Colts GM search: One of NFL’s most coveted jobs is open – Indianapolis Star
Indianapolis Colts Insider Stephen Holder and columnist Gregg Doyel break down owner Jim Iray’s news conference announcing the dismissal of Ryan Grigson.
INDIANAPOLIS – Show of hands.
“Hey, do you want to come to Indianapolis and win a world championship?”
(Hundreds of arms instantly shoot up in offices across the NFL.)
Jim Irsay needn’t answer his own hypothetical Saturday evening. The Indianapolis Colts’ owner had made a decision hours earlier – here’s your pink slip, Ryan Grigson – that left front-office types across the football world salivating. Suddenly, and somewhat stunningly, one of the most enticing general manager posts in football was vacant.
A heck of an opportunity just opened up; it’s Irsay’s job to determine who fills it. He certainly won’t have trouble finding interested candidates.
Whoever replaces Grigson, whether it’s his top lieutenant in Indianapolis the past four seasons, Jimmy Raye III, or someone else, will earn a rare chance in today’s NFL. That is: Take over a team that’s not so much rebuilding as looking to reverse its regression, to turn the corner. The Colts have pieces. With the correct pulling of a few strings, they could be not only back in the playoffs but making another run at a Super Bowl berth in a few short seasons.
Make no mistake: Young personnel talent across the league would jump at the chance to run Irsay’s team.
Build around Andrew Luck in his prime? Easy call.
Watch portions of Colts owner Jim Irsay’s press conference from Saturday announcing his decision to fire GM Ryan Grigson.
This isn’t remake the Cleveland Browns, or the San Francisco 49ers, or the Buffalo Bills. This isn’t start from scratch, establish a new culture, and wait patiently for results.
(The only other general manager opening in football remains in San Francisco; looking at their roster, and their seven combined wins over the past two seasons, it’s no surprise that more than one candidate has shot them down.)
It will take time in Indianapolis, sure. The defense is a mess. But unlike 2012, when Grigson took over, the cupboard isn’t bare, and the team isn’t mired in salary cap hell. There are building blocks in place, mostly on the offensive side of the ball, and money to spend.
Irsay was absolutely right when he noted the Colts have “a lot to offer.” (See: Luck, Andrew.) Job No. 1 is already taken care of. The principal task of any general manager on Day 1 is to find a franchise quarterback; the Colts have theirs locked up for five more seasons. And he’s only 27 years old.
The roster boasts a Pro Bowl receiver (T.Y. Hilton) and capable pieces scattered across the offense (Anthony Castonzo, Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen) that figure to be in Indianapolis for a long time (both Castonzo and Allen are under contract through 2019). The unit ranked fifth in the league in passing yards per game this season and eighth in points.
The offensive line, a perpetual headache throughout Grigson’s five seasons, improved throughout the 2016 season and could, finally, be on the uptick moving forward. Ryan Kelly solved the issue at center. Joe Haeg did a little bit of everything. Denzelle Good and Le’Raven Clark had their moments. The sense of dread that hovered over the unit like a dark cloud seemed to wane as the weeks wore on and the sack totals dwindled. That’s a good sign for 2017. And Andrew Luck’s bruised body.
The work starts with a defense bereft of talent. More than one starter under contract could be released (Art Jones, D’Qwell Jackson, Patrick Robinson) to carve out more cash for prospective free agents. Oh, and they need a pass rusher. Badly. Desperately. The player under contract returning with the most sacks from 2016? That’d be David Parry. With three.
Also very much at play here is Irsay being noncommittal to Chuck Pagano as the team’s coach past 2017. It’s once again an unsteady marriage; Pagano, having outlasted Grigson as the last man standing, enters another lame duck season. He needs to produce in 2017.
The new general manager will weigh Pagano’s body of work and decide if he’s coming back or if the organization is heading in a different direction. If that’s the case, he’ll work with Irsay to pick a new coach.
“Having whoever the new general manager is come in to work with me to evaluate where we are at will play a big role on that in the long-term,” Irsay said. “But for 2017, Chuck is our coach.”
As for whom the Colts will target, only Irsay knows the answer to that. After all, few anticipated the Grigson hiring in 2012. Irsay’s list started with as many as 30 names, he said then, before he winnowed it down to his top candidates. This time is different from the start: Raye III has a head start.
“Everyone wants to find a certain Bill Polian, a Ron Wolf, what have you — a proven winner so to speak,” Irsay said of the Hall of Fame executives.
“Everyone is looking for the names that they know,” he continued. “There are a lot of bright, young people out there. Obviously analytics and different aspects are affecting our game and how we go about being the best we can. We have worked hard to stay on the cutting edge. That list could definitely change through and be added to, but we have a list that we are currently going and setting up people to come in and discuss the job with us.”
Irsay frequently compared Grigson’s early years to Polian’s first few seasons in Indianapolis, weighing the work of a first-time general manager against an eventual Hall of Famer. On paper, Grigson held up just fine. That was a point of pride for Irsay.
Mediocrity – to say nothing of his strained relationship with Pagano – is what buried Grigson in Indy. Draft busts, free agent whiffs, a team sliding backwards after a sterling start. It took Irsay three long weeks, hours and hours of discussions with football brains he trusts, for him to come to that conclusion.
“The expectations that have put out for us are unrealistic in a lot of ways, but we accept them and we’re proud of them because we’re the ones who kind of have set those expectations with what we did the past 15 or 20 years, and even what we started with this regime,” Irsay said.
To his credit, Grigson never shied away from the lofty expectations that come with running the Colts.
Now it’s up to Irsay to find the man who’ll actually meet them.
Call Star reporter Zak Keefer at (317) 444-6134 and follow him on Twitter: @zkeefer.