Bill Polian belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Few have had Polian’s dogged determination to create and follow a plan to success. The fact that his plan worked in three different NFL cities is why his bust will reside in Canton Ohio.

People talk today about analytics, like it’s a new craze. Bill Polian was using his own analytics back in the 1980’s, on every football player he ever saw live or on film. Polian had rare instincts in evaluating a player, both on and off the field.

Polian’s rise with the Buffalo Bills has been well documented here and in every local paper. This week there have been several fine articles written by Vic Carucci and others at the News. People just don’t get tired hearing or reading about a time when Buffalo’s football team was almost” the very best in the league for a period of six years. Polian’s plan was that good!

Jim Kelly, Bill Polian, Marv Levy

Jim Kelly, Bill Polian and Marv Levy

Bill Polian planned almost everything, even things that at the time looked spontaneous and irrational. Bill Polian had a Hall of Fame temper and he showed it often, but he also used it as a deflector, a mis-direction.

There is the famous “get out of town” speech at the Monday Quarterback Club luncheon when he went after columnist Larry Felser and “that guy on 1400 AM”, who turned out to be Art Wander. Polian created a diversion, painted a bulls eye on himself and took it off his players, who were struggling at the time.

Around that time I got to know Bill Polian fairly well. Bill was as loyal as they come and once he took a liking to you, you were “in”. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t chew your butt off if he got mad, but once it was over it was over.

How loyal was Bill Polian? Well, when Rick Azar retired in 1989 from WKBW-TV I was named the new Sports Director. One of the new faces hired at the station for the sports department was Jerry Azar. Bringing in another sports anchor with the same last name didn’t go over too well with my former boss Rick.

Bill Polian was good friends with Rick Azar and so he took it upon himself to let Ch 7 know he didn’t appreciate the slight to his pal.

Just days after Jerry Azar’s arrival, just before kickoff on a Monday Night game at Rich Stadium, Polian went after the newcomer in the tunnel area following a ceremony to place Ralph Wilson’s name on the stadium wall. Polian then came up to the Press box and ripped me a new one as well. Believe me, it wasn’t pretty.

The next day Jerry, Ch 7 GM Steve Kamatian, News Director Linda Levy and myself were all summoned down to Polian’s office. Bill went on and on about Jerry Azar not having proper credentials to be in the stadium and as a result he would be barred from games the remainder of the season.

Once the bluster was over and it was “discovered” Jerry indeed had the proper credentials, both sides “made up”. However, I quickly realized Bill’s plan all along was to let WKBW management know the hire of this new Azar was not appreciated by Polian or the Buffalo Bills organization.

As a result I wasn’t sure where I still stood with Polian. I believed we had a good relationship, but to be on the receiving end of a Polian tirade was not fun. My question was answered a few months later when I learned from a third party that Bill Polian personally called Steve Kimatian to endorse me for the position of Sports Director when Rick retired. Our relationship continued to grow over the years.

Bill Polian at Niagara Falls Knights breakfast

Bill Polian at Niagara Falls Knights breakfast

Bill Polian once accepted an invitation by me to be the featured speaker at a Knights of Columbus Communion breakfast in Niagara Falls on a Sunday morning. Bill lived in Orchard Park, but he had to be at the hall in the Falls at 9 AM. Bill showed up early with young son Brian, now the coach of the Nevada Wolfpack and just wowed the packed hall.

I think back to that morning and realize what a good guy Polian was to drive almost an hour to speak for free at a function because I asked him to. I can tell you, not many Bills GMs would have done it.

When Bill left the team he accepted another invitation from me, to do an interview about his time in Buffalo. I was with the Empire Sports Network at the time and we sat in the studio and talked for about ninety minutes. That turned into a one hour special that can still be seen on Youtube.

That was an emotional day as Bill Polian sat and discussed the football team he had created, but was no longer a part of. I then wondered what the future held for Bill, but obviously he had a plan.

Polian worked in the NFL offices for about a year and then emerged as the GM of the expansion Carolina Panthers.

A year later the fledgling Panthers came within a game of playing in the Super Bowl.

From there Polian took his plan to Indy and drafted a quarterback named Manning. The rest is history and Bill Polian now wears a gold jacket to go along with the Super Bowl ring he won with the Colts.

As I wrote at the top, Bill Polian deserves to be in the Hall. The man had a plan all along and it worked. Not many of us can say the same.

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