Clock’s ticking as Colts owner wraps up first round of interviews for new GM

Indianapolis Colts

Colts owner Jim Irsay (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – With the clock ticking toward significant personnel-related events that will shape the Indianapolis Colts’ future, the team has taken the first step in determining who oversees those events.

Owner Jim Irsay wrapped up his first round of interviews with six candidates in line to replace general manager Ryan Grigson, who was fired last Saturday. According to the team, final interviews were conducted Friday with Jimmy Raye III, its vice president of football operations, and Eliot Wolf, director of football operations with the Green Bay Packers.

Earlier in the week, Irsay met with George Paton, assistant general manager of the Minnesota Vikings; Chris Ballard, the Kansas City Chiefs’ director of football operations; and Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer, co-directors of player personnel with the Seattle Seahawks.

Subsequent interviews are expected, according to IndyStar, citing league sources.

Irsay declined to set a time frame for replacing Grigson even though the NFL clock waits for no one. The NFL Scouting Combine returns to town Feb. 28, veteran free agency begins March 7 and the draft is April 27-29. The new general manager will need time to evaluate the roster he’s inheriting before determining how best to address the deficiencies.

“I do not feel that we’re behind any curve,’’ Irsay said.

He described the list of candidates as an “excellent pool,’’ adding, “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 coming weeks.’’

The list of six candidates involves some of the NFL’s young, rising personnel talents. Wolf is 34 and Fitterer 43. Ballard and Paton (pronounced Payton) are 47. Raye is 48.

That the Colts are an attractive destination can be attributed to the presence of Andrew Luck. Even though the team has failed to reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98 and the defense requires a massive overhaul, it has the most important component – a franchise-level quarterback – in place.

It’s uncertain whether the status of coach Chuck Pagano will impact anyone’s decision to accept an offer from Irsay. While announcing Grigson’s dismissal, Irsay insisted Pagano would return for a sixth season.

“He is our coach for 2017,’’ he said. “Going through this process and interviewing general managers and having whoever the new general manager is come in to work with me to evaluate where we are at will play a big role on that in the long-term.

“But for 2017, Chuck is our coach.’’

Even so, no one should rule out Irsay changing his mind if he’s overwhelmed by one of the general manager candidates and that individual prefers to bring in his own head coach.

Remember, 12 months ago Irsay gave Pagano a four-year contract and Grigson a three-year extension, essentially tying them at the hip. The implication was clear: future success or failure would be a shared venture.

That changed last Saturday.

“I untied ‘em,’’ Irsay said.

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