AFC South: Polians out

The key element of Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay’s news conference to discuss the dismissal of Bill Polian and Chris Polian was this: The team's new general manager needs a vision for a direction back to greatness and that he needs to lead one organization that is pulling in the same direction with great unity.

I took that as meaning the team was not pulling in the same direction under the Polians, and that they did not welcome enough people into the loop for there to be the sort of unity Irsay covets.

Hiring a general manager could take weeks, and Irsay said he could start making inquiries and calls Monday night.

Things could pan out in a way that the new guy will have a say in the future of coach Jim Caldwell and his staff. Irsay said he anticipates it going that way, but stopped short of saying that’s definitely how it will unfold.

That’s potentially a long time flapping in the breeze for Caldwell and his assistants.

But Irsay spoke very flatteringly of Caldwell.

“He’s a very bright guy, he’s a great teacher," Irsay said. "He’s a very good personnel evaluator. He is greatly respected by the players. They know the integrity he has. You’re talking about one of the finest men I’ve ever known, bar none.”

Irsay likes that Caldwell takes responsibility and outlined that Caldwell has been accountable for errors he’s made. Larry Coyer wasn’t a Cover-2 guy, Caldwell admitted, and “that was a very big mistake that was made.” Game management and clock management troubles were also acknowledged by the head coach, who Irsay said has improved in those areas. The owner loves Caldwell’s consistency with players.

If a new GM comes in with a good degree of power, odds are he’ll want to hire his own coach and not want to inherit one.

Assistants will also be in a tough spot. As staffs are assembled elswhere, Colts coaches will be waiting on a verdict and missing out on other potential opportunities.

Those will be major storylines going forward.

A couple other interesting elements to the news conference:
  • Irsay expects to sit down with Peyton Manning in the next week or so to discuss his rehabilitation progress and health status.
  • He used the word “rebuilding,” which indicates new people will be given time and he doesn’t see a quick fix. It would also appear to allow for moving forward with a young quarterback, though he recently said if Manning is healthy and playing in 2012 it will be with the Colts.
  • He’d like to see the team’s media relations improve. Bill Polian was notoriously difficult, particularly with the Indianapolis press. Secrecy is important on many football matters, but can be overused, Irsay said. You have to be really good at media relations in a small market, he added.
  • While anything is possible, Irsay said he doesn’t see a strong likelihood of a big-name coach with a lot of power.
  • Dennis Polian will remain in his current capacity as director of football administration. When a new GM is in place, he will evaluate whole personnel department including the remaining Polian.

Call on Polians about the future

January, 2, 2012
There are two ways to look at Bill and Chris Polian as we learn that Jim Irsay is parting ways with the Colts' vice chairman and general manager.
    [+] EnlargeBill Polian
    AP Photo/Michael ConroyVice chairman Bill Polian, left, and GM Chris Polian will not return to the Indianapolis Colts next season.

  1. They suffered for one terrible season that was largely about the absence of one player, their Hall of Fame quarterback.
  2. The stitching was coming apart on their team and it was time to make a change.

Irsay apparently lines up more with the latter thinking than the former, and will now restart his franchise with a new management team and the No. 1 draft pick. Coach Jim Caldwell’s fate remains undetermined, but it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t be part of such a large sweep.

Bill Polian is a fine football architect. He’s a smart man, who knows he’s a smart man and who tends to talk down to people he doesn’t respect or doesn't believe are as smart. Those qualities could make him somewhat of a tyrant -- especially to some branches of the media, but not to them exclusively -- which is hardly the worst thing you can say about a football executive.

Still, as the season frayed, Polian flailed in defending some moves rather than admitting errors. If a couple of decent showings by Curtis Painter vindicated the franchise’s belief in him, then why exactly did said franchise run out to sign Kerry Collins? Couldn't he find someone more deserving of arrows on his weekly radio show than high-quality punter Pat McAfee?

There were more rifts in the franchise and less unity. A bigger split between the front office and the coaches. An incredibly awkward, low-power spot for Caldwell with regard to speaking for the team. The Polians' circle was a smaller and smaller one.

All that combined to give the organization a little bit of Al Davis Raiders flavor -- super secrecy, odd decisions and revelations, insistence on the rationale being used being unquestionable. Maybe you could make the case for borderline dysfunction once you added the nepotism issue.

Watching Bill Polian throw post-practice passes to a grandson was as good a snapshot memory as I have of training camp 2011. I don’t know Chris Polian well. He seemed like a fine guy when I spent time with him at training camp. But the younger Polian brings questions about just how equipped he is to run a franchise beyond having been brought up under a father who was very good at it.

If Bill Polian decides to retire, what sort of job will Chris Polian land? Some have told me he'd be a candidate to be a scout, not a GM.

I suspect his next post won’t be especially high-ranking, unless Bill Polian is tied in at least as a consultant.

So here is the end. It was an impressive era. While some fans might be relieved, it should qualify as a sad day.

Beyond Jerome Bettis and Tony Dungy, beyond Ernie Accorsi and Ron Wolf, not a lot of people in the league go out on their terms.

Jeff Fisher’s long stint as coach in Tennessee came to an awkward ending last year. It had just run its course and both sides decided a divorce was in order.

This would appear more one-sided -- but it feels the same in a lot of ways. It's been judged to be time for a fresh start. With a decision on Peyton Manning and the first pick and a bunch of aging veterans ahead, it might be the right time for it.

The Colts have a news conference scheduled for 5 p.m. ET. We’ll find out more then.