Bill Polian is the President of the Indianapolis Colts, and a future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He got his start in football in 1978 as a pro scout for the Kansas City Chiefs. He spent five seasons in Kansas City before becoming the personnel director of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. He assembled Grey Cup winning teams in Winnipeg and with the Montreal Alouettes before moving to the Chicago Blitz of the United States Football League in 1984.
He joined the Buffalo Bills of the NFL later that year as the pro personnel director, and was promoted to General Manager in 1985. The Bills were coming off back-to-back 2-14 seasons, but after helping draft and sign Bruce Smith, Polian convinced quarterback Jim Kelly, a star in the USFL at the time, to come to Buffalo. He then hired Marv Levy, traded for Cornelius Bennett (who the Colts were unable to sign), and in 1988 drafted Thurman Thomas in the second round. Just like that, the pieces were in place for what would soon become a dominant AFC dynasty.
The Bills would end up making four straight Super Bowl appearances — though they failed to win any of them — three of which Polian was with the team for. After Buffalo’s third Super Bowl, Polian was fired due to a clash with Bills’ treasurer Jeffery Littman.
Obviously a mind as keen as Polian’s wouldn’t stay unemployed very long, and in 1994 he was hired to be the General Manager of the expansion Carolina Panthers. The team won seven games in its initial season in the NFL, and then won a remarkable 12 games the following year, advancing to the NFC Championship game. With such an impressive resume already on paper, Colts owner Jim Irsay made the wise choice of offering Polian the role of G.M. and President of the Indianapolis Colts. Polian accepted, and immediately decided not to retain fan favorite Jim Harbaugh as the quarterback, instead opting to build around the draft.
His first draft selection was a great one — Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf — and they’ve been just as good since. The following year he took Edgerrin James over the highly hyped Ricky Williams. After missing in 2000 with Rob Morris, he added Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Dallas Clark over the next three years. Just like in Buffalo, Polian had single-handedly created a dynasty in the blink of an eye.
Here’s a list of just some of the records and milestones the Colts have achieved in the Bill Polian Era:
-No team has more playoff appearances since 1998 than the Colts
-Currently, they’ve made in eight playoffs in a row
-Two Super Bowl appearances in the past four years (winning in 2006)
-Seven AFC South Division titles
-Set the NFL mark for most wins in a decade by going 115-45 in the 2000’s.
-Won 23 consecutive regular-season games in a row, an NFL record.
-Only team in NFL history to win 12-plus games in seven straight seasons
The list could go on, and on, and on.
There’s been some negativity directed at Polian after his decision to pull the starters against the Jets this past season, and the Indy media has always enjoyed beating him up for his cantankerous nature, but there’s no denying Polian is the primary man responsible for allowing the Colts to be this good for this long.
He’s set to take on a smaller role after the 2012 season, with his son, Chris Polian, taking over as the main personnel decision maker.