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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Grigson’s second year can be even better

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“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

– Bill Cosby

I am pretty certain that Indianapolis Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson was not worried about pleasing everyone last season, but along the way it became obvious that the results in his first year at the helm were doing just that with anyone who knew even a little about football.

Forget the fact that he was hand picked by Colts owner Jim Irsay to replace the draconian one, Bill Polian, and was beginning a new era of Colts football that did not include Hall Of Famer to be Peyton Manning, as there were salary cap issues and a team that had more holes than an expensive block of imported Swiss cheese.

There was also that monkey on his back  that goes along with the first big opportunity in which you are calling all the personnel shots and taking all the blame if it doesn’t work out. You combine that with your first year coach being diagnosed with leukemia and a rookie quarterback (albeit a stud overall No. 1 draft pick) and realistically you are not expecting  more than getting your feet wet and taking some lumps along the way.

Apparently Grigson did not subscribe to that theory and he combed the free agent market with what little cap space he inherited and worked the waiver wire like a modern day Houdini.

He made no excuses to the media and quickly instilled a high level of expectation to his staff and the players and made it clear that mediocrity and poor effort would not be allowed under his watch. Along the way there were a rash of injuries, but he kept focused and brought in more personnel to fill the “next man up” bucket to the brim.

The players bought into it and was moved even more by coach Chuck Pagano’s temporary setback. His troops played some inspired football in route to a splendid 11-5 record, making the playoffs where they fell on the road to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. That effort garnered him the NFL Executive of the Year award and set the bar even higher for the 2013 season.

Now comes the naysayers and the dreaded sophomore slump that is usually reserved for players.

I mean how can the Colts improve against a tougher schedule, right? For starters Grigson did not sit idly when the free agent season began, and armed with tons more cap money than the year before, he began to acquire players that could fit into the 3-4 defensive scheme Indianapolis plays in hopes of improving woeful defensive numbers that placed the Colts at 29th in the NFL allowing nearly 138 yards rushing per game last year, while ranking 26th in total yards allowed.

While some alleged experts claimed he paid too much for players who had not produced enough to date in their respective careers, he focused on a select group that he felt was ready to have break out seasons.

Time ultimately will tell if Grigson is smarter than his colleagues across the NFL, but on paper, the Colts appear to be a better football team, and while that does not always translate into victories, it does offer both great anticipation and intrigue for everyone who buys a season ticket to those who watch faithfully from the comfort of their living room on television every week.

The real quality Grigson brings to the table in my humble opinion is his ability to instill confidence and facilitate change in terms of attitude and morale. No one can deny his approach to fostering respectful and productive relationships with his troops has been nothing short of sensational.

Treating players like men and accepting nothing less than their respective best is a common theme in the locker room and should only get better.

Andrew Luck’s stock continues to climb, and with continued improvement on both sides of the football, this team will be an entertaining playoff contender and there is no reason to doubt they will be enjoyable to follow every week.

Grigson knows the Colts were fortunate in a number of close games last season and that this year delivers more challenging opponents than last year. There are always injuries to contend with, but even with all he has to be optimistic about after the results he helped to deliver a year ago, the future is bright for this franchise, and it took steps last year that nobody dared to predict. Grigson played the hand he was dealt brilliantly last year, and maybe that explains just why he is constantly smiling and is always upbeat.

While Colts fans should keep their expectations reasonable (gee, didn’t I say that a year ago too?) it is clear their general manager is marching to his own drum and is showing no signs of stopping. Jim Irsay was spot on when he jettisoned Polian and hired the right guy in Grigson. That being said, welcome to act two folks, and let what should be fun begin. 

Danny Bridges, who greatly appreciates the congenial and professional way Ryan Grigson deals with the media, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.

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