In real life, which we know as anything other than running a multi-billion dollar sports enterprise, a new employee is given some leeway during the first days and weeks at their shiny new desk. You meet your co-workers, get a feel for your responsibilities, and most importantly, learn the location of the lunch room and coffee maker.
Ryan Grigson will not enjoy those luxuries. Sure, he’ll have a coffee maker in his office, and it’ll probably also make Gelato and tell him the current time in Japan, if he desires such information. But as the new GM of the Indianapolis Colts he’ll rarely leave that office, and his boss has a direct line to the Mayflower moving company.
Reports of the Colts’ decision to hire Grigson first surfaced early this morning, and they were then verified by the organization. The former director of player personnel for the Eagles will meet with the media in a press conference at 4 p.m. ET, and that’ll serve as the standard getting-to-know-you session. Then it’ll be off to the business of managing a franchise during the most delicate time in team history.
Grigson is young by GM standards (he’s 39), which brings some youthful energy to a problem of age in Indianapolis. That problem goes beyond the obvious, but that’s where we’ll start, as his first decision revolves around a certain quarterback who didn’t play a game this season.
His name is Peyton Manning, and he’s still probably really, really good if he’s fully healthy, an “if” that remains massive and ambiguous. And more realistically, Manning’s future isn’t entirely Grigson’s decision, which makes his job infinitely more difficult.
Jim Irsay isn’t a meddling owner who comes anywhere close to the obstructions presented by others around the league (think Jerry Jones), but Manning is still his Super Bowl quarterback, and the long-time cornerstone of his franchise. Irsay’s involvement in the Manning decision undoubtedly had a major impact on the hiring process for Indy’s new GM, and the personal make-up and age of the eventual replacement for the Polians. Irsay needed an intelligent and astute football mind, but also a young, quasi-submissive, and easily influenced executive to lead his front office.
Grigson is that executive, and he’ll play the part well. He was one of the architects behind Philly’s offseason splurge when the Eagles managed to sign Jason Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Vince Young, and still stay under the cap. So he’s quite familiar with the transformation process that can be done via free agency, even if it didn’t work out to his liking with the Eagles (hey, they didn’t pay him to coach the defense).
He also had a hand in neglecting to pay DeSean Jackson, a decision that added to the petulance of an already child-like wide receiver. Now with the benefit of hindsight, that looks like a difficult decision, but the right decision. We often recite statistics and skill while assessing free agents and draft prospects, but a significant emphasis is placed on intangible qualities too. Grigson was part of a front office that saw immaturity in Jackson that’s now blatantly obvious, and they saw it months in advance.
Now comes the challenge to convince Irsay to move on from Manning. The four-time MVP is due a $28 million option bonus on March 8, and Irsay’s reportedly said that a trade isn’t an option, and neither is moving that deadline back. Superstardom is never a certainty in any NFL draft, but the Colts are poised to select the safest option in recent memory with their No. 1 pick and Andrew Luck waiting.
Combine those factors with a still very fragile recovery for Manning from his third neck surgery over the past two years, and his father saying Sunday that he’s still not sure if his son can play in 2012, and the right decision should be clear. Start new, start fresh, and release Manning before March 8. That kind of immediate slate cleaning may be hard to envision right now, but the opportunity to rebuild quickly is there, and it shouldn’t be ignored.
When (if) Manning goes, so will Reggie Wayne, a free agent 33-year-old receiver who had wildly inconsistent production last year even with a healthy Manning (two games with over 190 receiving yards, and six with less than 50). Dallas Clark may be jettisoned too, with the veteran tight end due $4.53 million next year after missing 15 games over the last two seasons. Jim Caldwell shouldn’t feel too safe either with a new GM in place, but the window to hire a coach this winter is quickly closing.
Manning is and has always been the lead domino dictating the direction of this franchise. Good luck, kid.
Smiling Grigson pic via CBSSports.com