Rozelle Award winner Bill Polian says New Orleans Saints have the right leadership to recover next season
Even in semi-retirement former Indianapolis Colts General Manager Bill Polian is finding it hard to escape the game of football.
Polian, now an analyst for ESPN, was in New Orleans on Saturday evening at the 2013 Touchdown Club of New Orleans awards banquet to accept the Pete Rozelle Award, presented annually to a person that exemplified outstanding contribution to professional football and the NFL.
Even during breaks from his job, Polian, who spent more than 25 years in NFL front offices, finds himself talking about the game.
"I don't know if I'd call it post football, it's post NFL," Polian said of his current professional path. "I'm still heavily involved with ESPN. And what I do for ESPN, which is analysis, requires me to stay pretty plugged in. I've found that I'm doing a lot of work that I would have done as a general manager."
Part of those duties include dissecting the New Orleans Saints' current situation, which after a 7-9 season and the ongoing rebuilding process of a defense that yielded the most yards in NFL history, isn't all that pretty.
Polian said the Saints, who'll have limited cap room to sign free agents once the NFL's signing period begins Tuesday, have the right leadership in General Manager Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton to get back on track.
But he added, it will not be an easy task because the Saints are currently over the 2013 salary cap of $123 million. The Saints are expected to either cut or restructure the contracts of defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma, two former Pro Bowl players, to create some cap space.
"It's hard to do," Polian said. "The bad news is the system is designed to do what it is doing to the Saints. They have a great team and a great quarterback who is highly paid, and the system is designed to make you discard players.
"If you are in the Saints' situation, you have to make hard choices. That's the bad news.
"The good news is they couldn't have better people than Sean and Mickey handling that. So they'll get through it. And as long as Drew (Brees) is here they are going to be a contender. And Sean is going to rebuild the defense, and they'll get it done. But this is the time of year that no general manager or head coach likes because they are forced to make tough decisions that hurt your football team. But if you are a contender, as the Saints are, that's the nature of it."
Although the Saints aren't expected to be major players in free agency, Polian said it was important that the Saints re-signed restricted free agent Junior Galette on Saturday. Galette, one of the team's top pass rushers, is expected to move from defensive end to outside linebacker as the Saints switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment under newly hired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
"For a team like the Saints the most important free agents are your own free agents," Polian said. "So to get Junior Galette signed was big. That's one outside linebacker. (Hall of Fame coach) Bill Parcells said the other day that outside linebackers that can rush the passer are the lifeblood of the defense. So they have got one. The other one is probably going to have to come through the draft because the cap situation is such that unless you get really lucky and somebody comes available that you really didn't think was going to be available at a reasonable price it's going to be hard to get a high-priced guy.
"But they got Junior, and that's a key part. And they've got Drew, that's a key part. Fans can't lose sight of the guys that you retain are just as important as the guys you bring in."
Meanwhile, Polian said he wasn't about to lose sight of the prestige that comes along with Saturday's award. Some of the past Rozelle Award winners include, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, former Saints General Manager Jim Finks, former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula and former Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi.
Along with Polian, The Touchdown Club also honored Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly (College Award), Holy Cross Coach Barry Wilson (Prep Award) and Ken Trahan (Roesler Media Award).
Former Saints special teams ace Steve Gleason, who is battling ALS, and his wife Michel were recognized as the Board of Directors award winners for their contributions to the community.
"It's a great honor to be included in this company," Polian said. "It's particularly significant because it's named in honor of Pete Rozelle, who is probably the greatest commissioner in all of sports, the man who put the NFL on the map. It's a great honor. I'm very grateful."
Rozelle Award winner Bill Polian says New Orleans Saints have the right leadership to recover next season | NOLA.com
Re: Rozelle Award winner Bill Polian says New Orleans Saints have the right leadership to recover next season
We won't get a chance if Godhell can continue to put the screws to us.
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