There's no question that former Indianapolis Colts personnel maven Bill Polian is one of the most respected talent evaluators of this era, but a half-decade of bad drafts put the Colts in a bad place when Peyton Manning couldn't play at all in the 2011 season. Polian was asked to move along after that season, but as he told SI.com's Peter King for King's MMQB article today, he almost made a curious move after the Colts were left with Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky as the season progressed. Now that the trade deadline has been moved from Week 6 to Week 8, Polian remembered how Kyle Orton almost became a Colt.
"We would have rekindled our interest in Orton," Polian said. "In Week 6, we knew our quarterback situation wasn't great, but after a couple more weeks, we realized the situation was bad. We probably would have called Denver, who'd gone to [Tim] Tebow by then, and said, 'Hey, we'll give you a three [a third-round draft choice] for Orton.' ''
And with all due respect, that's why Polian had to go. In acquiring Orton for a couple of spackle wins down the stretch and blowing a third-round pick in the process, Polian would have been doing little more than attempting to hide the fact that his own personnel decisions led to the Colts' demise far more than Manning's injury did.
The classic example is the 2008 New England Patriots without Tom Brady -- they went 11-5 after Brady was lost for the season to a knee injury in the first quarter of the opening game because Bill Belichick had built enough of a team to survive the loss of their future Hall of Fame signal-caller.
So, let's say Orton would have been worth a win or two down the stretch -- what happens to the Colts? Perhaps Polian finds a way to save his job, perhaps there's more of an initiative and imperative to keep Manning, and perhaps the Colts are welcoming Trent Richardson to Lucas Oil Stadium instead of Andrew Luck, who they selected with the first overall pick. Or, let's way the Colts were second overall in the draft order -- would Polian have taken Robert Griffin III, despite having Manning on the roster, with Griffin as the consensus second-best player in this draft class? Or, having lost a third-round pick in the Orton trade, would the Colts have accepted a trade offer from a team like the Redskins, who wound up going from sixth to second to take Griffin, giving up all kinds of draft picks in the process?
We could go down the rabbit hole all day on this one, but King's overarching point is this: How much will moving the trade deadline two weeks down the season affect various permutations of NFL history in the coming years? Will more desperate GMs use that time to make moves designed to keep their employee parking spaces? We can but wait and see.
By the way, after losing the starting job in Denver to Tim Tebow, Orton wound up signing a three-year deal to be Tony Romo's backup in Dallas. Last season, the Broncos wound up releasing Orton as a favor to the veteran, and he wound up replacing another injured quarterback -- Matt Cassel in Kansas City. Orton started the Chiefs' last three regular-season games, and the Chiefs won two of those games, which gives credence to two things.
First, the Colts may well have aced themselves out of Luck with Orton under center. And second, Polian was ready to give up a third-round pick for a guy who was eventually cut ... and he didn't even get that same player when he was on the block. The Colts didn't even put in a waiver claim.
That's just not good business.
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