For the first time this year, there is a contributor category for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Basically, there was a need for this separate distinction because with a number of deserving candidates anyway, the Hall of Fame voters would tend to go with players and coaches over executives, therefore making it nearly impossible for worthy executives to get in because of the log-jam of other deserving candidates. Thus, a nine-person committee was formed to nominate two contributor candidates per year for the Hall of Fame, and one of those candidates this year in the inaugural year is former Colts general manager, per ESPN's Jim Trotter, a member of that nine-person committee:
BREAKING: The "contributor" nominees for the 2015 @ProFootballHOF are Ron Wolf and Bill Polian. Each needs 80% approval vote for induction.
— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) October 22, 2014
The process is essentially the same as for the other finalists, as both Ron Wolf (a former Packers executive) and Bill Polian will need the 80% approval vote in order to be inducted. What is important to note, however, is that one or both of these men getting into the Hall of Fame this year would not take away any spots from the other modern-era finalists, meaning they've got a much better chance at getting in this year than they normally would have before this contributor committee was formed.
I don't really think there's any question that these two are the most deserving contributors and that the committee selected the right finalists for this one. In my opinion, both Wolf and Polian deserve to be in.
For Polian, he has strong ties to the Indianapolis Colts, but that's actually not where he got his start. He was the Pro Personnel Director for the Buffalo Bills from 1984-1985 before being hired as their General Manager in 1986. Polian built the Bills team that would go on to make four straight Super Bowl appearances. He is a member of the Bills Wall of Fame. After his time in Buffalo, Polian served as the General Manager of the expansion franchise Carolina Panthers from 1994-1997, nearly building a Super Bowl team, as the Panthers made it to the NFC Championship Game in just their second year of existence.
In 1998, Colts owner Jim Irsay hired Polian as President and General Manager of the Indianapolis Colts. Polian proceeded to build a championship team around quarterback Peyton Manning, who was the first pick of the Bill Polian era in Indy. It wasn't just Manning, however - Polian also drafted players like Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark, Robert Mathis, and a number of other players. He found players like Jeff Saturday and Gary Brackett as undrafted free agents. From 1998-2011 (Polian's tenure with the Colts), the Colts won compiled a 143-81 record (.638 winning percentage) and won eight division titles (1999, 2003-2007, 2009-2010). They won two AFC titles (2006 and 2009 seasons) and a Super Bowl win (2006 season). The 118 regular season games that the Colts won in the 2000s is the most of any team in any decade ever, making the Colts' run in the 2000s the winningest decade ever. In Polian's fourteen years with the Colts, the team made the playoffs in eleven of them.
In his career as an executive, Polian won six Sporting News Executive of the Year awards, the most of anybody in history. His built up three different franchises and also served on a variety of different NFL committees, including the Competition Committee. He currently is an analyst for ESPN and recently wrote a book, The Game Plan, about the blueprint to building a winning team.
Bill Polian's response: "Wow! I don't know what to say. I'm speechless."
— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) October 22, 2014
Polian is regarded as one of the greatest executives in NFL history, and many (including myself) think he is the greatest. Regardless, he has a very strong resume and I think there's a good chance that he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame when the finalists are voted on. One thing is for sure: he's got a very strong case and he's very deserving. Along the same lines, I think that Ron Wolf also has a very good chance at getting in, and I think that it's a great thing for the Hall of Fame to have a contributor section now to allow deserving men like Polian and Wolf a legitimate chance of getting in. They're both worthy of induction, and don't be surprised to see both of them voted in when the Hall of Fame selection committee takes their annual vote the week before the Super Bowl.
In addition to general manager Bill Polian being named a contributor finalist the Hall of Fame, former Colts head coach Tony Dungy, former running back Edgerrin James, and former wide receiver Marvin Harrison are all among the initial nominees for the Class of 2015 as well.