Polian next Bill into Hall?


By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

CANTON, Ohio -- The question was simple. The answer was not.

"Now that Andre Reed's in the Hall of Fame," asked John Murphy, host of the Buffalo Bills' Radio Network, "who's the next Bill to make it to Canton?"

Good question. There is, as Murphy pointed out, special teams ace Steve Tasker -- someone Hall-of-Fame coach Marv Levy proposed as the next candidate from the Bills' Super Bowl teams to make it. There's also center Kent Hull, the anchor of a line that protected Jim Kelly and opened holes for Thurman Thomas -- both Hall of Famers -- as well as linebacker Cornelius Bennett, a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro.

But the smart money is on none of them. It's on former GM Bill Polian.

He didn't just build a Bills team that went to four straight Super Bowls; he went on to put an expansion team (the Carolina Panthers) into the NFC championship game in just its second season and was the brains behind the rise of the Indianapolis Colts -- drafting Peyton Manning in 1998, choosing Tony Dungy as his head coach in 2002 and overseeing a program that from 2002-2010 won seven division titles and a minimum of 10 games in every season.

Oh, yeah, he was also named Executive of the Year six times.

In Polian's 24 years as a general manager, his teams made 17 playoff appearances, including eight conference championship games and five Super Bowls, with the 2006 Indianapolis Colts winning Super Bowl XLI.

"He should be a slam dunk," said a former Bills' assistant. "He didn't just put the Bills over the top. He did it with three teams, and that should count for something."

It will.

That's because Pro Football Hall of Fame last week adopted an amendment that will allow up to eight contributors to be elected over the next five years. The idea is to reduce a backlog of former general managers, owners and commissioners -- people like Polian -- and not make them compete for induction with former players, a formula that worked so poorly that of the 287 persons in the Hall of Fame now, only 19 are contributors.

Former San Francisco owner Eddie DeBartolo and former commissioner Paul Taglibue are others who could benefit from the Hall's amendment, with DeBartolo the only contributor to be a Hall of Fame finalist the past three years. Former GMs George Young, Bobby Beathard and Ron Wolf are others, as is former Cleveland and Baltimore owner Art Modell -- a finalist in 2013.

But they had nothing to do with Buffalo. Polian did, and Reed endorsed his candidacy Saturday during his Hall-of-Fame speech, saying his former GM should be the next Bill to make it to Canton. He's right, but that doesn't mean it happens. Reed has to convince the Hall of Fame's board of selectors, and Polian last year didn't make the cut to 25 semifinalists.

Of course, that was before the Hall proposed a separate category for contributors -- with as many as two up for induction every other year for the next five years. With that move, Bill Polian's chances of following Andre Reed just improved.

"I think Bill will be here someday," Reed said. "He was so adamant about me getting in here, and there's no doubt about it: He deserves to be in here as a general manager. If they're going to put him in as a contributor ... yeah, that should happen."

Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts
Courtesy of Indianapolis Colts

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