INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 4, 2016) – They entered together, united.
Late Monday, there was Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who unlike his volatile father believes in continuity and stability whenever possible.
And there were Exhibits A and B of that fundamental tenet: coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson.
Irsay ended weeks – months, really – of speculation and rumor by signing Pagano to a four-year extension. He also made certain Pagano and Grigson were “tied at the hip’’ by giving his personnel boss a three-year extension.
Pagano had been in the final year of his original contract while Grigson was under contract through 2016. Now, they’ll guide Irsay’s franchise through ’19.
Here they were. Together. United.
During a hastily arranged 30-minute press conference late Monday, Irsay, Grigson and Pagano talked of moving forward and chasing Super Bowls. They talked of continuing a journey that began following the seismic 2011 season and 2-14 record and firing of coach Jim Caldwell and president Bill Polian.
More than anything, the triumvirate talked of unity and stability and winning. In the first four years of the Pagano/Grigson era, the Colts are 44-26 overall with three playoff appearances, including a trip to the AFC Championship game in January.
Irsay went so far as to compare the last four seasons with the first four years of the Peyton Manning and Bill Polian era. From 1998-2001, the Colts were 32-32 with two trips to the postseason and an 0-2 playoff record.
“Bill Polian has gone into the Hall of Fame,’’ Irsay said. “Ryan has outdone him.’’
So the decision was made to stay the course.
“We gave it careful consideration,’’ Irsay said. “It’s important to be thoughtful and lean on continuity when you can. Chuck has earned the opportunity going forward.
“It was always my hope this would be the direction that we would head. But I had to be sure. It was a long day of conversations and I came out of it really excited and energized.’’
Pagano described the experience as “a great day.’’
“I’ve had a lot of great days in my life, but none better than today,’’ he said. “This is absolutely the best day of my life.’’
The trio took turns dismissing the reported rift between Grigson and Pagano, a fissure that various sources confirmed.
Said Pagano: “We agree to disagree, but at the end of the day you leave every meeting with a handshake and a hug and you say ‘OK, look, it’s about one thing and one thing only. It’s about the team. It’s about making decisions for the Horseshoe.’
“It’s not about me. It’s not about Ryan. It’s not about any person.’’
Added Grigson: “We’ve been through the ringer together, but we’re still focused on one goal. We’re in the arena together, we’re in the fire together, but we’re united and we’re set out to do a job, and that job is to still have our eyes set on championships.
“There’s going to be times when we both are passionate because we are trying to win a championship. Chuck’s a guy who can get us to the mountaintop. That’s what we’re trying to do.’’
So it went. The owner steadfast in his conviction and steadfastly embracing Pagano and Grigson. Irsay shared that after meeting with Pagano and agreeing on the four-year extension, it was Pagano who insisted Grigson’s contract be extended to be in line with his.
“I’m convinced we have the right stuff on my right (Grigson) and my left (Pagano) going forward to win a world championship,’’ Irsay said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.’’
The press conference was winding down. Avis Roper, the senior director communications, mentioned “One more question.’’
But before things adjourned, Irsay took one last look around the media room and insisted on pounding home his point one more time: we’re a unified group and no one (Grigson) has been handling my head coach.
“If you think I’m going to let someone bully my head coach, you’re wrong,’’ Irsay said. “You don’t know me. Ryan’s not that type of guy.
“If you think I’m going to have that in my organization, you’re wrong. That’s not going to happen. We’re going to stay and be together . . . we’re united.
“We want (Pagano) around because he’s a hell of a football coach. Trust me on that. We’re lucky to have him.’’
As Irsay, Pagano and Grigson departed, the coach and general manager paused. They shared a hearty bear hug.