Outside of his radio show, Bill Polian very rarely does anything with the media. However, Football Outsiders was able to get an interview with the genius himself. Polian didn’t give the longest answers, so it is tough to get that much info out of it. Here’s some of the stuff I thought was interesting.
FO: Your defense ranked third in our DVOA metrics this season. More than half of the starters were drafted after the fourth round or not at all. What is the key to getting such productivity out of lesser prospects? What attributes are you most looking for with these late-round and rookie free agent pick-ups? What did you see in Ed Johnson that everyone else missed?
Bill Polian: See the previous answer. We know what criteria are important to succeed in our defense and look for them in every round of the draft. In Ed’s case we saw athletic ability and heard from Coach Paterno that he had “grown up and was ready to become a contributor.”
People have made a big deal about Ed Johnson’s previous history with the law. I’m one who provokes those comments. I always refer to the Indiana Pacers as a thug team, and I believe all Colts players are qualified for sainthood. When I see on the previews for the local news that there has been a murder, I think, “Tinsley must have broken his probation. What a shame.” Whenever a Pacers apologist hears something along those lines, they come back with the Ed Johnson story. Paterno’s quote really helps clear things up on why the Colts would take a chance on someone with a criminal record.
FO: Since Dungy, a Minnesota grad, was hired, almost half of your Day 1 picks have been on Big Ten players. Is that a coincidence, or do you have a better feel for people who play college football in the Midwest? Along those lines, how are your college scouts assigned, by region, by conference, or something else?
Bill Polian: Our college scouts are assigned by region. I go all over the country as do our other scouting supervisors. I think the rough tough style of play in the Big Ten may produce players more suited to our style. In the end it’s more coincidence than anything else.
This is something I’ve always noticed. For those who don’t know, there are many Colts starters who are from the Big Ten. Those are Marlin Jackson (Michigan), Kelvin Hayden (Illinois), Bob Sanders (Iowa), Ed Johnson (Penn State), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio State), and Dallas Clark (Iowa). 27% of the starters come from the Big Ten, so that’s a good chunk of the team. The “Three Yards And A Cloud Of Dust” style is the obvious reason. Ed Johnson and the secondary players from the Big Ten live and breath that style.
FO: What player improved the most, on any of your teams, compared to how good he was when you first acquired him?
Bill Polian: On our team here in Indianapolis, I would say cornerback Kelvin Hayden. On our team in Carolina, I would say running back Anthony Johnson and wide receiver Mushin Muhammad. On our team in Buffalo, I would say future Hall of Famer Andre Reed.
The Hayden one really surprised me. Hayden would not have come to mind. Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday, and Gary Brackett would have been my guesses. However, Hayden has become a premier cornerback in the league. I can’t disagree with what Polian said.
If you live in Indiana, you know the love for Polian. I’m pretty sure behind Christianity, Polianism is the largest religion in the area. Who can blame us? Polian has to be a psychic. He’s made some great moves over the years, and he will go into the Hall of Fame when he retires. 5 Super Bowl teams and more to come in Indy. It’s good to hear from the man, the myth, the legend, Bill Polian.