Twelve months ago, there were already rumblings that friction between Colts coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson was to the point that Pagano would be looking for work this offseason. And after the Colts lost Andrew Luck to injury and limped to an 8-8 finish, Pagano’s departure seemed all but certain.
But in January, days after the season ended, team owner Jim Irsay announced that not only would Pagano return but that he’d continue to work alongside Grigson.
This is the same Grigson who reportedly had a pattern of “meddling” during Pagano’s previous four seasons, and that included insisting that Pagano play — and even start — running back Trent Richardson.
But Irsay is working from the assumption that time heals all wounds — or at the very least, since he’s the boss, he can make the rules. Either way, the owner recently explained how the “Hey, guess what? Nobody’s getting fired!” meeting went down early this year.
“Let me tell ya — tears fell, voices were raised, but they both came out different people,” Irsay said, via the Indianapolis Star‘s Zak Keefer. “There are times, and this is one of them, where you go into it, and people think from the outside that someone knows what’s going to happen, [that] they’re just not telling us, meaning the public and the media. Not true. Not true. Sometimes, the decision-maker, which is the owner in this case, you have to be able to hear, and hear the things at the right moment, at the bewitching hour, and then you will make that decision at that flashpoint moment in the 11th hour. That’s the truth. It’s not always pre-decided. Sometimes it is. A lot of times it is. But in this case it wasn’t.
“This case organically came together. It showed me that the football gods, whatever you want to call it, the powers that be, created this correct synergy that said, ‘OK, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, they are going to be our guys going forward and there is no question about it.'”
And it’s certainly Irsay’s prerogative to keep both men, even though a divorce seemed imminent right up until the moment Irsay said otherwise. But the reality is that the Colts have plenty of issues heading into the season. Chief among them is the same one that led to Luck getting injured in 2015: a suspect offensive line. Yes, the team used a first-round pick on center Ryan Kelly, but he doesn’t magically fix a unit that was worse at run blocking that pass blocking a season ago.
In fact, Irsay admitted recently that “I’m concerned like any fan out there” when asked about the state of the O-line. “I think we can get it stabilized, but obviously the Eagles game was concerning, and until we prove otherwise, we’re going to be tested every play.”
But despite the potential — and obvious — obstacles to success, Irsay seems positive Pagano and Grigson can flourish in this arranged marriage.
“Good working relationship, both have matured,” Irsay said. “I’m banking in the investment of what I put into Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson. There’s been a lot of time, money and many hours of investment and conversations and mentoring and talking to these guys, and that’s what I’m banking on. … Ryan and Chuck are closer than ever and more understanding of each other’s positions than ever. They’re giving each other more room to operate. It’s a great working relationship and yes, it’s grown.”
How long this new relationships lasts is another matter, especially if the Colts get off to another slow start.
Source: CBS Sports / Colts owner Jim Irsay explains why he kept both Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson