Bill Polian

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Bill Polian
Tony Dungy award.jpg
Polian (second from right) with Tony Dungy (2007)
football official,
general manager
born on December 8, 1942 in Bronx , New York City
Career information
Active : 1978 - 2011
College : NYU
Career statistics
Career highlights and awards
Pro Football Hall of Fame

William Patrick Polian, Jr. (* 8. December 1942 in the Bronx in New York City ) is a former American American football -Funktionär, among others as General Manager for the Buffalo Bills , the Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts worked, and NFL analyst for ESPN .

He gained league-wide notoriety as General Manager at the Bills, where he put together a team that reached the Super Bowl four times in a row , which no other team succeeded before or after. However, the games were all lost. After his stay in Buffalo, Polian became general manager of the expansion team for the Carolina Panthers, who reached the NFC Championship Game in their second year of existence . After three years he changed teams again and was appointed General Manager and Team President of the Colts. With these he finally won the Super Bowl XLI .

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August 2015 for his accomplishments .

Early years

Bill Polian grew up in Fordham , an area of ​​the Bronx , New York City . After high school, he attended the United States Merchant Marine Academy and graduated from New York University with a degree in history in 1964 .


First stations

Polian's career as a football official began in 1978 as a so-called Pro Scout in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs and in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes and Winnipeg Blue Bombers . When Polian worked as a part-time scout for the Montreal Alouettes in 1977 , Marv Levy was the team's head coach . It was in Montreal that the two worked together for the first time. The team also won the Canadian Football Championship in the 65th Gray Cup that year under Levy . Five years later, through personal relationships, Polian was hired by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where, through his work, a team was formed that won the 72th Gray Cup in 1984. In the same year he took up the job as Personnel Director at the Chicago Blitz , which competed in the newly formed United States Football League (USFL) and was trained by Levy.

Buffalo Bills

After Chicago played no more games after the 1984 season , the Buffalo Bills from the NFL secured the services of Polian by hiring him from August 2, 1984 as Personnel Director. With a 2:14 record after the 1984 season , the Bills had the right for the first pick in the subsequent NFL draft . With this they wanted to bring Bruce Smith from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to Buffalo. However, the Baltimore Stars from the USFL were also interested in Smith. Because the stars were closer to Smith's hometown of Norfolk , Virginia , they had a better starting point when speaking to him. Polian, who at the time was negotiating the contract as Personnel Director and so far had no particular reputation, managed to convince Smith to play for Buffalo. With the signature of Smith and the quarterback Frank Reich of the University of Maryland, College Park and Kutztown's wide receiver Andre Reed selected in the same draft , they laid the foundation for the successful team of the Bills in the Polian era. After the second season with a 2:14 record, the then general manager Terry Bledsoe was fired and Polian was promoted to general manager. In the 1986 off-season , Polian managed to get Jim Kelly , whom the Bills had drafted in 1983 but who had decided to join the USFL, to Buffalo. During the 1986 season, then head coach Hank Bullough was fired after continuing failure and Polian brought Marv Levy to Buffalo as the new head coach. The move later proved to be a very successful move, as the Bills under Levy and his " K-Gun Offense " won the AFC Championship Game four times in a row . One reason for the good team composition was that Polian had a very good hand in choosing his draft picks :

Polian was also able to arrange some interesting trades for the Bills. Since the salary cap , i.e. the upper salary limit for the teams, was only introduced for the 1994 season , the change situation and possibility for players was different back then than it is now.

In the seven years that Bill Polian worked at the Bills as General Manager, he always managed to build a very good team. The victory rate during his tenure was 62.2%, while it was only 41.9% in the seven years before his tenure. However, the team never achieved great success, that is, a victory in the Super Bowl . For this reason he was dismissed after the third consecutive Super Bowl defeat against the Dallas Cowboys , which the Bills clearly lost at 17:52.

Carolina Panthers

Polian then worked for two years as NFL Vice President of Football Development at league headquarters before joining the Carolina Panthers in 1995 as their first general manager. Together with the Jacksonville Jaguars , the two teams were newly accepted as expansion teams in the NFL. Polian managed to build a team for the Panthers that won their division in their second year and played in the NFC Championship Game . They lost this against the Green Bay Packers at 13:30. However, no other expansion team managed this performance before and was made possible on the one hand by the obligations of aging free agents , such as tight end Wesley Walls , cornerback Eric Davis or linebacker Kevin Greene and on the other hand by the commitment of Dom Capers as head coach, who under among other things, had to bring the most diverse personalities together to form a team in the few weeks. Polian left the organization during the 1997 season following a dispute with former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson .

Indianapolis Colts

However, Polian was not fired, but traded by the Colts for a third round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft . In early 1997, the former owner of the Colts, Robert Irsay, died . His son Jim Irsay , who took over the franchise during the year and became CEO of the Colts, was determined to do something about it after 14 rather unsuccessful years in Indianapolis . So Irsay got in touch with Polian, the top football official in the league at the time, and an agreement was reached with Jerry Richardson on the deal. Thus, on December 22, 1997, the day after the Colts finished the regular season with a 3:13 record , the Indianapolis Colts became Polian's next stop as President and General Manager. With the record, the Colts had the worst record of any team and thus had the right to select the first player in the 1998 NFL Draft. Polian had with the pick to work and meet one of his biggest decisions of his career: on the one hand was the quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers , Peyton Manning , and on the other side of the quarterback of the Washington State University , Ryan Leaf . At the time there was a lot of debate about which player to pick, as Manning would be a safe choice, but Leaf was seen as the more mobile quarterback with the stronger arm. In the end, Polian chose Manning and Leaf was chosen as the second player, which subsequently proved to be the right decision. In the next few years Polian had the right feeling for successful players in the draft:

All of these and other players who were picked up with later picks were among other things the reasons why the Colts were one of the dominant teams of the decade and participated in eleven play-offs, eight times in the division and twice in the AFC Championship game won. The fact that after the 2007 season , for example, 46 of 53 active players in the roster had only played for the Colts until then , shows that the Colts players all somehow fit together . Another important reason for the dominance of the Colts was in 2002 the appointment of Tony Dungy as head coach. With these, the Colts won the Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears with 29:17, which Polian won his first Super Bowl. Before the 2010 season, Polian finally retired as general manager of the Colts, but remained team president for two years. After 14 years with the Colts, Polian and his son Chris , who served four years as Vice General Manager, were fired after the 2011 season and a 2:14 record. One of the reasons for the fewest wins since moving to Indianapolis in 1984 was Manning's injury, who couldn't play for the entire season. In the years under Polian, the Colts achieved a record of 143: 81 (victory rate: 63.8%), reached the play-offs eleven times in 14 years, celebrated more than ten wins eleven times in one season, won the division eight times and that twice AFC Championship Game and reached its climax with the victory of the Super Bowl XLI.

After the career

Polian remained true to his sport even after his career as general manager and president. He has been working for ESPN as a commentator and NFL analyst since 2012 .

Awards and honors

For his services as general manager and football official, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 8, 2015 . Previously, on May 13, 2012, he was inducted into the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame as the 28th member for his services to the Bills . For his services with the Colts, he was inducted into the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor on January 1, 2017 as the 13th person .


  • Bill Polian, Vic Carucci: The Game Plan: The Art of Building a Winning Football Team . Triumph Books, 2014, ISBN 978-1-60078-981-6 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. 2017 Indianapolis Colts Media Guide. (PDF) In: Retrieved June 22, 2018 .
  2. a b c Steve Simmons: Murphy's death shocks Polian. In: February 20, 2012, accessed May 26, 2018 .
  3. a b c d e f g h i Jeff Hunter: Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian: a Buffalo Bills career retrospective. In: August 8, 2015, accessed May 27, 2018 .
  4. Reich and Jim Kelly formed one of the longest-running backup starter teams and played together from 1986 to 1994 . In addition, Reich made it in the first play-off game against the Houston Oilers on January 3, 1993 as backup quarterback together with Andre Reed to make up a 32-point deficit and one of the biggest comebacks in the history of the NFL, which is known as “The Comeback "is known to make possible.
  5. a b c d Stefan Feldmann: Legends - Others: Bill Polian., August 9, 2015, accessed on May 27, 2018 .
  6. Draft Finder Query Results - In: Retrieved May 27, 2018 .
  7. Gerald Eskenazi: NFL Matchups; Trade for Bennett Pays Off for Bills. The New York Times , December 18, 1987, accessed May 27, 2018 .
  8. a b 100 Things Panthers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Retrieved June 10, 2018 .
  9. Doug Farrar: Inside the mind of a Hall of Fame GM: Bill Polian reflects on his NFL career. Sports Illustrated , September 18, 2015, accessed June 10, 2018 : “And the most important part of it is — and this falls on the coach, and Dom Capers did a phenomenal job — you're bringing in a group of total strangers , and you have 6–8 weeks to report them into a team. It's really difficult, and Dom and his staff did a phenomenal job. "
  10. 1998 NFL Draft Pick Transactions. In: Retrieved June 22, 2018 .
  11. ^ A b c d Josh Wilson: Bill Polian: Architect of the Indianapolis Colts and one of football's greatest executives. In: August 8, 2015, accessed June 22, 2018 .
  12. 2017 Indianapolis Colts Media Guide. (PDF) In: Retrieved June 22, 2018 .
  13. ^ A b Dan Kadar: Bill Polian saw talent where no one else did. In: August 7, 2015, accessed June 22, 2018 .
  14. 1999 NFL Draft Pick Transactions. In: Retrieved June 22, 2018 .
  15. 2008 Indianapolis Colts Media Guide. (PDF) In: Retrieved June 22, 2018 .
  16. a b Peyton Manning: Firing 'very tough'. ESPN , January 3, 2012, accessed June 22, 2018 .
  17. a b Josh Wilson: Colts will induct Hall of Famer Bill Polian into the Ring of Honor this Sunday. In: December 28, 2016, accessed June 22, 2018 .
  18. ^ NFL Front Office Insider: Bill Polian. In: Retrieved June 22, 2018 .
  19. ^ Bills to honor ex-GM Bill Polian. ESPN , May 13, 2012, accessed June 22, 2018 .