Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Yes, it's a pipedream, but I'd hire Polian as Bills GM in a New York minute
If I were Ralph Wilson, I’d be on the phone today to Bill Polian. I’d do everything in my power to convince the 68-year-old architect of Super Bowl-contending teams in Buffalo, Carolina and Indianapolis to return to the Bills for one last rebuilding job.
It’s not going to happen, of course.
The volatile Polian left here in 1993, after the Bills third Super Bowl loss, on not so good terms. And although Buffalo went to an unprecedented fourth consecutive NFL championship game the following season, the franchise has never really been the same.
The decline after Polian’s departure wasn’t precipitous – a solid corps of star players remained, along with coach Marv Levy and top-notch personnel men, John Butler and A.J. Smith. But from a historical standpoint, that was the beginning of the end, or, at least the beginning of the events that have led to the 12-year playoff-less malaise the Bills find themselves in.
Polian, of course, went on to build the Carolina Panthers, an expansion franchise, into an immediate powerhouse; they made it to the NFC championship game in just their second year of existence.
And, after that, he became the president of the Colts, where he guided them on a fabulous run that included a Super Bowl championship.
Polian was the best judge of football talent I ever encountered. People take for granted his selection of quarterback Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf in the 1998 draft. What they forget is that it was hardly a clear-cut decision at the time. In fact, in a poll of NFL general managers that April, Leaf was the choice of the majority.
Polian’s fingerprints are all over the Bills’ glory run. He was responsible for signing Bruce Smith and Jim Kelly. He helped draft Andre Reed, a fourth-round unknown from Kutztown State, and Thurman Thomas, after every team had passed him over in the first round because of injury concerns. His free agent signings included all-time Bills center Kent Hull. And, let us not forget, Polian was the man who hired Levy.
Polian was a fiery guy from the Bronx, who introduced himself as “Bill Who?” at the press conference announcing his promotion to Bills general manager in 1985.
He definitely could rub people the wrong way, and his feisty temperament often was at odds with Wilson and other Bills executives, ultimately resulting in his unceremonious departure.
Polian wound up being named the NFL Executive of the Year six times (with three different teams.) Although his teams won just one Super Bowl, I believe he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I also believe he belongs back in the general manager’s chair at One Bills Drive.
But that’s never going to happen.
At the very least, I hope Ralph lets bygones be bygones and does the right thing by affixing Polian’s name on the stadium Wall of Fame.
It’s something that should have been done for Lou Saban and Cookie Gilchrist while they were alive.
Please check out my wrapup column on the Bills 2011 at WROC's website - www.rochesterhomepage.net