Bill Polian, who served as the Carolina Panthers' first general manager, has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Polian and team president Mike McCormack helped usher Carolina into the NFL as an expansion team in 1994.
The Panthers first took the field in 1995 and set an expansion record with seven wins despite playing their home games in Clemson, S.C., two-and-a-half hours away from their home in Charlotte.
A year later in 1996, Carolina won the NFC West, producing a 12-4 record – including an 8-0 mark at home. The Panthers hosted their first postseason game, defeating Dallas in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, before falling to eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay in the NFC Championship.
"Bill has had a long and accomplished career in the National Football League," Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson said. "The Carolina Panthers congratulate him on being selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the ultimate honor for an individual in the NFL."
Polian has also influenced the Panthers by giving current general manager Dave Gettleman his first NFL job as a scout for the Buffalo Bills in 1987.
Polian spent 32 seasons in the National Football League, earning a reputation for rebuilding franchises into dominant playoff teams. He is most noted for turning around the fortunes of three different clubs and made a combined five Super Bowl appearances with the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts.
After entering the NFL as a pro scout for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1978-1982, Polian became Buffalo's director of pro personnel in 1984 before being promoted to general manager in 1986. He built the Bills into a powerhouse and led the team to four consecutive AFC East titles from 1988-91. The Bills also won three straight AFC Championships and appeared in Super Bowls XXVI, XXVII and XXVIII.
Before joining the Panthers as general manager in 1994, Polian worked in the NFL office as vice president of football development.
In 1998, Polian moved to Indianapolis and served as president/general manager through 2011. During his tenure, the Colts won eight division titles and played in two Super Bowls – highlighted by a victory in Super Bowl XLI. With Polian at the helm, the Colts advanced to the postseason 11 times in a 12-year span and posted 10 or more wins in each of those playoff seasons.
Not counting his first two seasons with Buffalo, first with Carolina and first and last with Indianapolis, Polian's teams combined for a .625 regular season winning percentage. In all, he led his teams to the AFC Championship seven times and NFC Championship once.
In 2009, Polian became the only administrator ever to be named the NFL's Executive of the Year by The Sporting News six times.