This is not intended as a Polian bashing article, but more of an insight to Bill Polian's downward spiral after achieving great success.
I think Bill Polian will go down as one of the best General Managers in NFL history, not only has he been successful in Indianapolis, but also with the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers. Bill Polian took the Bills from back-to-back 2-14 seasons to an NFL record, 4 CONSECUTIVE Super Bowl appearances; he also managed to make the Carolina Panthers playoff contenders in only their sophomore season, making it to the 1996 NFC Championship game.
While in Indianapolis, he managed to select Peyton Manning first overall in the 1998 NFL Draft over Ryan Leaf (who would go on to become one of the biggest draft busts in history). One season later, he selected Edgerrin James over Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams. His efforts at building through the draft and not selecting over-hyped players have been quite instrumental in the success of the Indianapolis Colts.
Many of the players drafted by Polian have been a key turnaround in the Colts franchise; he has hit many times in the 1st Round with players such as:
1998: Peyton Manning
1999: Edgerrin James
2001: Reggie Wayne
2002: Dwight Freeney
2003: Dallas Clark
2005: Marlin Jackson
2006: Joseph Addai
2007: Anthony Gonzales
His success at finding key players can even extend into later rounds where most General Managers use those picks for primarily depth purposes, these players became household names at the starter position:
2003 NFL Draft: 5th Round pick DE Robert Mathis and 6th Round pick LB Cato June
2004 NFL Draft: 5th Round pick OG Jack Scott
2006 NFL Draft: 6th Round pick OG Charlie Johnson and 6th Round pick FS Antoine Bethea*
2008 NFL Draft: 6th Round pick WR Pierre Garcon*
2010 NFL Draft: 7th Round pick LB Kavell Connor
*=Indicates a compensatory draft selection
But after the 2006 season in which the Indianapolis Colts were crowned the Super Bowl champions, things took a turn for the worst for Polian's unique scouting attributes, draft picks, and personnel changes. Several "brain-farts" had occurred after our Super Bowl victory:
- Starting with the 2007 NFL Draft, Bill Polian traded the 2008 NFL Draft 1st Round pick (which would later become the 29th Overall) and a 2007 4th Round selection for San Francisco’s 2nd Round 2007 draft pick (#42 overall). Indianapolis selected University of Arkansas offensive tackle Tony Ugoh with the acquired pick .
- In the 2009 NFL Draft, Polian selected University of Connecticut running back Donald Brown with the 1st Round selection.
- During the 2010 season, Bill Polian traded an undisclosed 2011 NFL Draft pick to the Washington Redskins in return for CB Justin Tryon
These were extremely unwise decisions by Polian, as we missed out on our 1st Rounder in 2008 and 4th Rounder in 2007 for a player that would turn out to be a huge disappointment. I was quite upset about this trade and couldn't believe it. I though for a moment Roger Goddell was trolling after he announced the trade that have just took place.
I feel Donald Brown shouldn't have been picked due to the fact that we had decent RB depth with Joseph Addai, Lance Ball, Mike Hart, and Chad Simpson; not to mention keeping Dominic Rhodes would have helped out alot since Rhodes have always been a solid runner and consistent for the most part.
After a solid season and competent play by Tryon, Polian later released him for undisclosed reasons after he was benched in favor for Jacob Lacey. This move was without question a very unwise decision by Bill Polian; Tryon was solid enough to start on this defense despite only playing one season with the Colts while we missed out on an additional draft pick which could have been used for depth.
Following our Super Bowl lost to the New Orleans Saints, Polian criticized and accused the offensive line for being one of the factors that lead to our defeat. But instead of fixing the problems with the O-Line, he drafted DE Jerry Hughes simply cause Freeney was injured for the Super Bowl and released Ryan Lilja; one of the most competent offensive lineman we had at Guard. This was a set of irrational decisions that hurt us cause Jerry Hughes is still a disappointment and our offensive line is still not solid enough to help establish the run and keep Peyton Manning upright.
Another drawback on Bill Polian is his undying love for UDFAs (Undrafted Free Agents), UDFAs are good for depth and special teams roles but should never be starters unless they developed into starter caliber players. The best time to utilize these players is during "garbage time" of a regular season game. Some of the UDFAs that he really hit on were Center Jeff Saturday, RB Dominic Rhodes, LB Gary Brackett and OG Ryan Lilja. Since then, Bill Polian has been quite fond in trying to find those "hidden gems" like the aforementioned players, but to no avail
Polian is more willing to give an UDFA a shot at being a starter over players we have recently drafted or acquired through free agency, it's the reasons why Jeff Linkenbach and/or Joe Reitz is starting on the line instead of Ben Ijalana or Mike Pollak. Quinn Ojinnaka was one of the free agents who came in and really solidified the RT position, but was benched after showing great promise after being on the team for just one week.
What I'm trying to say here is that Jeff Linkenbach isn't Tyson Clabo, Joe Reitz isn't Brian Waters, and Terrence Johnson and Jacob Lacey aren't Tramon Williams and/or Brent Grimes. These UDFAs aren't solid enough to have a starter position like others players listed who have made an impact on their respective teams.
While Bill Polian was an very effective GM and one of the best in the league, I though maybe I should just make a post to show everyone that even the best in the business can have several shortcomings during their career.
Honestly I wish Bill and Chris Polian the best and hope they their past success can help them with their future success where ever they find employment