Punch Drunk Wonderland

Colts’ Grigson making case for Executive of the Year

When Ryan Grigson took the General Manager position of the Colts in January of 2012 he knew he was walking into a difficult situation. He was inheriting a team that finished a league worst 2-14 in 2011, had many dead in the water draft busts from previous years, had long time veterans entering free agency, and had a Hall of Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning who hadn’t played a snap since 2010. Owner Jim Irsay put his full trust in Grigson and gave him the reigns, and what Grigson has done in the span of 12 months is nothing short of amazing.

From day one Grigson jumped in the driver’s seat and started building and remolding the Colts team. The first big move was the hardest decision to make. He had to let Peyton Manning go. Grigson knew the Colts needed to start with a clean slate, and to do that he needed cap space and young talent. In a November 14 Associated Press interview Grigson said,

First of all, how do you replace him? You look at him and he’s a great player, and he’s still a great player. But I knew from a fiscal standpoint and an age standpoint, I knew that we had to change if we were going to have success in the future.

On Manning’s heels were a number of veterans heading out the door in Indy. It was a house cleaning. Grigson was being serious about starting fresh. He brought in a strong willed head coach with 28 years of defensive coaching experience in Chuck Pagano. He then hired Bruce Arians to be the offensive coordinator which has proven a great success.

The Polian era Colts were never very active in free agency, but that would change with Grigson in town. In March he made more big moves as he signed Free Agents, DE Cory Redding and WR Donnie Avery. He also re-signed veteran Reggie Wayne after Wayne dabbled in free agency for a bit before returning to the Colts. And, then came the 2012 draft.

Of course, the big factor that made the Manning decision possible for Grigson was the hot young talent available in the 2012 draft. After letting Manning go Grigson began constructing a team around his #1 draft pick, Andrew Luck. He drafted talented young players such as Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, and LaVon Brazill that would become immediate producers. Grigson had put together a strong young foundation to build on. And, Grigson truly is a master builder. On multiple occasions he has said that he is in Indy to find players and to build the best team he can.

Doesn’t matter where they’re from. Doesn’t matter what their life story is. As long as they’re good human beings, love the game, and produce on film, and at least have adequate size and seem to play fast, we’ll give them a shot.

– (Grigson in a November interview with Dan Dakich)


Most people were saying the Colts would make it to an 8-8 season at best in 2012. The more realistic win number you heard before the season was 5 wins. That would be admirable. Pulling off 5 wins one season after a horrendous 2-14 showing would be considered perfectly respectable.

To the surprise of the football world the Colts have managed to find themselves at 9-4 through 13 games, and there is a decent chance they could finish with 10 or 11 wins. This success came through additional hard work by Grigson as the team strugged all season with injury. The offensive line that was already weak and embattled lost key pieces that led to mid-season additions of A.Q. Shipley, Bradley Sowell, Tony Hills, and others. Yet somehow the Colts have continued to pull out close wins. It really has been a surprising and amazing season.

In addition to the injuries, youth, and numerous weak spots on the roster, the Colts have also had to endure the emotional struggle involving Coach Pagano’s cancer diagnoses in September. It proved to galvanize the team and they have been able to struggle through adversity with surprising success. Bruce Arians has proven to be an excellent decision as he has done very well filling in as Head Coach in Pagano’s absence. The pieces have just been falling in place, and a great deal of the credit can be attributed to bold and smart moves by Grigson.

There are certainly those that feel John Elway is in line for Executive of the Year for his work in Denver in signing Peyton Manning, and that has proven an excellent decision. However, there is no GM in the NFL this season that has the volume of work that Ryan Grigson has put together in 2012. He has been a busy and successful man, and at the end of the day I see no reason why he won’t be named 2012 NFL Executive of the Year. If you don’t want to take my word for it, then ask Colts punter Pat McAfee:

I think he has to be Executive of the Year so far. You look at the wow factor the day of the cuts. Basically, he rebuilt this team in four or five months. We had a great core group of guys here, and the way he picked up the pieces is just amazing.


Some key moves by Grigson in 2012:

  • Hired Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians
  • Signed veteran DE Cory Redding (March 14) and WR Donnie Avery (March 23)
  • Selected immediate contributors Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Coby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen in the 2012 draft
  • Appointed Bruce Arians interim head coach in Pagano’s absence
  • Managed injury woes by signing available free agents throughout the season to fill in (A.Q. Shipley, Bradley Sowell, Tony Hills)
  • Put together a team that has gone 9-4 with chances of being 12-4 by season’s end


K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...