Indianapolis Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson has been named The Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year. The award was voted on by coaches and executives around the league.
“It’s truly an honor to be recognized for this award and I’m thankful to all of my peers who considered me for this accolade,” said Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson. “Our success this season encompassed the entire organization, including the unwavering support from Mr. Irsay, the dedication of the entire scouting department, the leadership of the coaching staff and the gutsy performance of our players week in and week out. I also owe a big debt of gratitude to my wife, Cynthia, and my five children who sacrificed so much in my first year as general manager. This was a very special season and the courage shown by Chuck and this team will be etched in me and the entire Colts family for a lifetime. This year was a stepping stone en route to our ultimate goal – hoisting the Lombardi Trophy together. We’re going to continue to work tirelessly until we reach that objective. ”
“I am thrilled for Ryan Grigson on winning The Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year award,” added Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay. “This was a challenging year in anyone’s book, but Ryan is one of the hardest workers I know, and his dedication paid off. We knew we had someone special when we hired Ryan a year ago, and he is extremely deserving of this honor.”
“I’m very excited for Ryan and when you consider what he had to do this season from a personnel standpoint, this award is particularly well-deserved,” said Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano. “He compiled a remarkable draft class and consistently maintained our roster with able bodies as the year went on and we had to deal with injuries. Ryan was steadfast in his decision making and did a phenomenal job through difficult circumstances. He has outstanding vision and passion, which are two essential traits that he’ll use as he continues to build this team for sustained success.”
After the Colts finished the 2011 campaign with a 2-14 record, Grigson was hired on January 11, 2012 to build a coaching staff and roster that would return the organization back to its winning ways. Grigson saw immediate success in his first year, constructing a team that finished the 2012 season with a nine-win improvement, which is tied for the third-largest one-year turnaround in NFL history. The Colts also became only the second team in NFL history to win 10-or-more games after losing 14-or-more the previous season as the team reached the playoffs.
Just weeks after accepting the general manager position, Grigson, in conjunction with Irsay, selected Pagano to the lead the team as the next head coach. After hiring Pagano, Grigson signed several key free agents that featured a mix of veteran leadership, experience and depth. He brought in defensive end Cory Redding, nose tackle Brandon McKinney and safety Tom Zbikowski, who all played under Coach Pagano in Baltimore. Grigson made additions to the offensive line having acquired tackle Winston Justice in a trade and signing center Samson Satele and guard Mike McGlynn. Also on offense, he executed a trade for quarterback Drew Stanton and signed wide receiver Donnie Avery.
Along with acquiring new players, Grigson also re-signed core veterans in wide receiver Reggie Wayne and outside linebacker Robert Mathis, both of which were selected to the 2013 Pro Bowl. Wayne recorded one of the best seasons of his 12-year career, posting 106 receptions for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns. Mathis registered eight sacks on the year and intercepted his first career pass, while adding 51 tackles (31 solo), two passes defensed and one forced fumble.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, Grigson selected four players that became regular starters on offense in quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and running back Vick Ballard. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton started one game last season as well.
Among several Colts and NFL milestones, Luck broke the NFL rookie single-season record for passing yards (4,374) and 300-yard passing games (six). Allen set a new franchise record for the most receptions (45) by a rookie tight end. Hilton led all NFL rookie receivers with five 100-yard receiving games, despite being the 13th receiver selected in the draft. Luck and Ballard led the team in passing and rushing, which made the Colts one of only three teams in NFL history to reach the playoffs with rookies leading the team in those two categories.
In addition, the Colts rookie class accumulated the most total scrimmage yards (3,108) in a season since the 1970 merger, breaking the previous NFL record set by the Colts in 1999.
With limited money to use in free agency, Grigson had to get creative on bringing in new players. He facilitated seven trades last season, bringing in five players who started at least one game (Winston Justice, Cassius Vaughn, Moise Fokou, Josh Gordy and Vontae Davis). Grigson also signed players from different leagues, including the AFL, IFL, UFL and CFL. Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman came from the CFL and in his first year, broke the Colts single-season record for tackles with 203 stops last season.
On defense, two cornerbacks who were not on the team last year led the Colts in interceptions in Darius Butler (four) and Vontae Davis (three). Butler was signed on September 25 after being waived by the Carolina Panthers prior to the start of the regular season, while Davis was acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins on August 26.
The Colts used 68 different players this season as the team was forced to place 13 players on Injured Reserve, including five who started games (Donald Brown, Robert Hughes, Fili Moala, Drave Nevis and Jerraud Powers). The 13 players on Injured Reserve totaled a combined 53 games played and 24 games started.
Four players on the Colts roster were activated off other teams’ practice squads, including three rookies (Nathan Palmer, Bradley Sowell and Delano Howell) and one second-year player (Lawrence Guy).
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