Like any Buffalo Bills fan out there, Hall of Fame front office executive Bill Polian has some thoughts on how to go about ending the team's 16-year playoff drought. Unlike any Bills fan out there, Polian has a rich history with the Bills organization, a direct line to Bills owner Terry Pegula, and the ear of Buffalo News reporter Vic Carucci.
No, there are no indications that the Bills are trying again to hire Polian after failing to do so last winter, as the team was dealing with an unexpected coaching change. But Polian also told Carucci that he'd be willing to offer his feedback to the Bills as a consultant for the team, leaving open the possibility that the architect of the best Bills teams ever could return to the organization in some capacity.
One would presume that he has many, many opinions on the current state of the Bills, because as he stated his willingness to consult, he also offered up several takes on the Bills to Carucci, presumably free of charge. Let's run through them, shall we?
Polian believes the Bills should waste no time parting ways with current No. 2 QB EJ Manuel to finally bring closure to the mistake of making him a first-round draft pick in 2013. He’s fine with (Tyrod Taylor) remaining the starter, but said he told Pegula to keep an open mind about the 2016 college quarterback crop and don’t "fall in love" with only one player, such as Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.
"You can win with Tyrod if the other pieces are good," Polian said. "If there are six or seven Pro Bowlers at other positions, you can win with Tyrod. But he’s not the quarterback of the future. He’s not Jim Kelly, and, although he doesn’t have the same track record, he’s probably comparable to Frank Reich. But he’s not 6-feet-4 like Frank Reich. He’s small and he’s going to get hurt, and he did.
"Now, you have to find his backup and the quarterback of the future."
It's hard to imagine many Bills fans would disagree enthusiastically with his thought on Manuel. The Hackenberg comment is an interesting one, given Pegula's well-known ties to Penn State; perhaps Polian and/or Carucci are simply speculating throwing that name out there, but perhaps they're not.
As for Taylor, that's a fair assessment, particularly since fans and the organization seem to still be in wait-and-see territory after just one season as a starter. Calling Taylor a short, injury-prone Frank Reich may not be entirely accurate, but it seems like it was meant as a compliment, in a weird sort of way.
Fix the offensive line, which he calls "aging and unathletic."
Let's assume that the Bills will return all five starters up front next season, which is a stated desire of current general manager Doug Whaley. In 2016, Cordy Glenn will turn 27 in September, John Miller will turn 23 in August, and Seantrel Henderson will turn 24 in January. That's three out of the five starters that are young enough to be the 73-year-old Polian's grandchildren.
Eric Wood, the center, will turn 30 in March. Richie Incognito, the left guard, will be 33 in July. Both are playing very well this season - so much so, in fact, that both are Pro Bowl alternates. Polian had a thought on the meaningfulness of the Pro Bowl, too:
"How many Pro Bowlers are on the team? One. How many playoff teams have one Pro Bowler?"
They could end up with as many as five, though. Mostly because the Pro Bowl is a bit of a joke.
What else did Polian have to offer?
Add a receiver to complement Sammy Watkins.
That sounds good. Robert Woods is solid enough, but the Bills' receiving corps has lacked size all season, and the team has wanted to address that for a while. They probably will this offseason. Next?
"There are nine players on this team that are 30 years or older," Polian said. "That may be the most in the league. If it’s not the most, it’s right up there. That’s not a good sign."
Okay, but two of those nine are the kicker and the long snapper. At least two more - Leodis McKelvin and Kraig Urbik - are prime candidates for release due to cap reasons, and three or four more (Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Manny Lawson, and Corey Graham) are up for debate to that end, as well.
Polian later said this about Rex Ryan's defensive scheme:
"You need veterans to make that defense work," Polian said.
Oh, whoops. Re-sign all the 30-somethings!
Polian also questioned the gobs of cash that the Bills threw at LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay this past offseason, which is something that we all have done. He also talked about the Bills' need to clean up simple issues like challenging plays correctly and substituting players on time, which, again, is well-covered terrain.
If you're asking me, if the Pegulas are seeking help with assessing their football team's state of affairs this offseason, they can do a lot better than Bill Polian. And not because of some quotes that appeared in a newspaper (though those don't really help his cause), but because the Bills, as a football operation, need a much fresher, more modern, and far more objective viewpoint than the one Polian can offer.