Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Sep 2010

Colts Release Tony Ugoh

Bill Polian is a darn good personnel man, but nobody's perfect, and here's your proof. Ugoh started as a rookie when Tarik Glenn retired before the 2007 season, but he struggled and then seemed to get worse and worse each passing year. After injuries this preseason, I guess releasing him made more sense than sticking him on IR.

There are a lot of stories right now about the Colts having problems on the offensive line, and I guess they do, but the Colts seem to do a pretty amazing job of subbing in guys you have never heard of at four of those five positions. In my opinion, "Colts are having problems on the offensive line" is only significant when that problem somehow includes Jeff Saturday.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 08 Sep 2010

36 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2010, 5:12pm by Revenge of the NURBS


by Brendan Scolari :: Wed, 09/08/2010 - 7:21pm

"In my opinion, "Colts are having problems on the offensive line" is only significant when that problem somehow includes Jeff Saturday."

Well, the offensive line is the reason the running game has struggled so much the last couple years (given how amazing the passing attack is, the Colts should be able to run the ball well), and I think the only reason it hasn't effected the passing game more is because Manning is so incredible at getting rid of the ball quickly. Although they were "only" 6th in passing DVOA last year despite having maybe the best QB in the league and two great receivers, so I'd say it has had at least some effect there as well.

by Don't feel like logging in right now (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 8:30am

My understanding is that run blocking and pass blocking are quite different, so good pass blocking isn't necessarily accompanied by good run blocking.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 09/08/2010 - 7:39pm

In my opinion, "Colts are having problems on the offensive line" is only significant when that problem somehow includes Jeff Saturday.

Funny thing you should mention Saturday...

Good thing Peyton is a master at recognizing when he's in danger. Maybe he'll just refuse to go in this Sunday.

by Bobman :: Wed, 09/08/2010 - 7:57pm

Well, I was one his last defenders... No idea how a good rookie campaign turned to thoroughly to shit, but if Charlie Johnson is not at least 90% (which is about 75% for an actual GOOD LT), Sunday will be a very strange day. Peyton Manning goes 35/40 for 200 yards on a string of 3-step drop passes.

Maybe Lawrence Taylor can send some hookers and booze Mario Williams's way on Saturday night...

Oh, and might I add Oh Shit! Oh Shit! Oh Shit! Oh Shit!

Now that that's out of the way, in Bill I trust... for now.

by Admore :: Wed, 09/08/2010 - 9:16pm

I feel like it's going to take more than Ugoh going away to get the Texans over the top on the Colts. After all, they're so good at shooting themselves in the foot. Until Kubiak can solve that particular issue I wouldn't lose much sleep as a Colts fan (and I say this as a Texans fan).

That said, with all possible caveats in place, the Texans D line has looked pretty good this pre-season, even Okoye.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:01am

Like you, I'm reasonably happy with the defensive line (and indeed the front seven in general) but still terrified of Peyton and expecting to lose.

Part of it may be to do with the fact that the six corners currently on the Texans roster combine for 49 NFL appearances with 13 starts, and a grand total of 66 solo tackles, with 17 assists. Three of them are rookies, two were 2009 late round picks, and 25 year old third year player Antwaun Molden is the grand old man of the group. Sure, Quin did fairly well last year, and the coaches must have some faith in the other guys to have cut a perfectly serviceably veteran option in Reeves, but that is still a frighteningly raw bunch.

by dbostedo :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:35pm

Is it odd that when you mentioned Kubiak, my first thought was "What does a fantasy projection system have to do with fixing the Texans problems versus the Colts?"

by MJK :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:25am

No idea how a good rookie campaign turned to thoroughly to shit

We Patriots fans call it the "Eugene Wilson Effect".

by rk (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 4:20pm

That's fine, but the "Michael Clayton Effect" just seems more apt.

by Nate Dunlevy :: Wed, 09/08/2010 - 9:54pm

Ugoh never hit stardom, but he was far from a bust. He started for a couple of seasons worth of games. By PFRs AV measurement, he qualifies as an average pick for the end of the second round, early third round.

He underperformed, sure, but still provided value. He definitely regressed each year. He was actually solid his rookie year.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 8:44am

"By PFRs AV measurement, he qualifies as an average pick for the end of the second round, early third round."

Problem is, they burned a 1st round pick to get him. Agreed that he wasn't a complete bust, but he certainly didn't live up to his draft status. And like you said, his development curve seemed to be heading in the wrong direction. I still think he can play in the NFL (probably as a guard, rather than a tackle), but I'm not too broken up about them letting him go.

by jimbohead :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 9:27am

Considering that the 1st rd pick they sent to SF turned into Ketwan Balmer, I think its safe to say that that was one of those trades where everyone lost.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:21am

Ugoh's precisely the sort of player AV most over-rates, though - a crappy starter on an elite unit.

Actually, it might be more accurate to say that it over-rates any player who is significantly worse than the average standard of a unit he starts on. CC Brown's units have generally been terrible, but he's still over-rated by AV (friggin 19), because however terrible they were, they weren't as terrible as him.

by Nate Dunlevy :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:17pm

Indy went 24-5 with Ugoh starting. Three losses were 'lay down' games. It's hard to argue that he was a glaring open wound on the Indy line.

He wasn't good. He was disappointing. He slightly unperformed his draft status.

That doesn't make him a bust.

by Purds :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:25pm

Now, Zombie, you know better than to equate an individual's performance to a team's record (lest we have to listen to all those Brady fans and the SB wins argument again). Don't let those Pats fans see you do that.

I do agree that Ugoh only slightly underperformed his draft status as a second rounder, but the thing that really hurts is that the Colts lost a 1st round pick to move up and take him. That's the bust -- the deal to get him, not actually the player's performance given his draft position.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:33pm

My contention would be that most people over-rate pretty much every Colts offensive lineman of the last decade because Manning has made them look so much better than they really are with his release and pocket awareness, and the way he tends to punish big blitzes. Earlier in the decade they were an average-ish unit that looked like a good-very good one; more recently they've been a pretty lousy unit that looks like an average one. It is simply astonishing that the Colts have been able to produce the kind of quality of offense that they have with such poor line play.

by Nate Dunlevy :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 4:22pm

You are both right, for sure. I'm not crediting Ugoh with the Colts success.

I'm merely saying, that for a 'bust' he played quite a bit and the team won a lot of games with him. It's hard to look at the on the field product and say, "Clearly this was a team with a terrible left tackle". If he were awful, you'd think it would show up in the win/loss column more than twice in 20 some games. He was merely 'below average'.

Line play, at least for Indy, is overrated. There's no question. My point merely is, is there much evidence we can point to with Tony Ugoh that would elevate him past 'disappointing' to full on BUST? I'd have to say no. I think the opening of the article on this page is a little strong. This was a 'minor miss' rather than a major miss by Polian.

I think we are all probably in agreement here.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:05pm

I don't know. Personally, I think it's closer to a major miss than a minor miss. Regardless of when he was actually chosen, his selection represents the expenditure of a 1st round pick. Three years later, he's waived. So the net transaction is a 1st round pick in exchange for one decent (not great) season, followed by two seasons of struggling to even crack the starting lineup, and then being waived. Whether or not you use the word "bust", it's a nearly-total waste of a 1st round pick.

by Nate Dunlevy :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:33pm

Except that he was the best option by far in 2007, and actually started 11 games in 2008 (he missed 5 by injury). The Colts won virtually every game he played those seasons.

It's not great production, but it is production. He was a two year starter. It's hard to trace any negative consequences to playing him. Given how many other players in that 2007 draft were far far worse in the first and second round, I have a hard time using the word bust. Bust implies 'no value'. He had some value, just not enough to justify his slot.

by tuluse :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:39pm

Best option compared to what? A bunch of players that wouldn't make another roster?

Bust does not imply no value, it implies significantly less value than you expect from draft position. If you draft a corner in the 1st round and he becomes a very good special teams player, but never a good corner, he is a bust. He still provided value, but it was value you can get from a 4th round pick. This is why late round picks are not considered busts because the expected value is so low you can't significantly underachieve it.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:03am

Let's face it, at this point we are arguing about the denotational range of the word "bust", not the facts of the case.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:26am

If we don't have out nomenclature, what do we have?

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 8:55am

Exactly. And if "bust" means "no value", then JaMarcus Russell can't even be called a bust. He had SOME value. It was just massively less than what you'd hope for from a #1 overall pick.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 4:56pm

I see where you're coming from, but actually I think there's a pretty reasonable case to be made that Russell had negative value, not just in the sense of being below replacement level (which he was in each of his three seasons) but in the sense that the team would have been better if they'd left the roster spot that he occupied vacant throughout those three years.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 5:12pm

I agree in principle, but now we're switch from debating the definition of "bust" to the debating definition of "value". The definition supplied in post 25 seems to imply that merely starting games supplies value. By that definition, Russell has/had value. Extrapolating a little bit, by that defintion, anyone who plays in a game has value. That said, I agree that by a reasonable definition of value, Russell had negative value.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Wed, 09/08/2010 - 11:00pm

I'm amazed that he got cut. I figure he lasts a week, tops, before he's on some nfl roster. After watching last year's disaster every week, i'm sure he'd be an improvement for the bears.

by Shake (not verified) :: Wed, 09/08/2010 - 11:29pm

Well, he's waived/injured, so teams will have to claim him now, or hope he reaches on injury settlement instead of collecting his 690K on IR.

by Samson151 :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:25am

Wasn't Polian complaining after last season's loss about weakness in the o-line? Doesn't look like he took steps to strengthen in during the offseason. Releasing Ugoh is the sort of move that should happen before camp starts.

by Nate Dunlevy :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:38am

Ugoh wasn't hurt before camp started. They have two other starters hurt this week.

They needed warm bodies for the roster in case Johnson and Saturday can't play.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 7:35am

Easy to say "doesn't look like he took steps to strengthen in during the offseason" but it comes down to which free agents are available, whether there are any trades to be made, and if any of the rookies will fit your scheme!

by TV_Pete (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:29am

I think the Colts did not do enough to address these issues this year or recently. When could they have picked up that guy who went to Baltimore? (if they trade up)

I thought Ugoh was a less than ideal draft pick, although better than Andre Smith.

by coboney :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:44pm

"Better than Andre Smith" isn't saying much though. With that level of comparison should we be saying David Carr wasn't a complete miss because he's "Better then Ryan LEaf" ?

Andre Smith shows every sign of being useless in this league and just never playing a down of useful football.

As for the colts line - I think its a choice Polian made and is now somewhat regretting to de-emphasize the o-line due to manning and RB talent. This has worked mostly in Manning's case but the 2 1st round RBs haven't been able to run much or effectively.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:59pm

Frankly, drafting Ryan Leaf is probably a lot better for your franchise than drafting David Carr, because at least you'll be certain he's hopeless and ready to cut bait reasonably quickly. Carr managed to be a 5 year starter, because he looked like there just might be a possibility he'd get it all together. PFR's research suggests that Joey Harrington has the most aggregate career value under average of any player in league history, despite obviously being nowhere near the worst player ever.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:18am

Maybe, but that ignores the fact that it's very hard to develop receivers without a QB who can at least sometimes get them the ball.

Also, it's really only QB where this phenomena manifests itself. At any other position you can rotate guys, or two guys start so the team is still trying to acquire that kind of player. Like say tackle, if you draft what you expect to be a franchise left tackle, you are still trying to find a right tackle, so you keep adding tackles to the roster and trying to develop them.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 7:50am

Oh, sure. Having Ugoh on their roster was for several years better than not having Ugoh on their roster. I'm not convinced that it's only applicable to QBs, though - top 5 picks at any position take up so much cap space that having them produce at a mediocre level as part of a rotation actively hurts your team in opportunity cost terms.

by Dean :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 8:29am

So can we now call him Yugo?