Antoine Bethea wasn't the game-changing player that Bob Sanders was during their respective careers with the Colts, and Sanders, who came in at number nine on our list of Bill Polian's best moves with the franchise, was a better player - when healthy. And it's that last little clause, plus the draft status, that pushes Antoine Bethea ahead of Sanders and into the number eight spot on our countdown of Polian's best moves.
Drafted in the sixth round (207th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft out of Howard, Bethea became an incredibly consistent and durable starter for the Colts. In eight seasons with the team, Bethea played in and started 123 games, notching 806 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 14 interceptions, 46 passes defensed, five forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. In three seasons with the team he led them in tackles, while in three different seasons he finished second on the team. He was named to the Pro Bowl in both 2007 and 2009 for his play in Indy, and in five of his last six seasons with the Colts he topped 100 tackles. He spent the 2014 season with the San Francisco 49ers where he had a career year and made another Pro Bowl berth, but his time with the Colts was very good as well. Perhaps most impressive about Bethea, however, is that he has started 112 consecutive games at safety (96 of which were with the Colts).
Former Colts head coach Tony Dungy was fond of saying that a player's best ability is their availability, and that is certainly true of Antoine Bethea. He is a good safety and played at a high level for much of his time in Indy, but the best part about his play was that he was out there every single week. Even when the team's defense struggled overall, Bethea was starting at safety to give them some semblance of consistency and he still played well throughout many of the struggles.
For Bill Polian, finding a player like Bethea who was consistently on the field (96 starts in a row with the Colts and 123 overall), played at a high level when he was on the field, and was drafted with only a sixth round pick adds up to a move that is certainly worthy of a spot among the best moves he made during his tenure in Indianapolis.