It has always been difficult to get a true read on Colts head coach Jim Caldwell. Sure, we know he is an experienced coach, and for everything we can see, a classy man, who is both well liked and respected. But with the sudden dismissal of Bill Polian as the Colts brain trust, he should now get what he has wanted all along; the opportunity to be his own man.
While he has had the ability to make decisions on game days, it is no secret that Caldwell was force fed personnel and given marching orders by the draconian Polian. From play calling to the policy on where the media would stand during pre game warm ups, Polian’s opinions always superceded those of Caldwell.
To his credit, Caldwell consistently played it off and went about the business of coaching the best he could. Most thought that with the imminent retirement of Peyton Manning and the overall demise of the team, Caldwell would be fired and the Polian family would continue to run the organization in the same tight-fisted manner that those who know the real inner workings of the Colts have seen for over a decade.
But enter Colts owner Jim Irsay, who while a big fan of Polian, had grown tired of his rants and his inability to communicate with anyone who dared to oppose him.
Irsay, who has been criticized by yours truly (and countless others) for allowing Polian too much control, seized the moment and conceded what has been obvious for some time now, that this team needs to be totally rebuilt.
By jettisoning Polian into retirement a few years early, Irsay has ended a bully’s tenure and eradicated the stench that has filled the air on West 56th Street for some time now.
In the process, he removed the psychological shackles that Polian had firmly fastened around his head coach. Note that I said “his” head coach as we now know that the man who has been signing checks for the Colts is indeed in charge of this once storied franchise.
By not including Caldwell in the pink slip parade, Irsay sent a well-deserved vote of confidence to a guy who in my opinion, clearly has earned it.
I once asked Caldwell at a charity event if he thought a Purple Heart was in order for anyone who worked for Bill Polian, and he politely declined to comment. In essence, what he chose not to say spoke volumes and now we will get the opportunity to see just how much better Caldwell will be without Polian peering over his every move at practice and watching him through binoculars from the press box during games.
Clearly Caldwell has a lot to do to convince Irsay that he is indeed the man to remain at the helm for an extended period, but I think he is up to the task. His players respect him and more importantly knew what a control freak Polian was and how it limited Caldwell in his ability to foster change both on and off the field.
While Irsay stated he was still evaluating the situation regarding Caldwell’s future employment, I have to think he has already made up his mind to retain him and will strongly “encourage” the new general manager he hires to do the same.
With the first pick in the upcoming draft and the scent of fresh air flowing through the locker room, the Colts have now determined that the road to rebuilding is the path they have chosen. There can be no doubt that the ride will be a rough one, but it will hopefully yield long term results that will be meaningful and positive.
If given the chance, Jim Caldwell can prove further that he is indeed the right man for the job. Hopefully the charge that was mounted with the long overdue dismissal of Polian will not be a temporary one, but rather one that sustains for years to come.
Keeping Jim Caldwell in the fold is more than a step in the right direction. It will provide the leadership and credibility needed to right the ship that up until recently was referred to as the USS Polian. This is Caldwell’s time, and I feel he is up for the challenge. Hopefully Jim Irsay feels the same. Something tells me he does.
Danny Bridges, who also recognizes Bill Polian’s career achievements, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at [email protected]