He steered the Bills, Panthers and Colts into playoff spots and won the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Along the way, Bill Polian was named the NFL's Executive of the Year six times.
He's now an NFL analyst for ESPN. And after spending countless hours covering the NFL draft, Polian says the Bills should not be second-guessed for using the 16th pick in the draft for QB EJ Manuel.
"If you have a conviction on a quarterback, no time in the draft is too early," Polian said Monday night, in an appearance on The John Murphy Show.
"All of that, 'Well, he would have been there at 41,' or, 'He would have been there at 36,'—malarkey," he said. "Nobody knows how the draft is going to unfold. You can't predict that. That's nothing more than conjecture. When you pick a quarterback and if he pans out, you always picked him at the right time. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't matter where you picked him. "
Polian says regardless of whether Manuel struggles, or has a long and successful career, the Bills 2013 draft will always be judge on the quarterback's fate.
"I thought overall the draft was good," he told host John Murphy. "But it will be overshadowed for good or for ill, from this day forward, on the EJ Manuel pick. When you draft a quarterback first, that defines that draft. No one knows what he's going to be. I know how Buddy (Nix) feels about him and how Doug (Marrone) feels about him. I hope they're right. I make no bones about the fact that I still bleed red white and blue quite a bit."
"That will define the draft and largely define their performance going forward," said the Bills Wall of Famer.
Polian says Manuel likely will need some time to develop into a successful NFL quarterback. And he says that's the route most winning QBs take in the league.
"I don't know that he'll be able to come in and start right away, especially with Kevin Kolb there and especially with adopting to a new offense. But there's nothing wrong with that, either," he said.
"Quarterbacks need development. Not everybody steps right in and plays right away like Andrew Luck and RGIII. Colin Kaepernick actually sat for a year and a half. They can grow and develop. As long as he's ready to contribute to winning by year three, it's a good pick. But I'm never one to question where a player is picked. If you have a conviction, pick him and don't look back."
Polian had plenty of praise for one of Buffalo's second round picks-wide receiver Robert Woods of USC. He says he reminds him of Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, a six-time Pro Bowl selection.
"I think he has many of the same qualities as Reggie Wayne," Polian said on the radio show. "He's reliable. He runs really good routes. He gets in and out of his breaks. He knows how to set up defenders. He has really good hands. And he's a tough guy-he'll take a lick and bounce back up. He's unspectacular. I think he's (Woods) is a solid pro. He's a guy that's going to be a contributor."
"Robert Woods is everything you want in a receiver," Polian continued. "He's not spectacular, but he does everything well. I really thought he was a great pick, and a great 'buy' at that point, at 41."