USA TODAY US Edition
ESPN adds Polian to its draft team
As ESPN on Thursday released its NFL draft plans and again stopped short of making an obvious change — turning its coverage into a high-stepping musical to add some live action — there was one significant new wrinkle: including a talking head who actually has been involved in drafting.
Seems pretty relevant. But Bill Polian, who came to ESPN after being fired in January as Indianapolis Colts vice chairman (his son Chris also lost his job as general manager), can’t recall TV draft coverage that involved NFL front office types.
But then, Polian isn’t exactly an expert on NFL draft on-air yak. He says this will be the first time in three decades he won’t be part of a team’s draft efforts. “I listened only very occasionally (to TV),” he says. “I was always a big believer in making sure we had as little noise and as few distractions as possible in the room.”
Polian joins reporters Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter on ESPN’S secondary on-site draft set. And he says he won’t hesitate to critique picks made by his old peers: “As (exBuffalo Bills coach) Marv Levy used to say, everybody is undefeated on draft day. Teams pick for a reason, and I don’t worry about being candid.”
Polian led one of the greatest boom-or-bust draft calls when the Colts had to choose between quarterbacks who were seen as comparable prospects in 1998 — Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. Manning won four NFL MVP awards while Leaf went on to four wins in four seasons. While noting he no longer has access to the latest “physical and psychological” data on players, Polian says the Colts will use the draft’s top pick on Stanford’s Andrew Luck “unless there’s something none of us know about.”
Polian notes the unknowns in whether he’ll stay in TV: “I’m always wary because I work for other people. How long I stay depends on others.”