Indianapolis Colts: Are Latest Firings Biggest Overreaction in Sports History?

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 18:  Jim Caldwell the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts watches the action during Colts 27-13 win over the Tennessee Titans in the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Court of Public Opinion will now hear the case of Caldwell-Polians vs. the Indianapolis Colts.

Vice chairman Bill Polian, general manager Chris Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell have accused the Colts of wrongly firing them after a 2-14 season. They claim this firing is one of the largest overreactions in sports history.

The Colts have maintained that the loss of one player—Peyton Manning—shouldn't see a 10-6 team the year before finish with only two wins the next. They believe that the drastic drop-off in play from the team is proof that there were organizational and coaching issues in place that Manning had been able to cover up with his excellent play in the past.

We'll hear the Plaintiff's arguments first.

Plaintiff

I'd like to start by quoting a brief paragraph from Sports Illustrated I feel accurately summarizes the tenure of Mr. Bill Polian:

Under Polian, the Manning-led Colts went 141-67, with 11 seasons of 10-plus wins, from '98 through 2010. That regular season success led to 11 playoff berths, two Super Bowl appearances and a victory in Super Bowl XLI over the Bears.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 02:  Dallas Clark #44, Peyton Manning #18 and Reggie Wayne #87 of the Indianapolis Colts pose on the field during Super Bowl XLIV Media Day at Sun Life Stadium on February 2, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Ben
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Mr. Polian selected such mainstays as Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Ryan Diem, Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark, Robert Mathis, Bob Sanders (bless his oft-injured soul), Joseph Addai and Pierre Garcon. He laid the framework for a team that won a Super Bowl and went to another.

He made the Colts relevant (for the purposes of keeping this argument short, we're going to just go ahead and lump in Chris Polian with his father).

And as for Mr. Caldwell, well, this was a disappointing season, there's no question about that. But in his first two years with the team, the Colts were 24-8 including a trip to the Super Bowl in 2009.

Surely he deserved the chance to right the ship and steer the Colts back toward success in 2012. Surely a coach who takes his team to the Super Bowl his very first year deserves better than being fired in only his third season.

We rest our case.

Defendant

That was a nice list of players you described, Mr. Plaintiff. Here's the problem—you only listed two players from 2005 to 2010. In six straight drafts, the Colts organization largely failed to replenish this Colts team with solid players to support such stars as Mr. Manning, Mr. Wayne or Mr. Freeney.

I'll submit this Bleacher Report article from Ryan Day as evidence that the Colts have drafted extremely poorly for six straight years.

Until this season, of course, that hasn't been an issue—Peyton Manning has done well to mask any blemishes this team has on its roster. And as incredible as Mr. Manning is, surely one player shouldn't be worth eight wins a season, should they be?

In 2008, one of the finest quarterbacks the game has ever seen, Tom Brady, was lost for the season to a knee injury. How did the Patriots respond?

Though they missed the playoffs, backup quarterback Matt Cassel still led the team to an 11-5 record.

Why?

Because he was a viable backup—something the Colts obviously didn't have in Curtis Painter—and the rest of New England's roster was obviously solid enough to sustain the loss of Brady, something our roster was unable to do.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 22: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning looks on during the game against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 22, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts defeated the Texans 19-16. (Photo by Joe Robbin
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The job of the Polians was to ensure that our roster was strong enough to sustain the loss of any one player. They failed to do so.

Our franchise suddenly became an embarrassment, to the point that the new NFL Magazine named the injured Peyton Manning the league MVP. The implication: Manning is the franchise, and the Colts—from top to bottom—pretty much suck without him.

That's unacceptable.

As for Mr. Caldwell, consider the following: From 2009 to 2010, the Colts dropped from 14 wins to 10. From 2010 to 2011, the Colts dropped from 10 wins to two.

Again, that is unacceptable, and it begs the question: Was Caldwell simply a figurehead while it was Mr. Manning who was the actual cause for success? Was there an inherent benefit in the coaching style of Mr. Caldwell, or was he just the beneficiary of Manning's leadership and abilities on the field?

You shouldn't even consider those questions about your head coach. The fact that Mr. Caldwell couldn't lead the Colts to a record better than 2-14 made our doubts about his abilities as a coach too great to ignore.

The Court of Public Opinion rests its case.

Verdict

The court rules in favor of the Defendant, the Indianapolis Colts.

Clearly, this past season was an indication of organizational failures to consistently develop and maintain a competitive roster. As incredible as Manning is, no organization should fall as hard and fast as the Colts did without him this year.

I mean, Curtis Painter was the backup plan? Really, guys?

As for Caldwell, his team opened the year by losing 13 straight games, and the 2-14 mark is the worst in Indianapolis since 1991. Though the roster obviously has glaring holes, no team should look as wretched as these Colts did for much of the season, and the blame for that rests on the head coach's shoulders.

The Indianapolis Colts are vindicated for firing Bill and Chris Polian and Jim Caldwell.

Hit me up on the Twitter—my tweets are FDA approved.

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