Colts Fire Tobin, Infante, Hire Panthers' Polian

Posted: December 23, 1997

The housecleaning came quickly for the Indianapolis Colts.

Owner Jim Irsay reacted to the team's NFL-worst 3-13 record by firing Lindy Infante as coach and Bill Tobin as vice president and director of football operations yesterday and hiring Carolina general manager Bill Polian to a six-year contract as president.

Irsay said he acted quickly because Polian was under contract to Carolina, and Panthers owner Jerry Richardson gave him until yesterday to close the deal. The Colts will send their third-round pick in the April draft to Carolina in exchange for the signing.

``You don't replace people unless you think you can do better,'' Irsay said. ``I believe in continuity . . . I wish I didn't have to make a change . . . This year has been very hectic. The bottom line is we're 3-13 and 8-21 over our last 29 games, and the football program has been in the hands of Bill Tobin.''

``There was very little discussion, other than that he was going in a different direction,'' Tobin said of his meeting yesterday with Irsay. ``In the history of this league, there's never been a head coach or a general manager fire an owner.''

Infante, 12-20 in two seasons as coach, 3-13 this season, said he was glad it happened as fast as it did.

``It's good that it's over, it's good that it's done,'' he said. ``The biggest fear in life is fear of the unknown. If you know something, you can deal with it.''

The Colts started the season with 10 straight losses and appeared to be headed for the first 0-16 finish in NFL history before a victory over defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay. The only other wins were over the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. Seven of their 13 losses were by a combined total of 23 points.

Polian, 55, will oversee all football operations and will work with Irsay to select Infante's replacement. Polian said he had no timetable or names on a list for the selection.

Polian has been general manager of the Panthers since Jan. 12, 1994. He joined the league as a pro scout for Kansas City in 1978. As pro personnel director and general manager for the Buffalo Bills, he helped rebuild a franchise that was 8-40 from 1984 to '86 to one that won four straight AFC championships.

LIONS: BROWN HAS SURGERY Detroit Lions linebacker Reggie Brown underwent surgery to fuse his first and second cervical vertebrae after Sunday's injury during a victory over the New York Jets, and his playing career is likely over.

Doctors said little about his long-term prognosis, except that his injury is no longer life-threatening.

ALL-PRO: B. SANDERS LEADS FIELD Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders, the third NFL player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, Pittsburgh Steelers center Dermontti Dawson and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dana Stubblefield were unanimous selections for the Associated Press All-Pro Team.

LEVY: MUM ON FUTURE Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy refused to say whether he would return next season, leaving open the possibility that his 12-year tenure with the team could be over. Buffalo finished 6-10 this season and missed the playoffs for the second time in four years.

OILERS: LB BREAKS ANKLE X-rays showed that Tennessee Oilers linebacker Joe Bowden broke his left ankle in the 16-6 victory over Pittsburgh in their season finale. Trainers initially thought it was a severe sprain. Blocking back Michael Roan had surgery on joints in both shoulders, quarterback Steve McNair will have arthroscopic knee surgery this week and cornerback Steve Jackson will have a torn tendon repaired in his right ankle this week.

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