Colts hope Polian has better idea Bills, Panthers successes school him for tough job

August 17, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

ANDERSON, Ind. -- Bill Polian has a striking track record when it comes to building teams from the ground up in the NFL. He was the architect of both the Buffalo Bills' four-year AFC dynasty and the Carolina Panthers' two-year rise to the NFC championship game.

Now comes perhaps his most difficult challenge. As president of the Indianapolis Colts, he is attempting to resuscitate a franchise that has won only two playoff games in its past 26 years.

Hired by owner Jim Irsay one day after the Colts' 3-13 season ended last December, Polian, 55, doesn't minimize the job that faces him.

"It's a big job," he said of a turnaround. "Jim Irsay had no illusions about how quickly we might do it. You don't finish 3-13 because you're unlucky. You earn 3-13. [A record of] 6-10 can be unlucky, but not 3-13. It's a big job, and it will take more than one year. When you climb Mount Everest, you climb one step at a time."

Polian's first and biggest step was to appoint Jim Mora as coach. Mora, who posted an 11-year record of 93-74 with the New Orleans Saints, arrived with a reputation as a disciplinarian who leans heavily on defense and a running game.

"I have a long history of knowing what kind of coach he is and the results he gets," Polian said. "When a mutual friend said he was interested [in the Colts job], he skyrocketed to the top of my list."

Mora returns to the sideline after quitting the Saints' job in midseason of 1996 one day after a profane postgame news conference and loss in Carolina.

"I'm glad to get another chance," said Mora, 63, who won two USFL titles with the Philadelphia-Baltimore Stars. "I didn't like the way things ended in New Orleans. I'm bothered by it. I would have left again under the same circumstances, but I didn't handle it very well."

In the offseason, Polian took quarterback Peyton Manning with the first pick in the draft, signed one cornerback (Jeff Burris) and traded for another (Tyrone Poole). It is the tip of the iceberg for a team that has numerous deficiencies, most of them on defense.

Polian likens the situation to Buffalo, when he took over after the 1984 season.

"There's a new quarterback who's young and inexperienced," Polian said. "It's a team that has fallen on hard times with a talent level that is, overall, not good enough to win big."

The Bills went 2-14 in Polian's first year as general manager, made the playoffs by his fourth season and the Super Bowl by his sixth.

Pub Date: 8/17/98

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