Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian owns the well-earned reputation of being tight-lipped when it comes to inside information.
The Colts are notorious for keeping news in-house and putting up semi-permanent walls to keep the outside world from looking in. It's a style that works. The Colts prevent opponents from knowing too much and gaining an edge, even if the approach frustrates reporters.
So those who attended the University of Saint Francis' annual CEO Forum on Thursday should feel privileged. Polian dished out interesting and illuminating stories that aren't thrown around every day.
Now, if you're waiting for something shocking about quarterback Peyton Manning, you'll still be waiting at column's end. But, as someone who follows the Colts closely, I found these to be the most fascinating of Polian's comments:
• Pat McAfee's suspension. The Colts issued a one-game suspension to punter McAfee after his arrest early Wednesday morning for public intoxication.
“The first thing I did (Wednesday) was talk to Peyton, Gary Brackett and Jeff Saturday,” Polian said. “I told them, ‘Here's what happened, here's how we propose to deal with it. How do you feel about it?' They signed off on it.”
That came after Polian told the audience a story about a reporter being surprised to learn that Polian talks with Manning in advance about some personnel moves. Polian implied he had employed a similar approach with Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills.
“Why wouldn't you consult with them?” Polian said. “They're out there doing it. They're the experts, I'm not.”
• The archrival New England Patriots. Polian encouraged the CEOs in the audience to study other successful companies to learn how to improve.
He said the Colts have studied the Steelers and the Patriots extensively for keys to their success. Polian said the Colts studied the Patriots regularly in the early 2000s.
“Coach (Bill) Belichick doesn't allow us to wander around Foxboro,” Polian said. “But we can study on film, and we do.”
Polian said the best source of information on how to be successful came from the San Francisco 49ers' Bill Walsh while Polian was working with the Carolina Panthers. That makes sense, since the Colts have been one of the most successful long-term winners since the 49ers, although the 49ers collected more Lombardi Trophies (so far).
“The most valuable information, the greatest quantity of information, came from Bill Walsh,” Polian said. “He was very, very forthcoming about sitting down and sharing all sorts of information.”
• Investing big contracts only on “blue-chippers.”
Polian said the Colts' philosophy is to spend the most-significant money on those players who are difference-makers.
“If a guy, after his four-year stay, is not a blue-chipper, we'll let him go,” Polian said. “The only exception is a special leader, like Gary Brackett. If Gary were 6-3 instead of 5-11, he'd be blue-chipper. (But) he's special, and we made an exception in that case.”
• Manning's NFL immortality.
“Peyton Manning, if we have anything to say about it, will finish his career as an Indianapolis Colt,” Polian said.
In speaking with reporters before his speech, Polian said he believes Manning is still improving and hasn't lost any of his accuracy or strength.
Polian acknowledged to the audience, however, that time moves on for everyone. Sometime, perhaps when Polian's son Chris is calling the personnel shots, a quarterback other than Manning will leading the Colts.
“You're never going to find another Peyton Manning,” Polian said. “We may have to adjust the way we play. We could conceivably become a defensive team overnight if we didn't have the right quarterback. As long as we keep doing what we've been doing, we'll be OK.”
Polian said his wife is ready for their son to take over Bill's job, but Bill said he's not done yet.
Something tells me as long as Manning is at the helm, Polian will remain intent on putting the best offensive players with him.
That's no secret at all.