Has Jim Irsay focused too much on the head coaching position flaws and not enough on the general manager?
What was once a premier team in the NFL has slowly become one of the laughing stocks of the league.
Last month, Colts owner Jim Irsay stated he had “not anticipated making any changed at head coach or general manager;” however, Saturday, it was reported that Irsay reached out to Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden to discuss a coaching position with the team.
It can be assumed that this act of inquiring about Gruden’s willingness to return to coaching has become common practice in the NFL when there is a coaching vacancy. But last checked, Chuck Pagano was still the head coach in Indianapolis. And, this isn’t the first time coaching rumors have swirled from this club this year. Just earlier this month, targets of the Pagano replacement were Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Sean Payton of the Saints.
In essence, these various rumors and searches just confirm that Irsay is fed up with the status of his team, as he should be. But his frustration seems to be geared towards the head coach when really general manager Ryan Grigson needs to take majority of the blame for this franchise’s direction.
From 2000 -2015, the Colts had only missed the postseason three times. They dominated the AFC South division and garnered the respect of the football world because of their top coaching, elite quarterback, and class act ownership. But what a difference a year makes.
Yes, a 2011 year that saw Indy lose their leader in Peyton Manning, their postseason record and in some aspects, their spot on the tier of superior teams in the NFL. That 2-14 season cost the Colts Manning, and their “cleaning house” mentality cost them their greatness. It’s been replaced with mediocrity, unnecessary drama surrounding Irsay and his personal substance abuse issues, and an inability to cash in on having the best young (a term used very loosely) quarterback, Andrew Luck, under center.
Naturally, optimists may refer to the three 11-5 seasons where it appeared that the Pagano/Grigson era would be successful, where Indianapolis looked to be bouncing back to their former status of being a true Super Bowl contender, where they broke Denver and Seattle’s unblemished record, where they made a historic 28-point comeback against Kansas City in the wild card round, and where the Luck/ T.Y. Hilton tandem gave the fans glimmers of hope of a coming championship. But, seeing isn’t always believing. The reality is the Colts had a favorable schedule; the AFC South was the butt of the NFL; they were never able to compete, let alone win, against the Patriots, and the questions surrounding the offensive lines and defensive schemes went unresolved. What is all boils down to is that under Grigson’s leadership, the team got progressively worse as the division got increasingly better. The back-to-back seasons barely making .500 is proof of that.
What kind of hold does Grigson have over Irsay, because the general manager’s name is rarely mentioned in offseason changes?
Let’s be clear here, Pagano has his share his of faults. He’s too timid for one, not to mention the defensive change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and how that’s working out for the team. But, Pagano is not responsible for drafting receivers when the team needed pass rushers and a secondary. He’s not responsible for taking Coby Fleener who underdeveloped miserably. And contrary to popular belief, he’s not to blame for the failed attempts at improving the defense when Grigson continually picked up injury prone free agents who only aged the defensive roster. It’s one thing to make lemonade out of lemons. But Irsay is asking Pagano to make a Ray Lewis, a Terrell Suggs, and an Ed Reed out of a Clayton Geathers, an Erick Walden, and a Curt Maggitt. Is that even logical?
It’s simple. The direction this team has taken is laughable. No one fears them. The division is no longer “theirs.” They are wasting away the best quarterback in the NFL not named Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. And if Irsay can’t see his first concern should be replacing his general manager, then this franchise is lost.