In a recent radio interview, notoriously prickly Colts president Bill Polian seemed to take offense to a question regarding how top draft picks Anthony Castonzo and Benjamin Ijalana will help the team’s running game. Here was his response:
“Well first of all let me say that I think the discussion about the running game is way off base. This is stat geeks looking at a stat and saying ‘oh gee Indianapolis has a problem’. We finished first in the conference and I believe second in the league in total offense. We’re always among the top four or five in scoring every year. The object of the game is to score. It’s not to make stat geeks happy in terms of yards per carry. I’m criticizing people, make no bones about it, who deal only in statistics. The object of our running game because we are high scoring, high powered, offense is to run effectively, i.e. run in the red zone, which we do very, very effectively. And run in four minutes and short yardage, which we have not done effectively. The improvement there I believe has to come from the back. That’s not the responsibility of the offensive line. You get a body on a body and a back has to either make somebody miss or more likely in short yardage you as know Joe run through a tackle. You know the idea of the idea of the statistical analysis of the running game is about as far off base as it possibly could be, in my opinion.”
Unsurprisingly, Polian’s stats are incorrect. His team was actually ranked lower in total offense than he claimed. Regardless, his answer raises an interesting point: Does a good running game always have to rack up good numbers?
The answer, generally, is no. Sometimes a good running game just keeps defenses honest enough to leave seven men in the box. A team doesn’t need a 1,000-yard rusher or 100-yard per-game average to be successful. The key is to have a threat in the backfield to ease things up on the passing game.
And as PFT pointed out in the above link, it doesn’t seem as though the majority of fans are “stat geeks.” I don’t consider myself to be a big stats guy, but I’ve watched the Colts play about 20 games in the last two years and, based on that empirical yet sort of unquantifiable research, I can tell you that the Colts’ running game is poor.
Over the last three years, the Colts have averaged a horrendous 3.6 yards per carry despite the massive advantage of having Peyton Manning and a high-flying aerial attack, and Polian even admits that his team doesn’t even run effectively “in four minutes and short yardage,” despite the fact that’s apparently “the object of our running game.”
So why does he have his back up? Ego.
Because of that, we may never get an actual answer to the question thrown his way.