4:53pm: A source tells Florio that the deal between Polian and the Bills broke down primarily because of money — namely, Polian wanting more of it. Florio also speculates that Polian used Buffalo’s interest in him as leverage to garner a better contract with ESPN. Additionally, Polian had wanted Marrone to remain as head coach, so Marrone’s opt-out probably lessened Polian’s interest in the job.
1:29pm: Former NFL executive Bill Polian has informed Bills owner Terry Pegula that he will continue to work as an analyst for ESPN rather than accept a position with Buffalo, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN (Facebook link via Adam Schefter). Bills ownership never made a formal offer to Polian, who worked with the club from 1984-93, but the two sides did have talks, both about an advisory role and a top front office job, before Polian decided to stick with his broadcasting position.
Reports yesterday indicated that Buffalo had hired Polian to serve as its team president, but Polian refuted those claims. Per Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, Polian was inclined to take the Bills position before speaking with ex-Buffalo coach Doug Marrone, who condemned the organization (Twitter links). As the two have a long relationship, Polian acted on Marrone’s advice, and declined Pegula’s offer.
Polian, 72, has worked as the general manager of three teams: the Bills, the Panthers, and most recently, the Colts, with whom he won a Super Bowl in 2007. Indianapolis fired him as GM after the 2011 season. According to Mortensen, Polian has received interest from other clubs, as well, but ultimately decided to stay with ESPN rather than return to a personnel role. A highly-decorated GM, Polian is a six-time recipient of the NFL’s Executive of the Year award.
Though current Bills general manager Doug Whaley is expected to keep his job, reports that Buffalo wanted to bring in Polian to lead its front office isn’t good news for Whaley, who had a hand in drafting E.J. Manuel and had already traded the Bills’ 2015 first-round-pick. Additionally, Buffalo CEO Russ Brandon is reportedly drawing interest from Oakland, which is interested in hiring Brandon as its team president, meaning that the organization’s entire structure could be in flux. Graham had reported that Brandon was likely to remain with the Bills, but as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out (via Twitter), it’s now clear that Buffalo was negotiating with Polian without Brandon’s knowledge or consent, which could indicate his role in the club’s hierarchy has been reduced.
Polian’s decision could also affect the Bills’ head coaching search — Polian was reportedly high on Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and was thought to be interested in bringing in the play-caller as Buffalo’s head coach. Reich will interview with the club next week, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s still among the favorites for the job without Polian in the front office.