good in terms of the punch department. But we have not been.
“…Inside, the middle three has been disappointing to say the least in terms of getting people off the ball. It makes it tougher to run, then you're in a situation where you have some issues because you have to pass the ball on a rather continual basis. That puts more pressure on the tackles, so if I could have predicted that, probably we should have done a little more with the offensive line, but we didn't, so we're in the situation we're in right now. My hope is that we will play in these next four games basically the way we've played in the last three, which essentially is to outlast the opposition. We've had difficulty at times in the ballgames – and that's particularly true in the running game – but we have gotten better as the game has gone on and the opposition has gotten weaker. That's a characteristic of heart and toughness and mental toughness, and we have all of that…
“With respect to drafting offensive linemen, first of all the responsibility is mine. When we miss on a guy like Tony Ugoh, that's my mistake. And we did miss on him. There's no question about it. He never came on after the knee injury the way we thought he would. That's our mistake, my mistake – no question about it. Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard, I think, are pretty good players. They may be a little miscast as guards. They're probably both centers in the end, when all is said and done. Last year, we had a choice. We could have drafted Rodger Saffold. He was the last offensive lineman that deserved to be picked in the first round. And there was Jerry Hughes. We thought that Roger was going to be a right tackle. Who knows whether he will or won't. We liked the fact that Jerry had special rush ability, so we elected to go on the defensive side of the ball. In hindsight, you can question whether we should have drafted Roger, but that's the way it is. Hindsight is 20-20. It's an area we do need to address. I'm sure we will. That doesn't preclude free agency, either, as we go forward. We'll see what transpires in that area. We certainly do need, particularly at tackle, to address that.”
That may be the biggest element of this, there at the end. I linked earlier today to a Bob Kravitz video in which he suggested Polian has to do what the Broncos did for John Elway late in his career. Build up the run game and the defense and damn the team’s traditional blueprint.
Polian’s said some of this before, but saying the plan going forward “doesn’t preclude free agency” is significant. The Colts may be drafting higher than usual, but it still offers no guarantee about the availability of an offensive lineman that fits.
So he’s on the record saying he will look beyond that.
The biggest name heading toward free agency is New England guard Logan Mankins, and while I am not sure how he’d fit with Indianapolis it’s automatically intriguing because such a signing would also serve to weaken a rival.
Others with significant experience who are not signed for 2011 according to Pro Football Weekly include Baltimore tackles Jared Gaither and Marshal Yanda, Kansas City tackle Ryan O’Callaghan, Atlanta guard Justin Blaylock, New Orleans tackle Jermon Bushrod, Arizona guards Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui and St. Louis guard Adam Goldberg.
Trouble is, the draft’s ensured before a lockout, but free agency would be pushed back if there is no labor agreement. Potentially, Polian won’t be able to shop the market and then draft but will have to do vice versa.