Inside The Bills

Polian’s top 10 player moves

Posted by Chris Brown on May 13, 2012 – 11:24 am

Buffalo’s 28th Wall of Famer will be former GM Bill Polian. Here’s a look at what we feel are the top 10 moves Polian executed to turn the Bills into the winningest team in the 90’s and four-time AFC Champions.

We preface this list with the following clarifier. Polian was formally appointed GM of the club on Dec. 30, 1985, and was first hired on Aug. 2nd, 1984 as Pro Personnel Director, but he along with Director of College Scouting Norm Pollom were handling GM duties after Terry Bledsoe suffered a heart attack the February before the 1985 draft. So he certainly had a hand in the 1985 draft that included Bruce Smith and Andre Reed, but to attach full weight for those decisions to Polian might be misguided. As such we ‘ve put those player acquisitions a bit lower on the list than some might expect. But here are the best moves put together by the only six-time NFL Executive of the Year.

10 – Drafting Wil Wolford – Rd. 1 – 1986 – Wolford was the blind side protector needed for Buffalo’s offense to take a needed step forward.

9 –
Drafting Howard Ballard – Rd. 11 – 1987 – The 11th rounder was two-time Pro Bowler and anchored the Bills right side.

8 –
Claiming Steve Tasker off waivers – 1986 – Claiming Tasker gave Buffalo perhaps the best special teamer in the history of the NFL.

7 –
Signing Kent Hull – 1986  – Polian signed Hull away from the folding USFL and had Jim Kelly’s security blanket for 10 seasons.

6 – Drafting Andre Reed – Rd. 4 – 1985 – Reed became the team’s all-time leading WR and likely Hall of Famer.

5 –
 Drafting Bruce Smith – Rd. 1 – 1985 – The all-time leader in sacks was a terror off the edge and linchpin of Buffalo’s Super Bowl defenses.

4 –
Hiring Marv Levy – 1986 – Polian crossed paths with Levy in KC and the CFL and knew he could manage the club’s big personalities.

3 –
Drafting Thurman Thomas – Rd. 2 – 1988 – The value in selecting the Hall of Fame RB is tough to beat as he was the engine of the 90’s offenses.

2 –
Trading for Cornelius Bennett – 1987 – Called the trade of the decade by the NY Times, it was the most complicated and cunning moves of his tenure as Bills GM with three teams involved along with a former first-round pick in Greg Bell and Hall of Fame RB Eric Dickerson. More importantly it made the Buffalo front seven one of the most feared in football. 

1 –
Getting Jim Kelly signed – 1986 – Kelly was more than staunch in his stance that he would not play for the Bills even with the USFL struggling to stay afloat. Polian’s unrelenting negotiating tactics eventually got the deal done and put Buffalo in a position to be a successful franchise for a decade.

Think we forgot a big move, draft choice or player acquisition? Feel free to make your suggestions.

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Posted in Inside the Bills
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