[Editor's note: This is Josh's take on Grigson, which is sunny and outstanding. We'll also have another post that is a bit more critical of the first-year GM, but, overall, the consensus among Stampede Blue's writing crew is Ryan is pretty damn good. -Brad]
Go back to January 11, way back when the Colts still had Jim Caldwell as their coach and Peyton Manning as their quarterback. Back to when Bill Polian had been fired just nine days ago. Jim Irsay held a press conference to announce the new general manager of the Indianapolis Colts – Ryan Grigson, a former scout with the Eagles and later was promoted to director of player personnel. Those who knew Grigson seemed to think it was a good move, but I have to admit I had my doubts.
Now, there’s no doubt about Ryan Grigson. In fact, just go ahead and hand him the executive of the year right now, eight games into the season. Grigson is going to win it. There’s no doubt about that either. What he has built in Indianapolis, with such scarce talent and such limited resources with such little time has been, in one word, incredible.
Ok, drafting Andrew Luck was a no-brainer, or at least it should have been (and I believe it was to owner Jim Irsay, who had the final call on the matter). But the other picks – Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Vick Ballard – they are contributing early on as well. This season the Colts have gotten 43% of their offensive production from rookies. Yeah, take away Reggie Wayne’s numbers and the rookies have combined for 58 percent of offensive production.
And Reggie’s numbers were almost taken away, had it not been for Grigson. Many thought that Wayne had played his last home game for the Colts last year when he caught that game winner against Houston. When Grigson was hired, he wasn’t having any of it. He offered Wayne a chance to come back. And Reggie took it. He had offers from other teams for more money. But he stayed in Indy, and he has become the go-to-guy for a quarterback who is quickly becoming one of the best in the league.
Another re-signing crucial to the surprising success of this team was bringing back Robert Mathis. Mathis was resigned by Grigson and has not disappointed, racking up six sacks in only five games and continuing his streak to eight consecutive games with a sack. Without him, the Colts’ pass rush has been pretty much nonexistent. Just another move made by Ryan Grigson which is paying huge dividends, and quickly too.
And that’s not to mention the many, many free agent signings that have come together to form this team of apparent misfits, joining with one purpose and one heart. Yeah, they have something to fight for now with their head coach battling leukemia. They have the heart of a contender. The talent, however, is lacking, despite a 5-3 record. But Grigson took over a team that was sinking, and fast. He patched the holes and hoped for the best.
So far, so good.
The Colts haven’t sunk. Actually, quite the opposite. To the surprise of almost everybody, they are moving in the direction of the playoffs. Playoffs? Yes, Jim Mora, the Colts are right now on the path towards the playoffs.
And a big reason for that is the job Grigson did in the offseason. Tom Zbikowski, the starting strong safety. Cory Redding, stabilizing the defensive line. Samson Satele, Winston Justice, and Mike McGlynn, all starting on the offensive line. Wide receiver Donnie Avery, who had a great game against Miami and is looking like he’s starting to fit into this offense. Trading for Vontae Davis, addressing the most glaring need at cornerback. And then what about Jerrell Freeman? I mean, Grigson signed the guy out of the CFL and he’s started at linebacker for the Colts all year, leading the team in tackles.
This is certainly a team of misfits, coming together from various NFL teams and various colleges, all now Colts. This team’s adaptation was sped up by the motivation provided from Chuck Pagano, no doubt, but Ryan Grigson is to be greatly commended for his work this offseason. If not for him, the Colts aren’t 5-3. No way. This team had too many holes. They’re not perfect, and in fact they have much work left to do. But with only one offseason, one filled with much drama and uncertainty, Grigson did his best.
And that may be good enough for a playoff berth.
Executive of the year? There’s no doubt about that.
Our own Josh Wilson wrote a pretty compelling argument for Ryan Grigson as 2012 NFL Executive of the Year. Regardless of whether or not the Indianapolis Colts make the playoffs, the fact that a roster with nearly 45 new players has already tripled its win total from a year ago is, indeed, very impressive. Even for cynics like me, there is no denying that Grigson has done an outstanding job in 2012.
But, Executive of the Year? No.
The reasons for Grigson getting some kind of award are obvious, and best summed up in Josh's article. However, the reasons against are equally compelling:
The Vontae Davis trade. So far, this is a bust. Surrendering a second round pick in 2013 for a guy who cannot stay healthy and, when he is healthy, has been erratic at best, is a pretty big stain on Grigson's 2012 resume. At the time of the trade, it made sense. Even I liked it. However, general managers are not judged by whether or not people "like" the moves they made at the time. They are judged by how the moves help or hurt the franchise. So far, the Davis trade is a major dud.
Grigson did not draft Andrew Luck. Jim Irsay did. It's no secret that Irsay made up his mind about Luck prior to hiring Grigson in January 2012. Former Colts vice chairman Bill Polian has said so, and even Grigson himself has hinted at it. It didn't matter if Grigson personally felt the Colts should take Robert Griffin III or trade the No. 1 overall pick for a bounty of other picks (ala what St. Louis got from Washington for the No. 2 pick). Irsay wanted Luck. Irsay got him.
Grigson did not hire Chuck Pagano as head coach. Irsay did. It was also Pagano who hired Bruce Arians, who is now acting as the Colts interim head coach while Pagano recovers from cancer treatments. Yes, Grigson likely provided input in coaching search, but Irsay made the call to hire Pagano, just as Irsay (not then-Colts president Bill Polian) made the call to hire Tony Dungy in 2002.
Key free agents like Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski, and Brandon McKinney are all Pagano people. McKinney was lost in preseason with a knee injury, and Zbikowski has been an inconsistent starter. Though, unlike Zbikowski's predecessors at the position (Melvin Bullitt, Bob Sanders, etc.), he has started all nine of Indy's games at strong safety. Redding is a vital member of the defense both as a contributor and as a leader. All three are in Indianapolis because of Pagano. Not Grigson.
Grigson had no pressure on him to win this year. Yes, the owner expected playoffs, but much of the local media (in particular the Indianapolis Star) felt this was a 5-win Colts team. Fans had little faith as well (13% gave up their season tickets). There was little expectation to realistically make the post-season. When no one expects anything from you, you have much more freedom to make trades and sign players. No pressure, no risk.
Finally, the person who likely will win Executive of the Year is John Elway of the Denver Broncos. Lazy analysts will say he "only made one move" this year. Well that "one move" was a pretty significant one. Not only did Elway beat out Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers for Peyton Manning's services, but he had to trade away cult hero Tim Tebow, who led the Broncos to a playoff victory last season. People really underestimate just how powerful a force the Tebow Cult is. It's got nothing to do with football. Religious zealots and "focus on family" types follow football ONLY because of Tebow.
Football is a business, folks. Tebow brings in fans. Non-traditional football fans. Those fans spend money. Football teams like money. Simple formula.
Wooing Manning and trading Tebow were the two biggest moves of the entire 2012 NFL offseason. Elway took a big risk making those decisions, and they paid off! Had Manning's neck or arm fallen off early in the 2012 campaign, Elways' job would be in jeopardy right now. If Denver had just three wins now, tying the current 3-6 Jets (the team Tebow was traded to), the Broncos faithful would revolt.
Also, factor in all the solid free agent moves Elway made in 2012: Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme, Dan Koppen, Tracy Porter, and bringing back Brandon Stokley. Also, his 2011 draft class is shaping up to be a beauty. Von Miller is already one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL. I was critical of Denver's draft in 2012, but Derek Wolfe has already made an impact (26 total tackles, 3 sacks). Denver has the 10th best scoring defense in football, and they sit all alone atop the AFC West.
Denver is pretty much a lock to make the post-season now. Indy, not so much.
Meanwhile, that "one move" Elway made is on pace to win his fifth NFL MVP Award. Peyton Manning is having his best season since 2004, when he shattered NFL record books for touchdowns in a season.
Plus, Elway has name recognition. People around the league like him. He'll be rewarded for making the bold moves he did in 2012.
Please understand, my dear and lovely readers, I think Ryan Grigson has done an outstanding job overall. However, he hasn't had to take many risks in his new job, and risk-reward is what separates the good GMs from the great ones.
Plus, at the end of the day, who really cares who wins some silly executive award?
Bill Polian won one in 2009, the year he ordered his then-undefeated team to tank a Week Sixteen match-up against the Jets. Polian won five in his long career, working in Buffalo, Carolina, and Indianapolis. Scott Pioli, who has been exposed as a near incompetent executive in Kansas City, has won five of them as well, with one coming as recently as 201o with the Chiefs!
The award doesn't mean much. Indy's front office is competent once again. That's all the reward I need.