Irsay to future Colts GM: Surround Andrew Luck with more competent roster
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Jim Irsay promised an extensive search to fill the void he created Saturday by firing general manager Ryan Grigson.
It would start with Jimmy Raye III, the Indianapolis Colts vice present of football operations, and include names not necessarily familiar to the casual fan. It’s been reported the Colts have sought permission to interview Minnesota Assistant General Manager George Paton and Seattle’s Co-Directors of Player Personnel, Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer.
Look for serious discussions this week in Mobile, Ala., site of the Senior Bowl.
And look for Irsay’s talking points to be driven by the absolute necessity of the next person to occupy the GM’s chair to do a better job of surrounding his $140 million quarterback with a more competent roster.
Even though Andrew Luck’s still a relative pup at 27, the clock is ticking. The future is promised to no one, and the news Luck had outpatient surgery on his right shoulder – that’s his money shoulder, in case you had forgotten – should be a sobering reminder that any player’s career could be impacted, or end, in an instant.
Irsay hasn’t been shy when it comes to expectations with Luck under center. He’s spoken of multiple Super Bowls, sustained excellence.
Specifics were missing and generalities dominated Saturday evening’s 20-minute press conference during which Irsay “untied’’ the Chuck Pagano-Ryan Grigson link. It was left for everyone to decipher the overriding reason he stuck with his oft-criticized head coach and jettisoned his equally-criticized GM.
The timing was right for us.
It was a gut, intuitive instinct from looking at where we were and where we are as a franchise.
We needed some new direction in the vision of our football program.
Absent iron-clad proof, we’re falling back on Occam’s Razor, a line of reasoning that insists the simplest answer generally is correct.
At some level, Irsay no longer trusted Grigson to handle the roster and, by extension, maximize Luck’s potential. He had five years to address both, and the roster lacks quality depth and an aging defense is void of anyone resembling a playmaker.
After Irsay made Luck the NFL’s highest-paid player, Grigson mentioned the accompanying salary-cap ramifications would make it more difficult to upgrade the roster around him, certainly extending the time it would take.
But he had the luxury of possessing a top-level quarterback on his rookie contract for four seasons.
There were too many missed draft picks. Grigson and his personnel staff whiffed on the entire 2013 draft, and of the seven defensive players drafted in 2012-14, not one is still on an NFL roster.
There were too many misses with expensive, high-profile free agents.
That contributed to the Colts possessing a historically-bad defense last season. It yielded 382.9 yards per game, 30th in the NFL and the second-fattest total in club history.
The arrow seems to be pointing up with the offensive line, but that’s after four years of failing to provide Luck with anything resembling competent protection. According to NFL.com, the Colts have allowed their QBs to be hit a league-high 578 times since 2012. Cleveland is next with 545.
There’s every reason to believe the Colts can experience an expedited return to relevance. Keep in mind, they’ve been 8-8 in consecutive seasons, warts and all. It’s not a bad thing to call the AFC South home, and their ’17 schedule is the easiest (opponents with a combined .424 winning percentage), at least on paper.
They could have as much as $60 million in salary-cap space when veteran free-agency opens in March, and the April draft offers another avenue to upgrade the roster.
Unlike the previous five years, Grigson won’t be calling the shots.
“Continuity is something that I really want . . . but in this case I really felt that the time was right to make a change, that we needed some new direction in the vision of our football program,’’ Irsay said. “I think that we’re going to, along with Jimmy (Raye), have an excellent pool to look at and interview.
“I know we have a lot to offer when it comes to, ‘Hey do you want to come to Indianapolis and win a world championship?’ I know that, and so I’m confident that we will find the exact direction that we need to take in these comings weeks. I’m just interested in us being able to bring that Lombardi Trophy back to us.’’