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.