Prior to last season while the status of Peyton Manning was still uncertain following neck surgery, former Indianapolis Colts vice chairman Bill Polian elected to use Indy’s first round draft pick on offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo.
But if Polian had a do-over, Andy Dalton would not be a Cincinnati Bengal.
“I’ve told this to Marvin and Mike so it’s no state secret – one of my biggest regrets was not taking him in the first round and leaving him for (Cincinnati),” Polian told me this week on ESPN 1530. “But if anybody got him, I’m glad that my friends at the Bengals did.”
After going 2-14, the Colts wound up selecting Andrew Luck with the number one pick in this year’s draft so things eventually worked out fine for Indy. But Polian, now working for ESPN after being fired in Indianapolis, says that the Bengals landed a good quarterback too.
“He is a terrific leader, he’s very, very bright, he’s got more than adequate arm strength, and he’s a fighter,” said Polian. “He looks like an altar boy or a choir boy, but plays with a crowbar in his hands. He’s got a lot of killer in him which is really great. That’s what you want in a quarterback. I’ve heard people compare him to Bernie Kosar, but I think he’s much more athletic than Bernie, and I think that he has a better arm than Bernie. He’s a tough character and he’s a winner.”
The six-time NFL Executive of the Year was also effusive in his praise of Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins who is tied for third in the NFL with 6 sacks through 5 games.
“The position of inside pass rusher is a key position,” said Polian. “When you get an athletic defensive lineman who can rush the passer at the tackle position, it makes it so much harder for the offensive line to slide and help people. If you’re going to ‘chip’ it’s going to be with a back or a tight end. The line can’t move because you cannot run the risk of the guard whiffing and having that guy go clean to the quarterback. So Geno Atkins has turned out to be a terrific addition to the Bengals and an inside pass rusher – I think after the quarterback – is the most important guy on the team because if you can rush from the inside, that means usually that you can rush with four and cover with seven and that gives you a heck of a defensive advantage.”
Polian was the architect of the Buffalo teams that went to four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s and built the Colts team that won Super Bowl XLI in 2007. He obviously knows how to build a contending team and I asked him what area the Bengals still need to address.
“You would like a little more explosion in the offense,” said Polian. “That’s easier said than done. You’re not going to go out and trade for Roddy White – that doesn’t happen. If there was another explosive receiver, if there was an Edgerrin James-type explosive running back who when the line blocks for six (yards), he could get 12 – that would be icing on the cake. But they’re in pretty good shape right now. I really believe that. It’s a terrific young nucleus led, of course, by the quarterback and one of the elite wide receivers in the National Football League. When you’ve got that, you’ve got a chance.
“I said on ESPN that I have the Bengals going to the playoffs and everybody laughed at me, but I believe that’s the case.”
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