INDIANAPOLIS – Once upon a time, there was a general manager who was in charge of building a franchise that in many ways was starting from scratch.
Sure Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea were among a few players returning from a proud decade run of Colts teams that qualified for the playoff nine consecutive years, appeared in a pair of Super Bowls and won it in 2007. But for the most part, the roster had to be rebuilt around a few of the veteran players that did not include at least in the first few days, a quarterback.
But when that man arrived in the fold, everything changed. Andrew Luck’s ability turned rebuilding into competing and then winning almost from day one as these “rebuilding” Colts have made the playoffs the last two seasons and reclaimed their spot at the top of the AFC South division.
“That’s why we took him No. 1 overall because across the board you check every box and it’s pretty much outstanding. It’s not very good or adequate or good–that’s kinda what we go by–they’re all outstanding,” said Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson of Luck. “The football intelligence, the intestinal fortitude, those comeback games which he’s done since high school.
“He’s done everything.”
Now he’s changed everything for Grigson when it comes to building a Colts team. Now instead of looking for players to build a winner, the general manager must also find players with experience who can help the team reach a Super Bowl instead of a .500 record as many might have envisioned when this current regime of the franchise started in 2012.
That’s why the approach before the 2014 NFL Draft from May 8-10 might be a little different from others envisioned in year three of the building of a new Colts team–and it has little to do with the fact that the team doesn’t have a first round pick and will have only five selections over the seven rounds.
“When you have someone who can kinda put the team on his shoulders and do that, you’ve got to do your best to protect him and get the players around him to help him win and continue to help him win and build sustained success,” said Grigson of the team’s philosophy. “If we had come out 0-6 and struggled, it would have been a different mindset, but when you beat the Packers (October 2012) with no head coach…guys rose to the occasion.”
Along with Luck’s talent, Grigson credits the Colts’ coaches and veteran players with establishing a sense of urgency when it came to winning despite a young quarterback and a retooled roster.
“It would have been I think kinda foolish to sit there and think ‘We’ll we can’t win now, let’s just pack it in this year.’ The overall character in this building, the way all these coaches are wired, that’s never been the feeling,” said Grigson. “I think Mathis and Reggie would have pitched a big fit if we would had been talking like we weren’t gonna go and try to win a Super Bowl in 2012.
“That’ was the mindset regardless of what everyone thought.”
Of course Grigson’s mindset will be trying to add to a team that doesn’t have what it had in 2012–a first round draft pick. That was given to Cleveland in the Trent Richardson trade back in September 2013, and the Colts will have just five picks for the entire draft.
As he has shown during his time in Indianapolis, Grigson isn’t afraid to pull off a deal and reiterated such during a news conference on Thursday. But he did emphasize the need for the team to make the right move for the right player.
“You have to have willing partners,” said Grigson of a trade. “Our phone lines will be open. Hopefully they are ringing.”
Because he’s trying to build February now.