Another member of the Buffalo Bills' Super Bowl run in the 1990's is heading to Canton next month. This time, it's the one who helped put those teams together — former general manager Bill Polian.
Polian will join the likes of Marv Levy, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, James Lofton and Ralph Wilson Jr. in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“You almost can’t put it into words," Polian said on a conference call Thursday. "The Hall of Fame is not something someone like myself every envisioned.
“When you think Hall of Fame, you think of people like Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays and Frank Gifford and Chuck Bednarik and people like that. Not people like me. So it’s almost difficult to get your head around it. But having studied the history of the game and having understood what so many Bills players have been enshrined in recent years that I was fortunate enough to be with, it’s just an incredibly momentous occasion and an incredible honor to think that you’re there with people you’ve revered and looked up to all your life.”
Of course, Polian was the one who pioneered the downtrodden franchise's turnaround. Buffalo was coming off of back-to-back 2-14 seasons when Polian was named the general manager in 1986. After going 4-12 and 7-8 his first two seasons, the Bills then put together one of the best runs in NFL history with seasons of 12-4, 9-7 and then Polian was at the helm for three of the team's four AFC Championships.
Upon taking over that '86 season, Polian said the approach, the mind-set was simple.
“Our approach was to put the very best team that we could on the field, to put the past behind us and not be dragged down by it," Polian said. "Not to have that as a legacy that somehow affected us. And most importantly, to put the very best team we could on the field. To be very aggressive in terms of not settling for second best, not making excuses, not allowing atmospheric or outside issues come into play. It was a straightforward, single-minded ‘let’s put the best team we can on the field and let’s win.’”
In addition to the group already enshrined, Polian believes both center Kent Hull and special teams ace Steve Tasker deserve to be in Canton.
He called Tasker the greatest special teams player he's ever seen and Hull the most "respected" and "feared" player on the team.
"He was the real life living embodiment of what John Wayne played on the movie screen," Polian said. "He carried with him a leadership mantle that far exceeded his incredible talent.”
After Wilson fired Polian in 1992, the game began to change. With the advent of free agency and a salary cap, Polian knew it'd be extremely difficult for any G.M. to put together a team like this again.
That's what he believes makes that Bills' group special.
“I said at the time that I left ‘Cherish them because you’ll not see their like again,'" Polian said.
“It was unlikely that there would be another team that was as good top to bottom as our team was, as the Cowboys of that era was and the 49ers who kind of bridged both eras. It’s a very unique team — all three of those teams are very unique teams in pro football history because it’ll be very difficult unless there’s a major change in the labor situation and the collective bargaining agreement to put together a complete team like those three teams were.”
Going with Levy as his presenter at the Hall of Fame was what Polian described as possibly the easiest decision of his life.
Polian presented Levy back in 2001.
"We have become so close over the years," Polian said, "through 40 years of friendship and 20 years of working together. Everything that I am as a football person is really a reflection of Marv and his philosophies and how he does things. So it is only fitting. There was really no choice. Someone said to me, ‘Boy, you announced your choice of a presenter very quickly,’ when the selections were announced. In my mind, there was no choice."