"That's my opinion. It's coming back. It's being brought back by people who really like football. There's been animosity—like there is in any family. But after a while there'll be a meeting of the minds. There'd better be," he said.
He began to talk about the anatomy of his decision-making. "What I've done has not been that difficult. I've always been involved in policy-making. After all, people who don't want to make decisions never go anyplace. From the start, I could see something was wrong. Over the past 11 games, which includes preseason, the Colts never played good, motivated football. Look at last season's three final games—beaten by New England, only two touchdowns against Cleveland, none against Miami in the 21-0 loss. Well, maybe the drop-off started back then. It begins to lodge in the back of your mind—it would in the mind of any general manager—that not only is something wrong, but something's got to be done about it. A rubber band begins to stretch. First, you try to find out what's wrong—where the leaks are, so you can plug them up. If there isn't any improvement, you really have to do something about it...something drastic. The rubber band snaps. It can't be as drastic as firing the 47 players. You've got to blame the top man—just as the country blames the President if things aren't going right, and gets rid of him in an election."
"Out he goes. I'm not a vacillator. It's like marking a true-false test: you can't slide between one choice and another. You make your decision and you mark it."
"It's the old adage, isn't it?" I said. "If the bus keeps breaking down, you shoot the bus driver."
"Something like that," he said. "You can always reckon on change to stir them up."
I asked him about his methods, which most of the team found so upsetting. "What about that telephone call to Unitas?" I asked.
"There is no easy way to do that sort of thing," Thomas said. "Hell, I didn't have to call him at all. But I decided to tell him before he read it in the papers; after all, he's meant so much to the franchise. Now it's done with. It's a new slate...a new season. I've got to find out if this other boy can play football. If Marty can't do it, we've got to find someone else.
"I understand about sentiment," he said, looking very solemn. "But I also believe in statements like Branch Rickey's—that the greatest secret is to trade a player a year before he's through, no matter who he is. George Allen over at Washington with his retreads—well, he believes in what he believes in, and maybe he makes it work because he believes in it so strongly. But that's not my way."
"No, I can see," I said.