Many outsiders view Colts fans as spoiled and fair-weathered due to the team’s lack of success early in their arrival until a certain young quarterback from Tennessee came in and changed the perception and fortunes of one the NFL’s worst franchises. Make no mistake about it – Manning was one of the primary reasons for the team’s turn-around, yet he was aided by a GM (Polian) and eventually the head coach (Dungy) that pushed this franchise over the threshold.
So, when Jim Irsay decided to shift gears with new personnel and leadership, many questioned if he made the right moves. Through 2 1/2 seasons there seems little doubt that Andrew Luck will end up in the Hall of Fame. Since his arrival he turned the fortunes of the dismal 3-13 team into back-to-back 11-win seasons and consecutive playoff appearances. That seem like the no-brainer part of the equation, yet many, including some of us on the staff, have questioned the decisions and selections made by the new leadership.
It is difficult to not got lost in the wave of emotion that has swept over the team due to circumstances like Chuck Strong and season-ending injuries to Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis. The team has rallied and followed the leaders despite serious roster issues and sometimes questionable in-game decisions and management. It’s very easy to be critical of these guys, but it seems to matter little what we as fans sometimes feel, because ultimately the ones making the decisions is Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson. It seems that no matter how bad some of the draft day decisions or free-agent signings are, something is working. Also, forget all the strange game decisions and odd player matters – these guys are about as safe as you can get. Irsay has found a pair that he has invested himself emotionally in, and spiritually. If you haven’t watched the post-game locker room speeches, look no further.
Although both have been beneficiaries of one of the greatest young quarterbacks in the game, both have found ways to win despite many of the complaints that fans have levied their way. Grigson had a near-flawless first draft, but ever since has made questionable decisions that leave us scratching our heads. Also, the the free agents signings and some big-splash trades that have looked like duds have also tainted his initial success. It’s really an interesting case because it does seem that the draft position does somewhat factor in, but look at some of the brilliant grabs like Hilton, Allen, Ballard and more recently Mewhort and Moncrief and it seems that there is some good evaluating going on. Plus, he has mastered finding players in unusual circumstances. Weighing the disasters with the success, Grigson has done a fair job, yet seems he could improve in some areas. Speculation early on after the draft lead to many discussions on Twitter centering on his longevity, yet besides some bad draft choices and signings, he seems in no eminent danger.
Likewise, Pagano has been scrutinized the last few seasons when it comes to what many consider routine game management skills. At various points throughout his tenure, the team has looked undisciplined and unprepared – both of which fall on the coach. Yet, time and time again the team seems willing to never give up, never surrenders, and leaves it all on the field for one another. His players love him and his approach, and what he often lacks in perceived tactical deficiencies he makes up for with intangibles that are uneasy to define. The words like “grit” and “heart” often come to mind. It seems that he may never be one of those coaches that are considered to be excellent “X and O” types, but as stated earlier, he coaches best from the gut and the team seems to respond to his style. The teams success is hard to argue with as well.
It seems like the biggest factor in this equation is the owner, Jim Irsay. These are Irsay’s guys and he seems to enjoy his role with the team now. It seems that under the Polian era he was relegated to duties outside of player selection and day-to-day operations, but as time went by, it seems he wanted a larger role beside just writing checks. Both of these guys seem more than willing to indulge and include Irsay in many of the decisions. Please understand that I’m not saying that’s bad; it just seems to be the reality of the current state of the team. He’s far away from being considered a meddling owner like Jerry Jones or the late Al Davis. Irsay seems content to play a smaller role, but one that has some weight, a complete departure from the prior administration. His compassion and caring have long been documented but his biggest notoriety as of late involves his Twitter ramblings and recent run-in with the law. Pagano and Grigson have had his back and it seems that Irsay genuinely has emotional ties to both.
Let’s wrap this one up – it seems that although both Grigson and Pagano have flaws, both have done enough good in the eyes of the owner to stem the tide of many who feel the team solely wins because of Andrew Luck. While it is true that he does hide many of the flaws, the make-up and cohesiveness often elevates ordinary to great. This season we have seen what the talent surrounding Luck can do, but remember there were, and still are significant holes on the roster. However, the combined effort of both have set up this team on the precipice of greatness. The next step involves moving the team over ledge, and it seems the owner is pleased with both the short-term and long-term successes for both.