Bill Polian’s track record is undeniable. As general manager of the Buffalo Bills, he cobbled together the lineups that advanced to four straight Super Bowls. With Polian at the personnel helm, the expansion Carolina Panthers advanced to the NFC championship game in just their second year of existence. Polian then concluded his career by shaping the Indianapolis Colts into a Super Bowl winner.
He’s in the Hall of Fame and deserves to be, even if his post-football career as an ESPN analyst has been, shall we say, slightly less successful in the prediction department.
Polian’s latest forecast involves Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who he says is too short — at 6-foot-3 — and not accurate enough to be a successful NFL quarterback.
“I think wide receiver,” he said, when asked about what NFL position Jackson should play Monday on ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo.” “Exceptional athlete, exceptional ability to make you miss, exceptional acceleration, exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand, and that’s rare for wide receivers. That’s [Steelers wideout Antonio Brown] and who else, name me another one who’s like that, right? Julio [Jones] is not like that. This guy is incredible in the open field and [has] a great ability to separate and, again, he’s short and a little bit slight and clearly, clearly not the thrower that the other guys are. His accuracy isn’t there, so I would say, don’t wait to make that change, don’t be like the kid from Ohio State [Terrelle Pryor] and be 29 when you make the change.”
Who knows if this prediction will be accurate, but there are a few counterpoints that easily could be made here: Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 and finished third in the voting this past season, completed 59 percent of his passes in 2017, which wasn’t great. But it was better than Wyoming’s Josh Allen (56.3 percent), who could go No. 1 overall. Jackson also had a slight 1,400-yard edge in rushing last season while playing against much tougher competition. Jackson rushed for 18 scores; Allen rushed for two.
Oh, and the following NFL quarterbacks are shorter than Jackson: Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton and Teddy Bridgewater.
Anyway, it wouldn’t be the first time Polian has been wrong.
Polian on Johnny Manziel
Manziel is a full three inches shorter than Jackson, and on Wednesday Polian seemed to be trying to rewrite history:
Polian on Deshaun Watson
“I don’t think any of them are ready to play,” he said while analyzing quarterbacks before last year’s draft. “Deshaun Watson is probably the closest because he’s played more than 30 games and won at the highest level, but he’s going to be making a transition from a spread offense to a different kind of offense in the NFL. That’s always tough for a rookie; nobody has really done it successfully except Marcus Mariota. He and Marcus have a fair amount in common, so I’d say if somebody could do it, I’d bet on Watson.”
Polian kind of backtracked his way into a successful prediction with the second part of that, but Watson certainly seemed ready to play before a knee injury derailed his rookie season.
Polian on Robert Griffin III
“But as a GM, when I think about what makes the prototypical quarterback, and when I look at Robert Griffin III and the way he’s being used by the Redskins, there is a lot that makes me believe we’ll see a prototypical situation in the nation’s capital,” he wrote after Griffin’s first NFL game in 2012.
Griffin is an inch shorter than Jackson, for what that’s worth.
Polian on Kirk Cousins and the Redskins
“Now, next year is an interesting year because to tag him again would put them up in the $34-million range,” he said in 2017, after Washington slapped the franchise tag on Cousins. “They may say, ‘That’s okay. The cap’s going to go up, it’s not debilitating.’ And he may say, ‘Bring it on! Now I’ll take care of my great grandchildren.’ This is truly a win-win. The only thing that hasn’t happened is the touchy-feely part of it. ‘Oh, they haven’t respected him, they haven’t given him a chance to be a real leader.’ All that malarkey that surrounds these contract negotiations is not there. More power to both sides for that.”
Polian on Jay Cutler
“I think if he’s surrounded with better receiving and protection talent, he’ll shine,” he said of Cutler in 2013. “He’s a very, very talented quarterback.
“This is a guy who’s done a lot with a little throughout his career.”
Polian on whether he would vote for Randy Moss or Terrell Owens for the Hall of Fame
“I take neither,” he said in 2017.
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