Not bad for starters.
First-year Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson was named NFL Executive of the Year today by the Sporting News. He edged Denver Broncos general manager John Elway on the basis of a 9-8 vote by a panel of executives and coaches assembled by the magazine.
Grigson, 40, had earlier been named executive of the year by Pro Football Writers/Pro Football Weekly, but the Sporting News honor, dating to 1955, is recognized as the preeminent award.
Previous winners include George Halas, Dan Rooney, Jim Finks, George Young, Ron Wolf and Grigson's predecessor with the Colts, Bill Polian.
Grigson called their company "humbling." He said the award is "a byproduct of winning." He deflected credit to his lieutenant, Tom Telesco, who since has left to become San Diego Chargersgeneral manager, their staff, team owner Jim Irsay and COO Pete Ward.
"It's a collective effort," said Grigson, who on Jan. 11, 2012, succeeded Polian, the Colts' fired vice chairman. "I can't say enough about my staff and those around me, especially the coaches.
"My staff put together a list of names. We looked under every rock known to man, but if we didn't have coaches who believed in us and believed in what we were doing and in developing young talent, then we would have never realized our ceiling on the field this year."
Grigson's first draft acquired quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill and running back Vick Ballard in the first six rounds. All became front-line contributors to a surprising 11-5 season that carried the youthful, injury-wracked Colts to the playoffs.
It was Grigson who selected Chuck Pagano as coach and recommended him to Irsay.
It was Grigson's and Pagano's joint decision that made offensive coordinator Bruce Arians interim coach while Pagano was on indefinite leave for treatment of life-threatening leukemia. The Arians-led Colts went 9-3 in Pagano's absence.
Salary cap constraints forced the release of a wave of stars, including quarterback Peyton Manning, tight end Dallas Clark, linebacker Gary Brackett, running back Joseph Addai and safety Melvin Bullitt.
With $38 million in dead money, bonuses paid to players like those above but not yet counted against the salary cap, it was like Grigson was a player at a $120 million poker game with only $82 million to ante.
He built through the draft and a rush of low-cost trades, second- and third-level free agency signings and waiver acquisitions. He signed Canadian Football League linebacker Jerrell Freeman to a reserve/futures contract in January. Freeman emerged as a sideline-to-sideline star. He started 16 games and led the Colts in tackles.
Grigson and his staff constantly shuffled the roster to deal with injuries. Players like tackle Bradley Sowell, tight end Weslye Saunders, defensive end Lawrence Guy, outside linebacker Jamaal Westerman and kick returner Deji Karim were signed on Tuesday and on the field on Sunday.
It was quite a season, just for starters.