Bill Polian sees Colts headed in right direction
WESTFIELD, Ind. – The Indianapolis Colts’ renaissance season was something to behold.
More to the point, 2018 was something to build on.
“I don’t think last year was a fluke by any means,’’ Bill Polian offered Sunday. “I think this is a good team that is going to get better.
“They have good players, they’re well-coached, it’s a good organization, everything’s looking up. It’s time. The next step is the hardest one.’’
That next step begins Sept. 8 against the Los Angeles Chargers. That’s when the Colts embark on what so many analysts expect to be another playoff push, perhaps more.
“The playoffs,’’ Polian said. “You become a team that’s viable, that everybody else in the league says, ‘Hmm, they can play. We’d better get ready for them.’’’
Polian was at Grand Park Sports Campus as part of Sirius XM Radio’s training camp coverage. The former long-time Colts’ general manager/president and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is 76 and semi-retired. He still stays as involved as possible in all things NFL, and was part of a couple of ESPN radio broadcasts of Colts games last season.
It was during the ESPN coverages that Polian got an eyeful of the Colts. He saw a team that possessed the requisite talent and resolve to overcome a 1-5 start and reach the postseason for the first time since 2014.
“They just weren’t finishing, the Cincinnati game being the best example,’’ Polian said. “Driving in for the winning touchdown and they get a turnover (Jack Doyle’s lost fumble).
“You could tell all that was needed was take the next step, and they did.’’
Polian’s confidence in the Colts once again being playoff-worthy isn’t impacted by his relationship with the franchise. He ran things from 1998-2011, a 14-year stretch that included 11 playoff appearances, two trips to the Super Bowl and one world championship. The team won at least 12 games in seven straight seasons, at the time an NFL record.
Not surprisingly, only two players remain from the Polian era: left tackle Anthony Castonzo, Polian’s last first-round pick (22nd overall in 2011) and kicker Adam Vinatieri, a significant free-agent acquisition in 2006.
The current Colts, according to Polian, are built – or are being built – in the proper manner.
“An offensive line that is really solid,’’ he said.
And . . .
And . . .
“The right tackle’s (Braden Smith) done a great job.’’
And . . .
And . . .
“53 (Darius Leonard) has a chance to be super.’’
And . . .
“Defensively it’s a work in progress, but the first group is pretty good.’’
The Colts feature, he noted, “guys that can win games in the National Football League based on their ability. Of course, a quarterback position that top-to-bottom might be as good as anybody in the league.’’
Speaking of that quarterback position, count Polian among those not the least bit concerned with Andrew Luck’s extended absence due to a strained left calf muscle. Luck didn’t practice Sunday and won’t be on the field Monday, stretching his streak of not practicing to 10 straight. It’s uncertain if he’ll participate in the joint workouts with the Cleveland Browns Wednesday and Thursday.
“He’s seen more than enough to not need this work necessarily,’’ Polian said. “Preseason is for two things, you’ve heard this before: find football players and get your team ready to play, and he’ll be ready to play.’’
Polian also is bullish on the leadership and overall presence provided by Frank Reich. He played a major role in Reich’s entry into the NFL, selecting him in the third round of the 1985 draft while helping build the Buffalo Bills.
“He’s a unique individual . . . leadership, studiousness, son of a coach, great feel for the game, great person, players gravitate to him, humble in whatever role he had,’’ Polian said. “This franchise has been blessed with Tony Dungy and (Reich).’’
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