Polian disputes relevance of run stats

Colts vice chairman Bill Polian is not generally a big fan of outsiders who think they understand his team with the aid of statistics.

He took another opportunity to say so in a recent appearance on 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis with Grady and Big Joe. Big Joe is Joe Staysniak, the former Colts offensive lineman.

Staysniak asked what the team’s top two draft picks, offensive linemen Anthony Castonzo and Benjamin Ijalana, will bring to help improve the Colts running game.

Responded Polian:

“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.”

I don’t know that any one has suggested the Colts should seek to run better to make any outsider happy. They should seek to run better because running better will make them less predictable and more balanced. It can open things up for their big-time quarterback and the passing offense.

Polian admits they’ve not run effectively in four minute offense and in short yardage. Running better in those two circumstances would have a positive influence on the team’s overall run numbers. That uptick alone is what people would like to see, and is hardly an unreasonable request or expectation. It's also not unreasonable to expect that better run blocking will help the running backs.

When the blocking or the backs or both are so poor that on a crucial third-and-2 from your own 11-yard line in a 2008 wild card game you decline to run it and have a pass play blow up, giving your opponent the opportunity to tie it and then win it in overtime, it impacts the one statistic everyone cares about most: wins and losses.

We’ll let Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders have the floor to respond on behalf of people interested in stats, via his Twitter account, @FO_ASchatz.

  • The Colts' problem is that running on first down almost never leads to an advantageous second down situation. (29th in DVOA running on 1st)

  • Polian attacks stats but stats actually show he's RIGHT. "run in the red zone, which we do very effectively" IND 7th run DVOA in red zone.

  • Also: Polian says "I'm criticizing people who, make no bones about it, who deal only in statistics."

  • Bill, when you actually find one of those people who deals only in statistics, would you let me know about it? Because they don't exist.

Catch Polian’s complete interview through our friends at Sports Radio Interviews, here.