Bill Polian is widely regarded as one of the most respected NFL analysts. However, his credibility took a severe hit with his performance on Thursday’s edition of SportsCenter.
Polian was brought in to discuss how the NFL and Roger Goodell could possibly fail to be aware of the Ray Rice punching his fiancee video, when an AP report confirmed the video was in the league’s office. You can here Polian’s response here.
Here’s exactly what Polian said when he was asked the first time:
“It is very puzzling to me. As a matter of fact, I worked as a vice president in the NFL office in 1993, with respect to football operations. I know how the office works, I’ve physically been there—it was a different building, not the one they’re in now—but it’s very difficult for me to understand how that could happen. Especially when you’re in a situation that is as high-profile as that particular incident is. It’s puzzling, and I have as many questions as everyone else. It’s outside my area of expertise. For all the years that I was in the NFL, NFL security, and the NFL’s ability to protect its integrity, the so-called “protection of the shield,” was unmatched in American business. Forget about sports—in American business. I mean, you did not step out of line in the NFL, and if you did, there was an unwritten rule that when you were called into the office—and met with someone who was the commissioner or there at the behest of the commissioner—that you better come clean, that you better tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And if you work in the office, you better be on top of the details. The office was there to make sure that the clubs, the players, the reputation of the NFL remained unsullied. That goes back to the 1960’s with the administration of Pete Rozelle. So this is totally, totally out of character for what I know of the NFL office.”
Around 20 minutes later, Polian was brought in again and was asked exactly the same question. His response though did a complete 180:
“Well it can happen. It’s a very large organization, much larger than when I served in the league office, maybe much larger by a factor of 10. When you have a large, bureaucratic organization, which that is, and there are some that think it is too large, very honestly. Things can slip through the cracks. Someone can make a value judgement who has no right to make that judgement. The CEO, who is in effect Roger Goodell, doesn’t get all the information he needs all the time. That’s a fact of life in bureaucracies. In this case, we’ll find out what happened, and they’ll absolutely, they being the NFL and Roger, will have to take steps to make sure it never happens again.”
Something clearly happened between Polian’s first response, and the 20 minutes in between takes. What exactly happened is unclear, but it’s highly uncharacteristic of Polian to completely rip the NFL, and then turn around and say that it’s certainly possible the league could mess up like it did.
I hope that Polian wasn’t forced to suddenly change his tone, because he has to have some pride in what he said. It would be immoral for him to act as a puppet, and Polian is simply better than that.