In the wake of the announcement that former Buffalo Bills GM Bill Polian was to be inducted as the 28th member of the team's Wall of Fame, the former front office executive spoke with WGR 550 on Tuesday to share his thoughts on the honor and his time in Buffalo. You can listen to the full interview here.
Polian joined the Howard Simon Show, saying he was shocked to hear he was being honored. In fact, he was worried when he got the call from Scott Berchtold, the team's Senior VP of Communications, telling him to call Ralph Wilson's home. Once Mr. Wilson informed Polian that all was well, the news left Polian speechless.
"It means so much" Polian said. "In many respects Buffalo is home, our kids went to school there. The fondest memories we have as a family are all based around Buffalo. There’s so much emotion tied up with it, so many friends, so many great memories, to be able to come back and receive that kind of honor is an important thing for not only myself but the entire family."
It is also in the spirit of that family bond that Polian will be placed on the wall October 21 when the Tennessee Titans come to town. Polian's son, Dennis, is an assistant with the Titans, and will be on hand for the celebration.
The most intriguing story Polian told from his days assembling Super Bowl talent was from 1986. The Bills had drafted Jim Kelly in 1983, but he had opted instead to play in the USFL. With the USFL folding, Kelly's rights were still held by Buffalo, and it would take a massive contract for the successful pro quarterback to make his home in Western New York.
"We had an opportunity to trade the rights to Jim Kelly for what then would have been a very, very good return, including a young quarterback who never turned out to be nearly as good as Kelly," said Polian. "Mr. Wilson thought about it for 15 seconds and said 'No, I’m going to sign Jim Kelly.'"
Polian explained to Mr. Wilson that the contract would likely be the largest in league history.
"That’s alright. We’re going to sign Jim," said Wilson as recalled by Polian. The Bills did just that, and Kelly's number is still the only one officially retired by the team.
As most have speculated, Polian said the team did not want to add him to their Wall of Fame while he worked for another team, and that the delay did not stem from animosity between the owner and himself. After being fired by Indianapolis this off-season, the timing fit.
"[Our relationship has] always been great” Polian said. “I owe him an incredible debt of gratitude because he took a chance on a nobody to run this club, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. In addition, he gave Marv [Levy] and I all the support we could need to win championships.”
While Polian gave many heartfelt thanks to Levy and Mr. Wilson, he is most proud of the family that the Bills built during his tenure. He pointed out the number of people who were at Kent Hull's funeral with their families and the off-field accomplishments of Kelly and Steve Tasker, to name a few. It's a worthwhile listen for any fan of the Super Bowl era Bills.