Chuck Pagano will remain as head coach and Peyton Manning is not coming back as general manager or president, at least in the immediate future, Irsay said in his Saturday news conference. But how solid is Pagano’s status, really?
Can this past season’s underachieving 8-8 record be pinned solely on Grigson’s inability to field a talented enough roster? Can it be blamed on Grigson’s relationship with Pagano, which Irsay insisted was much better than people assume? Can it be blamed on Andrew Luck’s now surgically repaired shoulder? It’s a combination, certainly.
Everyone had a hand in the Colts’ slide into mediocrity and it had produced an atmosphere of discontent on a lot of fronts. Firing Grigson changes things. It doesn’t immediately fix anything. That’s a distinction Colts fans should remember.
“Intuitively, you get the feeling when the timing is right, where a change can help,” Irsay said Saturday after announcement of Grigson’s departure. “Whereas continuity is something that I really want and long to have as much as we can have it, in this case I really felt that time was right to make a change, that we needed some new direction in the vision of our football program.”
Grigson came in as general manager in 2012 and had huge successes (drafting T.Y. Hilton, trading for Vontae Davis) and devastating failures (trading for Trent Richardson, signing LaRon Landry). Parting ways with Grigson is a step toward positive change. The atmosphere automatically changes. Where the changes end won’t be known until Irsay hires a new general manager, but at least the owner doesn’t believe doing the same thing will produce different results.
Taking Grigson out of the equation and turning his role over, on at least an interim basis, to vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye III, changes the dynamics between the front office and Pagano.
If Pagano feels emboldened by Irsay’s move and assurance that he’ll remain coach in 2017, it could lead to a healthier assessment of what the Colts need in the upcoming draft and free agency front. Pagano may be able to give more input into the type of players the Colts need. Raye, if he develops a quick rapport with Pagano, could end up being hired as the general manager.
Does this make Pagano a better coach? I’m not sure how. I’m not sure how Irsay decided against simply cleaning house and sending Grigson and Pagano out on the same note. Last year, after all, he said they were tied at the hip.
“I untied them,” Irsay said.
Irsay said Pagano will be the best coach he’s ever been going into this season. That’s a statement of faith. There’s no concrete evidence to support that assertion. Pagano’s teams have been the epitome of inconsistent the last two seasons. You can blame some of that on Luck being injured in 2015, but not all of it. If not for two inexplicable losses to Brock Osweiler-led Houston this past season, the Colts would have been in the playoffs.
At any rate, the reaction of present Colts players (punter Pat McAfee, most prominently, accusing Grigson of treating players “absolutely horrendously”) and past Colts players (Reggie Wayne said on NFL Network “it was about time”) revealed little love from inside the locker room for Grigson.
A change of morale around the Colts can’t hurt.
But who’s going to make the tough decisions on personnel moving forward? Irsay said he will begin interviews for the general manager’s position, and Raye will be among the candidates.
Manning, apparently, will not be among the candidates.
“I would welcome the opportunity for him and I to talk about that possibility someday that he would play some role in our organization,” Irsay said. “Right now, it’s something where he is not in the mix in this process for interviewing general managers.”
If Raye is hired, which could be what Irsay has in mind, then his blanket statement that Pagano will be the coach in 2017 makes sense. If those two have a working relationship, and Raye believes Pagano can do the job, it would make for a seamless transition.
On the other hand, if Irsay hires a general manager from outside the Colts, then it’s hard to believe Pagano is any safer than Jim Caldwell was in 2012 when Grigson came on board. Grigson wanted his own coach.
My gut, intuitive instinct says the story of change for the Colts is just beginning, rather than reaching a resolution with the farewell to Grigson.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.