Skip to content

Bill Polian is a big believer in the 40-yard dash

pg2_g_polian_300 Getty Images

The 40-yard dash is the marquee event of the NFL Scouting Combine, but it’s also often disparaged by those who say that a player’s speed in running 40 yards in a straight line while wearing shorts and a T-shirt does not say much about what kind of football player he is.

Count longtime NFL executive Bill Polian among those who say the 40 does, in fact, matter.

Polian, who ran the draft room for the Bills for eight years, the Panthers for three years and the Colts for 15 years, said on NFL Live that when he looks at the ways a player can show his stuff at the Combine, it begins with showing off his pure speed.

“No. 1, the 40 times. If you are a believer in speed — and I am, and was — the 40 times are very important,” Polian said.

Polian said that while he wouldn’t get too obsessed with separating players by the hundredths of a second, there are certain 40 times that a player simply has to meet if he wants to be considered a high-level draft prospect at his position.

“There are benchmarks,” Polian said. “A guy doesn’t need to run a 4.42 as opposed to someone who runs a 4.43, but they have to get under the barrier that a club sets for each position. So a receiver who’s more than 4.5? His stock’s going to fall, and there’s no two ways about it.”

Polian had some big first-round hits by drafting for speed early in his tenure with the Colts, including Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne and Dwight Freeney. Unfortunately for Polian, he missed with speedy first-round picks like Donald Brown, Anthony Gonzalez and Jerry Hughes later in his tenure.

Those misses do not, however, shake Polian’s belief in the 40.

Permalink 53 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Indianapolis Colts, Rumor Mill, Top Stories
53 Responses to “Bill Polian is a big believer in the 40-yard dash”
  1. captainwisdom8888 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:24 PM

    Just run baby.

  2. eventhorizon04 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:26 PM

    Jerry Rice ran a 4.71 40-yard dash.

    That guy must have been too slow to get open for most of his career, right?

  3. ravenmuscle says: Feb 21, 2013 5:26 PM

    Ravens will have 10 draft picks this year…one in each round and 3 additional picks after losing Ben Grubbs…Jarrett Johson and Corey Redding as free agents…the rich get richer.

    I’m sure Ozzie will use these to MOVE UP and steal some top talent.

  4. eventhorizon04 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:28 PM

    Also, Larry Fitzgerald (one of the best WRs in the NFL) ran a 4.63 second 40-yard dash, and Anquan Boldin (who spent this past post-season tormenting opposing defenses) ran a 4.71 second 40-yard dash.

    Meh.

  5. dblockdedicated says: Feb 21, 2013 5:29 PM

    When will you ever run 40 yards straight? You will always need to move laterally for some reason or another.

  6. benroethlisberger7 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:29 PM

    Other than having Manning fall into his lap, what has he done?

  7. josephgattuso says: Feb 21, 2013 5:30 PM

    “So a receiver who’s more than 4.5? His stock’s going to fall, and there’s no two ways about it.”

    Jerry Rice’s 40 yard dash: 4.71

  8. fatguystrangler says: Feb 21, 2013 5:30 PM

    The 40 time is a good metric to measure overall, straight-line speed. Not necessarily football speed. Jerry Rice’s 40 time didn’t set any records, but he did ok for himself.

  9. jbl429 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:32 PM

    Stupid decisions like that make GMs pass over WRs like Jerry Rice.

  10. suhnami says: Feb 21, 2013 5:32 PM

    Polian is the prime example of why you have to hit on the QB – you look like a genius regardless of the rest of your draft

  11. shutupbrees says: Feb 21, 2013 5:35 PM

    I wish Polian would just go retire somewhere. I’m sick of hearing about his ideas. He loves to hear himself talk, and thinks he’s the smartest guy in every room.

    All his contributions to the competition committee are so short sighted and detrimental to the game.

    His latest idea to expand the field like the CFL is just another nonsensical idea that people amazingly take seriously because it comes out of his mouth.

  12. myosin10 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:35 PM

    I wanna know out of the last 10 to 15 years who had the top 5 40 times and out of those players who became a star? Personally I’d rather have a star on the field than with tape and stats than a star in the 40 time who might be something one day.

  13. descendency says: Feb 21, 2013 5:40 PM

    The 40 time of Jerry Rice seems to get slower every year.

    First, most scouts claimed Rice ran a 4.6 at the combine and some went on to say he ran a 4.4 at his pro day. Rice may not have had elite speed, but he certainly wasn’t a 4.7+ guy. In today’s world, a 4.8 is linebacker/tight end speed.

  14. der6495 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:42 PM

    Tom Brady is still on the clock. He’s done alright.

  15. m1000be says: Feb 21, 2013 5:42 PM

    “Other than having Manning fall into his lap, what has he done?”

    Uhm?
    Helped build a Bills team that seen three Superbowls while he was there (and a fourth the year AFTER he was fired).

    Took a Panthers in their second year of existance to the NFC Championship game.

    Drafted Peyton Manning instead of Ryan Leaf. Countless playoff appearances, one Superbowl win and another appearance .

    I’m pretty sure most fans would give their left-nut for a GM with that resume.

  16. ahawkalypse says: Feb 21, 2013 5:43 PM

    Kinda surprised he got the words out before he fell a sleep. He yawned so hard I though he was gonna pass out.

  17. peytonsneck18 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:50 PM

    He missed on alot of players towards the end tho

  18. hrmlss says: Feb 21, 2013 5:51 PM

    The 40 is why he took Manning over Leaf.

  19. taintedsaints2009 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:52 PM

    peyton manning is still running his 40.

  20. profootballwalk says: Feb 21, 2013 5:55 PM

    “Jerry Rice’s 40 yard dash: 4.71″

    So every 4.71 receiver will be the best in NFL history. Please, pick a slow receiver for my team, because slow receivers are better than fast receivers. After all, Jerry Rice!

  21. citizenstrange says: Feb 21, 2013 5:57 PM

    Polian drafted Manning #1. Aside from that Polian’s eye for talent left the Colts at 2-14 the first year Manning didn’t play.

  22. Max says: Feb 21, 2013 5:57 PM

    You idiots keep bringing up Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin…. yes we get it! But the @&*^ing fact is that the majority of successful receivers in the league run around 4.5 or better. Of course there will be a couple guys who run slower that are great, but they are the minority. Can’t you dumb sh1ts understand that!

  23. jcmeyer10 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:58 PM

    That’s why he has a job writing junk for ESPN.

  24. jwreck says: Feb 21, 2013 6:00 PM

    Anthony Costanzo, Jerry Hughes, Donald Brown, Mike Pollak, Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Addai, Marlin Jackson- Polian sure knows how to pick the winners.

    Yes, I know, before that came Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders, and yes, he also found Mathis in the 5th and Garcon in the sixth. But that doesn’t help my point.

  25. sharks123 says: Feb 21, 2013 6:01 PM

    What has Polian done?? Really? Ever hear of the Buffalo Bills? Yes there was football before 1998. 4 straight trips even with all loses is impressive.

  26. shogunassasin30 says: Feb 21, 2013 6:08 PM

    Great post Max –

    I bet some of you feel so “supah smaht” pointing out examples of guys that run less than stellar 40’s and have turned out to have good careers.
    You can ALWAYS find an exception to the rule in all things of life. In general (which overules occasional instances) you do not want a WR that runs a 4.63 40. No way, no how. Most of the time they will not get seperation or generate splash plays. But go ahead and respond to my post by saying “OH YEAH! well so and so ran a 6second 40 and he was good!!”

  27. thegreatgabbert says: Feb 21, 2013 6:09 PM

    The Jerry Rice myth needs to be debunked. There was no rigorous official time for him, but the people who knew best said he would run a 4.4 to 4.5 40. About what you’d expect from a top receiver of his size.

  28. srcnsd says: Feb 21, 2013 6:10 PM

    Drafting guys based on their 40 yard time worked sure worked great for the Raiders. Oh wait..

  29. thegreatgabbert says: Feb 21, 2013 6:12 PM

    The 40 is a valuable test of all round athletic ability, because running is the most basic athletic skill that humans develop. Or any species with legs, pretty much. Chances are that if you run fast you will jump high, be strong, have good co-ordination, etc. etc.

  30. ppdoc13 says: Feb 21, 2013 6:13 PM

    Polish is overrated because he was smart enuf to draft manning but couldn’t find enuf talent to surround him. Ozzie drafts football players. Ray Lewis was too small ti play MLB. Suggs was too slow to play lob. Ed reed was a safety and you don’t waste a first round pick on a safety. Ray rice went to Rutgers and didn’t have straight
    Line speed.

    They all have their dogma. And as ou know, today’s dogma is tomorrow’s dog crap.

  31. jwreck says: Feb 21, 2013 6:16 PM

    dblockdedicated says: Feb 21, 2013 5:29 PM
    When will you ever run 40 yards straight? You will always need to move laterally for some reason or another.
    _______
    It’s an easy measure of overall speed and athleticism. There’s very little benching or broad jumping on the field, but they test players on that anyway.
    ______
    ravenmuscle says: Feb 21, 2013 5:26 PM
    Ravens will have 10 draft picks this year…one in each round and 3 additional picks after losing Ben Grubbs, [et al]…

    I’m sure Ozzie will use these to MOVE UP and steal some top talent.
    _______
    First off, have you seen this draft class? What top talent are you referring to?
    Secondly, losing free agents doesn’t translate directly into compensatory picks, it’s a ratio of losses to gains (with playing time and team importance factored in). Between Jacoby Jones and Paul Kruger, it’s doubtful that Charm City will have any compensatory picks.

  32. stoutfiles says: Feb 21, 2013 6:24 PM

    To be fair, Rice played when the league wasnt as big on passing. He always kept the same speed throughout the game because of how hard he trained. How useful us a 4.3 40 if you can only do it once?

  33. bigbenh8tr says: Feb 21, 2013 6:38 PM

    Not fair Florio. Gonzalez was only a bust due to injury he couldnt recover from and perform at the same level. He was looking like a stud for a few gms but I guess manning can make anyone look good.

  34. thelastpieceofcheese says: Feb 21, 2013 6:39 PM

    Polian selected Payton Manning because of his blistering 40 yard dash at the combine.

  35. bigbenh8tr says: Feb 21, 2013 6:41 PM

    dblockdedicated…….

    wow. hear of mike wallace or torrey smith or steve smith? Run a fly route almost every catch.

  36. manilarizzo says: Feb 21, 2013 7:13 PM

    Alfred Morris, 4.67 40. Only 1600 yards and 13 TD’s though.

    Speed is nice but it’s still about the total package.

  37. EJ says: Feb 21, 2013 7:14 PM

    benroethlisberger7 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:29 PM

    Other than having Manning fall into his lap, what has he done?

    Are you kidding?
    He put together the Buffalo Bills team that went to 4 straight SB’s?
    Drafted the right QB in 1998 and not the bust?
    Put together the pretty damn good looking Colts team with a SB win?
    Ring any bells?

    I would love to have Polian back in Buffalo. The reason behind him being let go was dumb. I’m also sure that 31 teams in the NFL would gladly hire him.

  38. jwreck says: Feb 21, 2013 7:18 PM

    myosin10 says: Feb 21, 2013 5:35 PM

    I wanna know out of the last 10 to 15 years who had the top 5 40 times and out of those players who became a star?…
    ________
    Interesting question. They don’t pay me enough, so here you go: (06-12)
    Stars: Calvin Johnson, Mike Wallace, Chris Johnson; is Darren McFadden a star? (my gut says yes, but my fantasy team says no)
    Solid players: CJ Spiller, Tyvon Branch, DHB, DRC, Steroids (excuse me, I have a cold, I was trying to say LaRon Landry)
    We’ll see: Josh Robinson, Stephen Hill, Travis Benjamin, Tommy Streeter, Chris “secretly curious” Culliver,
    Bummer, dude: Johnny Knox, Jahvid Best
    Journeymen: 4
    Nobodies: 10, Remember Yamon Figurs? Yeah, he plays for the Edmonton Eskimoes now.
    So the breakdown is
    Stars and good players: 9
    Journeymen and schmoes: 14
    Oakland Raiders: 8

  39. swagger52 says: Feb 21, 2013 7:27 PM

    Polian predicted the Ravens and Falcons in the Superbowl. That is a lot better than Florio who thought Ray Lewis was bluffing retirement and would lose to the Colts at home in the Playoffs.

  40. parkerfly says: Feb 21, 2013 7:58 PM

    ravenmuscle says: Feb 21, 2013 5:26 PM
    Ravens will have 10 draft picks this year…one in each round and 3 additional picks after losing Ben Grubbs, [et al]…

    I’m sure Ozzie will use these to MOVE UP and steal some top talent.
    _______
    First off, have you seen this draft class? What top talent are you referring to?
    Secondly, losing free agents doesn’t translate directly into compensatory picks, it’s a ratio of losses to gains (with playing time and team importance factored in). Between Jacoby Jones and Paul Kruger, it’s doubtful that Charm City will have any compensatory picks.

    You can’t trade compensatory picks. So Ozzie will not have any “extra” picks to use to trade up.

  41. westcoastraider says: Feb 21, 2013 8:19 PM

    RIP Al…

  42. rameyag says: Feb 21, 2013 8:20 PM

    Randy Moss ran a 4.25 and has great hands at 6′ 4″

    Trindon Holliday ran a 4.29 and has poor hands at 5′ 5″.

    It isn’t all about 40 times.

  43. carpi2 says: Feb 21, 2013 8:27 PM

    But, but Jerry Rice ran a 4.71! Love how that is the only rebuttal being thrown out in the comments (even though i saw that Jerry Rice actually ran a 4.4).

    Are there people who defy the probabilities? Yes, and of course 99.999999% of all NFL front office staff write-off those outliers on draft day because the people calling the shots have to go with statistical analysis to determine the probability of success for their draftees.

    Polian is only giving one of MANY metrics he used when evaluating players. I think he is right, there should be cut-off scores applied to players, depending on the position they play. It is the only way you ensure to increase the probability of drafting a good player.

    He isn’t saying 40 times are the end-all, be-all to his analysis. I mean, come one, he isn’t Al Davis!

  44. reasonablemindsays says: Feb 21, 2013 8:34 PM

    The 40 yard dash is great for measuring pure speed. However, it can’t account for the speed of a player during an actual football game.

    For instance, Mike Vick ran a 5.33 40 yard dash and look at him now.

  45. raiddawgz says: Feb 21, 2013 8:55 PM

    NFL is evolving and is not the same as the NFL from Jerry’s era. Players are much faster now and schems with quik wideouts that can catch are becoming more popular. This coupled with a Solid QB that can throw the distance accuratly is a headache for defenses. Al’s motto “You can teach an Athlete to be a good football player, but you cant teach a good football player to be an Athlete”…in most cases.

  46. warhammer420 says: Feb 21, 2013 9:17 PM

    Drafting for speed is the way to go. Just look at all the success the Raiders have had with that philosophy.

  47. mustangqb9 says: Feb 21, 2013 9:29 PM

    Jerry Rice would still run a 4.71 today. Just sign him up. At least you’d know what you were getting!

  48. oldcat157 says: Feb 21, 2013 9:37 PM

    It’s all about work ethic and knowing the playbook. End of story.

  49. raiderapologist says: Feb 21, 2013 10:24 PM

    Al Davis will be wildly misquoted here.

  50. chris6523 says: Feb 21, 2013 11:35 PM

    For instance, Mike Vick ran a 5.33 40 yard dash and look at him now.

    ______________________________

    You’re only off by a second on that one:

    Griffin is the only quarterback other than Michael Vick to run faster than 4.4 at the combine (Vick was clocked at 4.33 seconds), according to ESPN Scouts Inc.’s Steve Muench.

    _________________________________

  51. jwreck says: Feb 22, 2013 1:05 AM

    reasonablemindsays says: Feb 21, 2013 8:34 PM

    The 40 yard dash is great for measuring pure speed. However, it can’t account for the speed of a player during an actual football game.

    For instance, Mike Vick ran a 5.33 40 yard dash and look at him now.
    _____________
    Even ignoring the typo, what is your point here? Mike Vick was pretty dang fast “in actual football game” when he entered the league. Though he has certainly slowed down over the last 12 years, he is still pretty fast “in an actual football game”. Just because old age and injuries have caught up to him and he is no longer a good player doesn’t mean he isn;t fast anymore.

    For the record I’m not a Vick fan at all, pretty much the polar opposite, but I am a fan of arguments that make sense.

  52. exboomer says: Feb 22, 2013 8:13 AM

    Who the heck cares how fast a QB , OL or DL player can run? They aren’t WRs or RB’s.

  53. randolph32 says: Feb 22, 2013 10:04 AM

    Hello, knuckleheads, he didn’t say they wouldn’t be a good/great player, he just said their draft position was going to drop. Same for getting caught smoking Reefer, stuff happens boys….

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!