Bill Polian is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy will have to wait again until next year.
A six-time NFL Executive of the Year, Polian was announced Saturday in the 2015 class to be enshrined on Aug. 8 at Canton, Ohio. The former Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers executive received the necessary 80 percent of the vote in the newly created Contributor category, as did former Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf.
Former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison and retired Colts and Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy were among the finalists who did not receive enough votes. Both were being considered for the second consecutive year.
Polian and Wolf were joined by wide receiver/returner Tim Brown, running back Jerome Bettis, defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley, linebacker Junior Seau, offensive guard Will Shields and center Mick Tingelhoff.
Polian, 72, was the architect of four Bills teams that reached the Super Bowl. He received NFL Executive of the Year honors in 1998, 1991, 1995 and 1996 with the Bills and in 1999 and 2009 with the Colts.
“It’s really overwhelming,” Polian said, in quotes provided by Scout.com’s Tim Yotter, who is in Glendale, Ariz., for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX. “Never in a million years would I ever have thought that I would be here. This is just something that you look upon, and these guys here, they’re so far beyond my pay grade it’s not even close. I’m overwhelmed to be here, but what this is about for me is the players and coaches that I’ve been so fortunate I’ve been able to be with over the years. The biggest thrill tonight is to be able to share it obviously with family, but to have Jim Kelly and Peyton Manning here, too, because they’re the reason I’m here.”
Polian said former Bills coach Marv Levy will induct him.
“Everything I have and everything good that has come to me in this business is because of him,” Polian said. “I’ve often said everything I learned about pro football I learned from him and most of the things I know about life I’ve learned from him.”
As Colts general manager and then vice chairman from 1998 to 2001, his teams went 143-81 (.638 percent) in the regular season, the second-best mark in the NFL during that span. The Colts reached the postseason 11 times, won eight division titles and advanced to two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XLI in 2007.
“I am thrilled with Bill Polian's well-deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Colts Owner & CEO Jim Irsay said in a team release. “Bill's career has been remarkable and he has had an incredible impact on our league.
“My relationship with Bill goes back to when we were both general managers and worked together and with others to create the league’s salary cap. Aside from being a great executive, Bill had the innate ability to evaluate and look at a player and identify greatness. To me, that was his greatest talent and what set him apart from everyone else. Bill's dedication to the NFL and to the Colts will always be remembered. I am proud to call him a Colt, and congratulate him on this great achievement.”
The Colts set NFL records for most wins in a decade (115) from 2000 to 2009, and most regular-season victories (23) from 2008 to 2009.
Polian is credited with several key personnel moves with the Colts, drafting quarterback Peyton Manning (1998), running back Edgerrin James (1999), wide receiver Reggie Wayne (2001), defensive end Dwight Freeney (2002), tight end Dallas Clark (2003), defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Mathis (2003), safety Bob Sanders (2004), running back Joseph Addai (2006), wide receiver Pierre Garcon (2008) and offensive left tackle Anthony Castonzo (2011). Polian also signed key free agents in center Jeff Saturday, kicker Mike Vanderjagt, linebacker Gary Brackett and kicker Adam Vinatieri.
The omissions of Harrison and Dungy will undoubtedly fuel debate, especially Harrison, who holds most of the Colts’ all-time major receiving records and retired as the NFL’s No. 2 pass catcher with 1,102 receptions. He now ranks third on that career list behind Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice (1,549) and tight end Tony Gonzalez (1,325), who is not yet eligible.
Harrison’s 14,580 receiving yards rank seventh on the all-time list, one spot behind 2015 inductee Brown (14,934).
Dungy became the first black coach to win a Super Bowl when he guided the Colts to a Super Bowl XLI victory over the Chicago Bears. He had a career 139-69 regular-season coaching record (68.8 percent) and was 9-10 in the playoffs. Dungy coached the Colts from 2002 to 2008, when he went 85-27 (.759) in the regular season, 7-6 in the postseason.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.