The Senior Bowl is a who’s who of the football world. If you hang around in the right places you’ll see a never-ending stream of athletes, coaches, and scouts shaking hands, talking about football and catching up with old friends. What I found out is if you hang out in the right place long enough you just might bump into legendary hall of fame general managers, like I did when I ran into Bill Polian late Wednesday night.
I asked him about the Colts quarterback position, Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement, and if there would be a quarterback available at number 13 overall that he would pick as general manager. He was gracious but measured with his answers, something I should have expected.
The recording of the interview is embedded at the bottom of this article if you prefer to listen to the interview instead of read the transcription.
CS: The first thing that I want to know, and I think a lot of Colts fans want to know: How would you handle the situation that the Colts are currently in with the retirement of Andrew Luck and potentially needing a quarterback moving forward?
BP: Well, you handle it like every other situation. Every year in the NFL there is a myriad of problems that you have to deal with, especially this time of year. So you prioritize what you think needs to be dealt with first and then you start to formulate plans. You talk inside the organization, get an evaluation of Jacoby. Evaluate how you can improve every position, I think there’s a lot of work to be done at different positions, not just quarterback. That’s the one everybody focuses on, but having said that, this is a really good team. So it doesn’t have to be overhauled and built from the ground up and you’ve got, in Chris and Frank, two people who know how to do it. So they’ll prioritize, take a look at the marketplace, take a look at their cap situation, take a look at who needs to be re-signed, they’ll prioritize what their needs are and attack it accordingly. I haven’t talked to either of them about it, but I would presume that with Jacoby with another year to go (on his contract) there’s a starter in place and you work from there.
CS: With Andrew’s retirement, it was unexpected, shocking for everyone. Then we see Luke Kuechly retire recently at an early age. Is this something that you think is going to start happening more and more, or were those just two one-off situations that were just unique to those guys?
BP: Yeah, I think they were unique to those guys. They’re two very smart guys, two guys that gave their heart and soul to the game, two guys that have recently undergone lots of injury problems, so that enters into it. I don’t see that as a general trend. Guys can now, basically, because of the money, retire if they want to, as opposed to even when I was last in the league, which was 2011, where you know you basically needed to keep playing to keep that income comin’ in. That’s not the case anymore, particularly with first-round draft choices. So it’s anomalous.
CS: Is that why you think Luck retired? I mean, obviously the injuries wore on him.
BP: Oh no, what he told you was absolutely true, but understand that he’s financially secure as opposed to a player 15 years ago, in the same position who would not have been secure.
CS: With the 13th pick, do you think that there will be anyone available at the quarterback position, obviously other positions there would be, but do you think there would be anyone available who, if you were the general manager you would select?
BP: It’s too early to tell. You gotta go through the process, this is the beginning of the process. I saw a billboard today that says “the draft begins here” this is the beginning of the process. You go through the whole process and then by the time you hit the second week in April then you’re able to say, okay here’s the likelihood of who may be there when we pick, here’s what we might wanna do to go up, here’s what we might wanna do to go down. But it’s way too early to tell that.
CS: Mr. Polian thank you very much, and hey, thank you for almost every great sports memory of my childhood. I appreciate it.
BP: My pleasure.
Bill Polian answered my questions like he was still an NFL general manager. His answer regarding the perceived hole at quarterback is telling. He talked about a process of prioritizing and planning. It’s that methodical approach that led him to the Hall of Fame, and it’s a similar methodical approach that has Chris Ballard drafting all-pro’s and building a solid roster.
His take on players retiring was interesting, but I think if he were to examine it further he might realize that as more and more players become financially secure, more and more players are likely to see early retirement as a feasible option in the future. It’s possible he believes that a lot of players are capable of blowing through $50-$100 million in a four or five-year span, and he might just be right.
When he talked about Luck’s retirement, he showed level of transparency and honesty that is difficult to hear via recording and almost impossible to see via the written word. Standing there, though, looking him in the eye, his guard was down, and it felt as if Andrew Luck’s retirement and the reasons he gave was an emotional topic for everyone close to the organization.
All told, Mr. Polian stayed measured in his responses, like a Hall of Fame general manager tends to do. His response regarding Jacoby Brissett being under contract for another season might tell Colts fans that after evaluating the quarterback position internally and externally, it is very possible that the team will enter 2020 with Brissett under center. That is my speculation, though, and I don’t think I could have paid Bill Polian enough to get an ounce of speculation from him regarding that situation.
On a personal level, getting to thank Bill Polian for what he did for the Colts during my formative years was one of the coolest experiences (relating to sports) I’ve ever had. When I thanked him he lit up and seemed genuinely happy when he said, “My pleasure.”