At the start of the season, former NFL G.M. and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian broke down the potential candidates for winning this year’s Super Bowl into three categories:
Teams with question marks
Teams on the rise
Polian recently joined Dave Lapham and me on our Wednesday night “Bengals Game Plan” show and said that Cincinnati appears to be ready to win in the postseason for the first time since January of 1991.
“They’ve been to the playoffs,” said Polian. “They’ve won the division. They know what it’s like to play in big games. You have to learn how to do that. You have to show the fans and the local media that you’re relevant and that takes a while.
“All of those things have occurred. They’re now in a position where they are legitimate and genuine contenders. All of that can be derailed by key injuries in any given year – that’s a fact that doesn’t go away. But other than that, I think they’re in great shape.”
Polian built powerhouse teams in Buffalo in the early 90’s as quarterback Jim Kelly led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances. As the general manager in Indianapolis, he drafted Peyton Manning who led the Colts to a pair of Super Bowl trips, including a win over the Bears in February of 2007.
I asked Polian what he looked for in drafting a quarterback and if Andy Dalton has those traits.
“You would like to have a little more stature and maybe a little bit stronger arm with Andy,” said Polian. “Those were the two negatives when he was coming out of school. Everything else he has in spades. He’s a gym rat – he studies and puts in the time. He has great football intellect. He’s got great leadership. He’s a gritty, tough guy. He’s very, very smart – not only football-smart but very smart genuinely. He’s got really good understanding of what he needs to do with the offense and his timing is impeccable which makes up for the arm strength. So while he doesn’t have the arm that Jim Kelly had, he’s probably pretty close to Peyton Manning, and that’s good enough. All the rest of it is far more important than arm strength or stature. All of those other things are what makes a winning quarterback.”
Of course, it helps to have a great target to throw to and Polian puts A.J. Green in the same category as the best wide receivers on his squads in Buffalo and Indianapolis: Andre Reed, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne.
“You can mention his name in the same breath – he’s got all of the same skills that they do,” said Polian. “He’s got great speed, great route-running ability, really good hands, and he’s a tough guy. He’ll go get the ball. He gets the ball at its highest point. He probably jumps better than any of the guys that I was associated with. He has everything that you would look for in a quality receiver.”
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