Polian makes HOF predictions ... and T.O. won't like the results
(Photos courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)
Talk of Fame Network
Bill Polian is one of the smartest and shrewdest talent evaluators in NFL history. A six-time NFL Executive-of-the-Year award winner, he was one of two enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s first contributor class and someone we thought could put the Hall’s Class of 2016 in perspective.
So we tried him.
We’ve said for weeks that four of the five modern-era candidates should be easy to figure, with Brett Favre the no-brainer and Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison and Orlando Pace the next three frontrunners. We’ve also said that it’s that fifth position that is the wild card, with finalists like Tony Dungy and Kurt Warner the closest to the finish line.
But that’s why we checked in with Polian. We wanted his take on this year’s class and asked him if a Favre-Greene-Harrison-Pace front four sounds reasonable.
“That’s exactly how I see it,” he said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “And despite the fact that two of those guys are my guys (Green with Carolina and Harrison with the Colts), I think it’s pretty obvious they deserve induction. It’s their time. So that leaves one spot.
“Let me back up: Those three players (other than Favre), at least in their time in the league, were the pre-eminent players at their positions. Kevin Greene rushed from a down position in a 4-3 defense with the Rams, went to the Steelers and became an outside linebacker (and) went to the Panthers and propelled us to the AFC championship game in our second year of existence. His sack numbers are outstanding (only Bruce Smith and Reggie White have more than Greene’s 160 in his career), and his leadership, as a role model (and) as a performer, at every level was outstanding. To me, he’s a slam dunk.
“Marvin Harrison? You can probably capsulize it in two sentences: Other than Jerry Rice there is no receiver in the history of the game who has put up the kind of numbers that Marvin Harrison has put up in virtually every category. And he and Peyton Manning formed the most productive duo in the history of the game. So that one’s a slam dunk in my view.
“And Orlando Pace was … maybe still is … the gold standard for left tackles from the time he came into the league. And I still think he is today. I’ve never seen anybody better than him during my time in the league. So there he is. I don’t think anybody is going to argue about Orlando Pace. He’s “The Big O” for a reason: Not only because of his name but because he shut out defensive ends. There was nobody like him.”
That, of course, begs the question: Whom does Polian like for the fifth spot?
“This is where it really gets dicey,” he said. “I have a bias for Tony Dungy for a number of reasons. He took the Colts to the Super Bowl (with Polian as his GM). His career record is up there among the best of all time, win percentage. (He) essentially built the team that (Jon) Gruden won with in Tampa. And, so, if you want to count that as one-and-a-half Super Bowls … I do.
“The first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. I think that has to count for something. And the fact that he’s now the conscience of the NFL. I think he succeeded (former Giants’ owner) Wellington Mara as the conscience of the NFL -- not only the conscience but as the person whom everyone reaches out to when there’s difficulty. So that counts for something as well. Tony Dungy made the game better on virtually every front.”
But what, we wanted to know, does that mean for first-year nominee Terrell Owens. We’re sharply divided on T.O. on the Talk of Fame Network, with Ron Borges and Clark Judge arguing his case each week, and we often seek neutral advice from Rick Gosselin. But not this time. Because this time we sought neutral advice from Bill Polian.
“I’ve got a very simple answer for you,” he said of Owens. “The Hall of Fame ought to be for people who’ve made their teams better, not who disrupted their teams and made them worse.”