Analysis: Why Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson Must Go

Owner Jim Irsay can't fix the Colts' problems by keeping Grigson, who should be fired for mistakes made the past three years.

Unlike in assessing Chuck Pagano’s situation as Indianapolis Colts head coach, the assessment of general manager Ryan Grigson isn’t nearly as challenging to understand.

The reasons for why Grigson must go are obvious.

First, and foremost, the former offensive lineman failed to fix the team’s No. 1 problem the past three years: the offensive line. And it finally led to a season full of expectations falling far short at 8-8.

The Colts cut ties with right tackle Gosder Cherilus before training camp, but really didn’t have the solution figured out. And worse yet, they were too confident it would get settled. Not with Todd Herremans. And not with Jack Mewhort playing right tackle. Ultimately, not ever.

So the quarterbacks got hit, got hurt and got replaced. They went through five of them. The run game sputtered. Running back Frank Gore spoke after Sunday’s home win over Tennessee about how much of a struggle it has been. The 11th-year pro hadn’t experienced this kind of lack of production since his rookie year. And it’s not because his 32-year-old legs don’t work anymore. 

That brings us to selection of personnel, which was supposed to be Grigson’s strength. Be it free agency, trades or the draft, Grigson hit on enough players in 2012 to be named NFL Executive of the Year. Since then, it’s been mostly a disaster.

Herremans, outside linebacker Trent Cole and wide receiver Andre Johnson proved to be a waste of millions this year. Defensive tackle Arthur Jones was overpaid and hasn’t been able to stay healthy for two years since his signing. As much as Grigson can take credit for trading to get cornerback Vontae Davis, he also signed cornerback Greg Toler to a lucrative deal and Toler got torched more times in recent years than any cover guy in recent memory.

Too many swings and misses eventually add up, regardless of it’s a guy who gets hurt, doesn’t measure up to expectations or, worst of all, just can’t play anymore.

The draft hasn’t filled enough of the necessary holes, either. An obvious indictment was picking wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round this year. But a first-round pick of Bjoern Werner also wreaked of hubris, that a 4-3 defensive end could become a 3-4 outside linebacker. It didn’t work. And this defense has needed help throughout the Grigson/Pagano four-year run.

The most obvious gaffe was swapping a first-round pick for running back Trent Richardson, who couldn’t have been more underwhelming yet kept playing. Reports have surfaced that Richardson stayed in the lineup because Grigson ordered it. If true, it says a lot about Pagano accepting all the criticism when the running back continued to struggle. The same thing occurred with the 2014 benching of center A.Q. Shipley. Pagano’s hands were tied by Grigson, and the coach took the heat. Players other than Shipley have confirmed this switch was a Grigson mandate.

At some point, bottom line, Grigson doesn’t have Pagano’s shortcomings to hide behind anymore.

He meddled with who Pagano wanted to play. Sometimes, he was right, if it’s true Pagano wanted to keep nose tackle Josh Chapman and defensive tackle Montori Hughes instead of playing rookie defensive tackle Henry Anderson and rookie nose tackle David Parry. It’s also true, if as reported, Grigson wanted wide receiver Donte Moncrief to play more instead of Reggie Wayne in last year’s postseason, when the injured Wayne had only one catch in three games.

But sometimes, as mentioned above with Richardson and Shipley, Grigson couldn’t have been more wrong. A team trying to win Super Bowls can’t be hamstrung by a GM interested in saving face from mistakes.

Dictating personnel playing decisions became a distraction in the locker room. I’ve heard that from players. Grigson over-stepped his bounds and it negatively impacted this team. That’s on him, not as much on Pagano, who should have stood up to his GM a long time ago.

Grigson’s lack of accountability has been telling. He did one radio interview with Dan Dakich this year, but has from my understanding avoided almost all contact with reporters. I remember interviewing him for 45 minutes on a Tuesday during 2012. He couldn’t have been more gracious with his time and gave straight answers to every important question I could ask. That guy wasn’t the same GM this season.

That’s why if owner Jim Irsay thinks he can retain Grigson in some capacity while reshaping this franchise, he’s asking for trouble. Why in the world would Nick Saban or another big-named coach want to come to Indianapolis? A guy like Saban is going to do his homework. He’s going to find out how Irsay allowed Grigson to undercut Pagano. It’s not exactly a secret anymore.

As much as Irsay obviously has tremendous affinity for Grigson, that can’t impact this decision. Take the emotion out of this. It’s a business. Grigson and Pagano were paid well to do a job. They had some success, but not enough.

Irsay had the utmost respect for head coach Jim Mora, too, but couldn’t work out Mora’s differences with President Bill Polian and had to fire the coach after the 2001 disaster. It wasn’t on Mora that the team didn’t commit enough resources to fix one of the worst defenses in franchise history. Mora stood up to Polian, even at the expense of losing his job.

Then, after years of putting up with Polian’s intolerant treatment of Colts employees because his football brilliance produced results and one Super Bowl, Irsay finally fired Polian, too.

If you can fire a Pro Football Hall of Famer who put the only Super Bowl ring on your finger, doing the same to Grigson can’t be more difficult. Swallowing your pride and accepting mistakes were made, beginning with your own, is a start.

It’s time to move on and start fresh. The cupboard isn’t bare by any means. The Colts are fortunate to have quarterback Andrew Luck as the No. 1 drawing card.

But the Colts had better take care of Luck, who enters the final year of his contract in 2016. That starts with the right head coach and, more importantly, a decision maker who can fix the offensive line.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+. 

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