Pagano & Grigson – In It For The Long Haul

Grigson and Pagano discuss the roster
Grigson and Pagano discuss the roster

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.

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans

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.

Ryan Grigson: Is He A Front-Office Goat or God?

So basically for the last year and a half I have seen many people sharing their opinions on Colts GM Ryan Grigson.  Some like what he has done while others have questioned the moves that he has made, sans the 2012 draft of course.  I’m going to preface this by saying that I do not agree with all of the signings and trades Grigson has made in his tenure as general manager.  However, I’m not in the majority that think Grigson has done a terrible job, nor am I in the minority that think he has done amazing.  I’m in the middle.  Basically, I’m Switzerland right now.

GM Ryan Grigson hard at work
GM Ryan Grigson hard at work

I’m about to break down the players he signed over the time during his tenure here and compare them with who was best available at that particular position during the same free agency period.  There are going to be some of you that say Grigson should have signed this guy or that guy.  I want to pair up who he did sign with who he could have signed.  That way we can see if he did the right thing or not.  As far as the NFL draft, I cannot go back and breakdown the drafts that he has done.  Just like free agency, the NFL is a bigger crapshoot.  There are a ton of top tier talents that are busts once they get to the NFL.  So here we go.   This should be fun…

Let’s start with the 2012 Free Agent Class.
Colts Signed or Traded For:                       Who Else Was Available:
Cory Redding                                    Cliff Avril, Mario Williams, Red Bryant
Winston Justice                               Jared Gaither, Levi Brown
Tom Zbikowski                               Brandon Meriweather, James Ihedigbo
Mike McGlynn                                Jake Scott, Evan Mathis, Leonard Davis
Samson Satele                                 Jeff Saturday, Dan Connolly
Brandon McKinney                     Aubrayo Franklin, Pat Simms
Darius Butler
Reggie Wayne
Vontae Davis

So looking at his first signings in his first year as a general manager comes with mixed feelings.  Redding and Zbikowski were both obviously signings that Pagano wanted to see.  He was installing a new defensive scheme and these guys already had a grasp on the system.  We all know that Zbikowski didn’t pan out as well as people had hoped.  Had they signed Brandon Meriweather the team would probably still be set at the SS position.  Redding has progressed each season with the Colts but is aging and possibly signing Red Bryant would have been a better move.

The signings of Mike McGlynn and Samson Satele were head scratchers for sure.  McGlynn was a former Eagle, where Grigson was a scout, so bringing in someone he knew was probably the reason for the signing.  However with guys like Evan Mathis and Leonard Davis on the market as well  there were better options.  McGlynn proved to be better than Satele at center in 2013 but all in all wasn’t the best move Grigson made.  I’m not even going to waste the time on the Satele signing.  Justice was traded for and turned out to be an okay option but struggled with injuries.

Bringing in Brandon McKinney was a solid pick up as there wasn’t really another good option other than Pat Sims or Paul Soliai.  They picked up Josh Chapman in the draft but they knew he would be at least a year before he would play coming off knee surgery.

Butler was picked up during the season and paid dividends almost immediately.  Vontae Davis was traded to the Colts from Miami for a 2nd round pick.  I think we all know we got the better of that deal.  And the re-signing of Reggie Wayne proved to be a very smart move as he was Luck’s security blanket in his rookie year.

2012 FA Signing Grade: C

2013 FA Signings
Colts Signined or Traded For:              Who Else Was Available:
Gosder Cherilus                                            Jermon Bushrod, Phil Loadholt
Donald Thomas                                             Willie Colon, Louis Vasquez
Greg Toler                                                       Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Eric Walden                                                    Connor Barwin, Shawn Phillips
Ricky Jean-Francois                                  Tommy Kelly, Arthur Jones
Darrius Heyward-Bey                     Jerome Simpson, Emmanuel Sanders
Ahmad Bradshaw
Trent Richardson
LaRon Landry

Let’s start with the obvious.  Grigson overpaid, or over traded, for Trent Richardson.  He had a solid rookie campaign and if you think about the reasoning behind the trade it makes sense.  However, he probably could have given up a 2nd and a 3rd or two 2nd round picks and still got him from Cleveland.

Cherilus and Thomas were both solid signings.  Thomas went down and forced a rookie to step in right away in Hugh Thornton.  Cherilus was very solid and continues to be at the right tackle position.  The only person I would replace Cherilus with then is possible Phil Loadholt, but that would have cost a lot more money that Grigson was prepared to spend at that position.  Thomas was someone I was glad they signed but this free agent class had a few other guys that would have been better options.  More expensive options but better nonetheless.  Louis Vasquez or Andy Levitre are obvious choices but even Willie Colon would have been a better pick up in my mind.  All in all, for the money spent they got one solid guy and one that showed he was going to be a mainstay at LG but devastating season-ending injuries proved he wasn’t.

Greg Toler and Erik Walden are possibly the sole reasons I wanted to get this article done.  Okay, throw Trent in there as well.  Obviously there were better options for both guys.  DRC, Terence Newman, or even keeping Jerraud Powers would have been better moves than signing Toler.  Toler came with injury concerns and Powers was coming off an injury.  DRC would have cost a pretty penny but paired with Davis, the Colts would have had an elite secondary with Bethea and Landry.  Walden was the biggest miss on FA signings during this season.  Shaun Phillips and James Harrison were available and would have been good fits here in Indy and also would have been able to pair up with Mathis really well.

Guys like RJF, Landry and Bradshaw made sense at the time.  Landry was coming off a Pro Bowl season, RJF was a major contributor in San Francisco and Bradshaw was…well Ahmad Bradshaw.  We won’t waste time on DHB.  That was a low risk, high reward situation that failed.

All in all, the 2013 free agent draft class wasn’t full of blockbuster signings and obviously some of them are still considered busted signings to this day.

2013 FA Signing Grade:  C-

2014 FA Signings: B

I will be the guy to say that Grigson has swung and missed on a few guys in his young GM career.  The Richardson trade and signing guys like Landry and McKinney haven’t or won’t pan out.  I won’t put DHB completely on him.  The team took a chance and it didn’t work out.  That’s fine…high reward low risk signings don’t always work.  I said this to start this article and I was finish it with the same things.  The draft is a crap shoot just as much as free agency is and Grigson hasn’t done a bad job  unless you are always going to compare the 2012 draft class to every one after.  If you are then you don’t like anything that Grigson has done nor will you.  I have to say this in closing.  Ryan Grigson has put the three teams together in the last three seasons.  11-5 for the past two and on a 5 game winning streak this season seems to be like someone knows what they are doing.

Colts vs Steelers Preview

How many of you remember the 1995 AFC Championship game?  I know I do.  It’s the first thought that comes into my mind when I hear the Colts are playing the Steelers.  I really hate Kordell Stewart still to this day, and I wish Aaron Bailey would have been able to jump just a few inches higher.  However,  times have changed.  The Steelers are no longer the perennial powerhouse they once where in my younger years.  They may not have Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Yancey Thigpen or Neil O’Donnell, but they still have weapons on the field.

The Colts have only defeated the Steelers twice since that AFC Championship game and all but one have been very close.  At this point we’re all saying “Nick Harper, run the other way!!!”

In 2014, things are complety differeny.  The Colts have the dominant defense coming into this game and the top-ranked offense in the NFL.  The Steelers are not bottom dwellers either.  Their offense, per, is ranked 8th in total offense and is 9th in rushing with 128.6 yard/game.  That may strike fear in some Colts fans since our rush defense ranks 24th in the NFL per  They are only giving up just over 96 yards a game but their total rushing attempts against them is very low allowing for the low yardage.

There are a few things in the game the Colts MUST do if they want to keep the winning streak going: Continue reading

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