In more than two decades as an NFL club executive, Bill Polian had an up-close view in the development of one quarterback in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jim Kelly, and one who effectively has a reserved spot in Canton, Peyton Manning.
What Polian saw as the Buffalo Bills' general manager during Kelly's time with the team and as the Indianapolis Colts' GM and team president during Manning's time have plenty in common.
The biggest is what Polian, himself a Pro Football Hall of Famer, describes as a "four-year timeline" for the Bills' Josh Allen and all projected franchise quarterbacks.
“Year 1, in pro ball, you learn to get in and out of the huddle," Polian said. "You learn the nomenclature. You learn how to call the play. You learn what the calls are that the offensive line is making. Josh had great benefit of being injured and sitting and having the ability, during that time, to take a deep breath and say, ‘OK, I have to do this, this, this and this in order to master this.’
“Second year, you learned the concepts of the offense in the offseason. Not how to do it, but why you’re doing it. And why you are doing this, that or the other thing to beat a certain defense or a certain player or doing it in a certain game situation."
In the third year, Polian said, there should be significant progress.
“You should see the arrow really going up, because if you’re learning how to apply it, you’re eliminating the rookie or young person mistakes," he said. "Because if you’re learning and how to apply what you’ve already learned, you’ve learned not to put the ball in places where it doesn’t belong, go to the wrong guy, etc.
“Then, in the fourth year, you learn how to manipulate a defense. How your eyes will make certain players react, how ball placement will make certain players react, how certain audibles or dummy audibles will cause people to react. And then after that, you’re a complete quarterback.
"That’s the growth process. And it’s usually not sped up. There’s no substitute for on-the-job training.”