With the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 draft, Bill Polian took Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf. OK? Got it? Anything else?
I can give you other reasons why the Bears should hire Polian as senior adviser, general manager or whatever he wants to be, up to and including honorary McCaskey, but the Manning decision makes everything else small talk.
I can also give you one reason why Polian scares the bejabbers out of me: As recently as three years ago, he was saying Jay Cutler has the potential to be great.
It’s why I’m having mixed emotions about even the slightest suggestion of Polian joining the Bears. CBSSports.com, quoting sources, reported that the Hall of Fame executive wants to work with an NFL team again and that the Bears would be interested in him in an advisory capacity.
“There is a possibility the Bears restructure their front office in a scenario where Polian would be a senior adviser who oversees coaching and football operations in 2017 and then makes determinations about how he believes the organization should move forward,’’ CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora wrote.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Monday on ESPN 1000 that Polian was confused by the CBSSports.com report and that “he’s not coming to work for the Chicago Bears.’’
Well, the Bears should be pursuing Polian. They’re 3-10. Just because they’re playing a bunch of rookies doesn’t mean that general manager Ryan Pace is doing a good job. It means a bunch of rookies are playing because a bunch of starters are injured. Who knows, some might turn out to be good players. We don’t know yet.
The biggest issue, the only issue, the everlasting issue for the Bears has to do with one position. This franchise wouldn’t know a good quarterback from a Quarter Pounder. Pace didn’t deem it important enough to choose a quarterback in his first two Bears drafts, even with Cutler’s lengthy record of mediocrity. He either has been very misguided or is in a long-term concussion protocol.
So the first reaction to the thought of Polian working at Halas Hall is, “Yes, please!’’ If there has been a more dramatic pick in NFL history than the Manning selection, one that went so right for one team and so wrong for another, I don’t know what it is. Manning won two Super Bowls and five NFL Most Valuable Player awards in a 17-year career. Leaf was one of the biggest busts in league history.
Polian won a Super Bowl with the Colts (beating, ahem, the Bears), and he built the Bills teams that lost four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s. After the Colts fired him in 2011, he joined ESPN as an analyst and has stayed close to the game. He knows talent, and he knows how to build a winner.
He’s 74, which means Bears owner Virginia McCaskey could have read to him as a child. If the team were to hire Polian, there surely would be blowback from critics who think he’s from the same senior center that delivered 75-year-old consultant Ernie Accorsi to Lake Forest. Accorsi helped in the hiring of Pace and coach John Fox. But Polian is sharp. You can see that in his TV work.
It’s his 2013 comments about Cutler that frighten the heck out of me.
“I think if he’s surrounded with better receiving and protection talent, he’ll shine,’’ he told ESPN 1000. “He’s a very, very talented quarterback.”
And: “This is a guy who’s done a lot with a little throughout his career. And his receiver corps — it’s no secret — his receiving corps in Chicago has not been stellar during his time there. I don’t know why people would question the intangibles. He’s done a lot with a little throughout his career.”
Maybe it was a moment of insanity for Polian. If he were to come to Chicago, he’d need to understand that Cutler has no future here. It would have to be part of the understanding between him and ownership. The city can’t go through another season of Jay. Cannot. Our sentence has lasted eight years. Lots of people have tried to coach him, change him and introduce him to new teammates. It hasn’t resulted in anything that vaguely resembles a Super Bowl champion.
The franchise needs to move forward. It would be nice for it to move forward with Polian aboard. The veteran hand on the tiller, and all that. Maybe the Polian-to-the-Bears report is a built on the flimsiest of foundations. But now that it’s out there, the Bears have the responsibility to at least ask: Hey, Bill, a little help?