The Last Word

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:51 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- A day after his Colts made it 12-0 and counting, Bill Polian was talking about his blueprint for success.

Hatched in Canada, refined in Buffalo, getting closer to being perfected in Indy.

As much as the present and future of the Colts is all the football rage these days, Polian still relishes talking about the past that helped shape him.

He is team president of the Colts now and the man responsible for drafting Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Dwight Freeney and so many other standouts.

But prior to building a Buffalo Bills squad that would go on to four Super Bowls, Polian's eye for talent and team-building was developed in the CFL.

"Are you kidding me, when I became a GM in the NFL I was one of the best prepared guys that nobody ever heard of," Polian said yesterday when asked how his Canadian tour of duty helped shape his football future.

"Whether it was as a scout in Montreal or personnel director in Winnipeg, I had to do everything you have to do to run a football team. It was the most fun I ever had in football. I was very well prepared by the time I got to Buffalo."

Soon after being named the Bills general manager in 1985, Polian brought in Marv Levy, who he had worked for in Montreal as his coach.

Under his stewardship, Polian took the Bills to three Super Bowls with the fourth to come after the year he was fired in 1992.

Naturally, the comparisons between the Bills of yesteryear and the Colts of today are being made. Polian rightfully contends that those Bills should be remembered more for the incredible achievement of making it to four consecutive Super Bowls as for losing them all.

And until the Colts get to their first, such talk is moot.

"It's two different eras so you can't compare, of course, but there are similarities (between the Colts and Bills)," Polian said.

"But the success is not a coincidence. The blueprint from Buffalo was in the desk when I moved here."

The Bills were assembled pre-salary cap, a competitive equalizer that, coincidently, Polian helped create while serving as an NFL vice-president in 1993.

As for the similarities, the feisty Polian lists them in a flurry. The no-huddle offence of Jim Kelly then and Peyton Manning now. Offensive triplets -- Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas and receiver Andre Reed then, Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison now.

Studs on defence -- Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis with the Colts, Bruce Smith and Cornelius Bennett with the Bills.

"And don't forget the coaches," Polian said.

"Marv Levy and Tony Dungy are carbon copies. They are intelligent, approachable and treat their players with respect. They are exactly the same."

Polian never shut down the CFL pipeline. He still has Cal Murphy, whom he met in Winnipeg, scouting for him.

In 1998, Polian took a chance on plucking Oakville's Mike Vanderjagt from the Argos and got the most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history.

In 2001, his north of the border birddogs tipped him towards cornerback Nick Harper who had made a strong pro debut with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

He never abandoned his roots and in part because of that, the Polian blueprint has created a model franchise.

"We're doing what we set out to do and now we're seeing results," Polian said. "Face it, we will be in the playoffs six times in seven years so it's not like we've been stumble bums.

"We're just finally getting some national recognition. Hopefully we can take it to the next step and just a little bit further than we did in Buffalo."


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