Love him or loathe him, the Indianapolis Colts made the right call on Bill Polian.
They’re putting him where he belongs — in the team’s Ring of Honor.
Can’t say it’s long overdue. He’s only been gone five years.
But he’s richly deserving of induction.
Warm and fuzzy, Polian was not. Fan-friendly, not really. Prickly and pugnacious, he was that and then some.
But, boy, could he build football teams.
Ask Buffalo fans. Ask Carolina fans.
Above all, ask Colts fans.
Before Polian, winning was a distant hope, a dream, an elusive goal always out of reach.
With Polian, it became the norm, the expectation, the only acceptable standard.
Division titles, conference championships and Super Bowls went from being wishes to reality — a decade-plus trend that, ironically, became Polian’s undoing.
More on that later.
Polian spent 14 seasons with the Colts, beginning in 1998, when they were coming off a 3-13 season. Within two years, they were division champions.
By the end of Polian’s run in 2011, the Colts went to the playoffs 11 times; won eight division titles; two AFC East championships; and went to two Super Bowls; and brought the city its first (and only) Lombardi Trophy in 2006.
Between 2000 and 2009, the Colts won 115 regular-season games, the most in a 10-year span by any team in NFL history, and were rivaled only by the Patriots as the dominant team in the league.
In light of it all, one can argue that nobody did more to rescue the once-lame franchise from embarrassment and irrelevance. Peyton Manning, after all, didn’t draft himself. Tony Dungy didn’t hire himself. And Lucas Oil Stadium didn’t build itself.
Polian was the architect, the visionary, the builder who found all the pieces and masterfully put them in place. Manning was the foundation, but it took more than that to build a world champion.
It took Reggie Wayne. It took Dwight Freeney. It took Dallas Clark. It took Bob Sanders. It took Jeff Saturday. It took Robert Mathis. It took Tarik Glenn. It took Gary Brackett. It took Dominic Rhodes, Cato June, Ryan Diem, Raheem Brock, Dylan Gandy, Marlin Jackson, Ben Utecht, Antoine Bethea, Joseph Addai and assorted mid-to-late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents — all mined by Polian — to solidify and fortify the product.
Unearthing rare gems, seeing potential overlooked by others, identifying needs and filling them. No one did it better than Polian.
That is, until the end of his run in Indy.
A series of disappointing drafts, coupled with Manning’s well-documented neck injury in 2011 and subsequent 2-14 campaign, marked the end of the Polian era.
Owner Jim Irsay cleaned house, and — for better or for worse — swept Polian out the door.
Five years later, however, the Colts are doing the right thing by inducting him into the Ring of Honor. It will happen on Jan. 1, 2017, during a Week 17 home game against Jacksonville.
At that time, Polian will become the 12th member of the Ring, joining, among others, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hinton and Jeff Saturday.
All 12 are deserving; some more than others; but none more than Polian. Love him or loathe him, he did what no one else has done.
He built a Super Bowl champion in Indy.