Bill Polian can say he knows a thing or two about building a winning NFL team. After all, he’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for a plethora of accomplishments, including winning five AFC Championships as a general manager. Two of those titles came with the Indianapolis Colts.
So Colts fans can find solace in the fact Polian liked what he saw from the Colts when he visited the team’s joint practice with the Detroit Lions on August 17.
“You’re talking about a team that’s pretty darned close,” Polian said to senior writer Bob Kravitz of The Athletic. “So when Matt gets his feet on the ground and gets really comfortable, I think they’re going to be good.”
Polian admitted he wasn’t sure exactly how long it would take Ryan to get comfortable, but clearly, the former general manager has confidence in the Colts roster.
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Polian’s High Praise for Colts
As great as Polian was as a general manager, he never had to deal with the quarterback turnover current Colts general manager Chris Ballard has. Polian drafted Peyton Manning at No. 1 overall in 1998, and Manning remained the team’s starter until he didn’t play in 2011 because of an injured neck.
Polian surrounded Manning with plenty of talent. But without the team’s franchise quarterback, the Colts went 2-14 in 2011.
Ballard inherited Manning’s replacement — Andrew Luck — when he became Indianapolis general manager in 2017. But Luck sat out all of Ballard’s first season as GM and then retired abruptly during the 2019 preseason.
It’s been a quarterback scramble of sorts since then — one that has left Polian impressed.
“They’ve done a magnificent job here. They’ve just reloaded each and every year,” Polian told Kravitz. “Philip [Rivers] comes in, it’s time for him to go. The next guy (Carson Wentz) comes in, he doesn’t work out, then bingo, they pull the trigger and bring Matt [Ryan] in. That’s just phenomenal by Chris and his staff, by Frank. This team is in good hands, really good hands.”
Despite Ryan about to become the fifth different starting quarterback in the last five Week 1’s since Reich became head coach, the Colts have won at least seven games every season under Reich. He owns a 37-28 overall record.
Ryan to Make the Difference?
But Polian sees him as a significant upgrade over Carson Wentz.
“Matt Ryan makes a world of difference,” Polian said. “He’s a veteran with tremendous experience and savvy. He’s still physically able to deliver the ball and make plays, so he’s going to elevate the play of the offense considerably.”
Polian, though, made it clear that Ryan might not elevate the Colts offense immediately.
“It’s going to take time for him — maybe a third of the season, maybe even more — to feel comfortable with what everybody can do, and vice versa. It may be a little up and down early on, but once he gets comfortable, I think they’ll rapidly ascend offensively.”
Each of the last two Super Bowls have been won by quarterbacks in their first season with a new team. Matt Stafford with the Los Angeles Rams started fast in 2021, going 7-1 out of the gate. Stafford threw 22 touchdowns and 4 interceptions during that stretch.
But Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers began slower the year prior. The Buccaneers were 7-5 with Brady throwing 11 interceptions in 12 games before getting hot. Tampa Bay won its last 8 games to win the Super Bowl.
Ryan will be looking to emulate those two quarterback this season to prove Polian correct.