INDIANAPOLIS – One year ago today when Jim Irsay introduced Ryan Grigson as the club’s new general manager, he said his new hire embodied everything it took to move the Colts forward.
Wanting someone with upside, the expertise in building a program and who had a keen eye for personnel, Irsay said he knew quickly that Grigson had those abilities.
“There was something special there,” said Irsay a year ago. “There was something (evident) immediately even after five minutes that I could sense.”
Irsay always has had an intuitive nature when plotting the future of the franchise he loves, and he saw Grigson shift easily into gear in directing the Colts.
The subsequent hiring of Chuck Pagano as head coach brought another person with sharp instincts and who embraced the notion of the team coming before anything else.
The three helped mesh together a program that rebounded as quickly as hoped. The Colts became just the second team in history to win 11 or more games just one season after winning two or fewer times.
Last Sunday’s loss in the Wild Card round kept the Colts from flying today to Denver to play in tomorrow’s Divisional Playoffs. It would have been the perfect anniversary present for Grigson.
It has been a whirlwind 365 days for Grigson, a period that provided valuable growth.
“It’s honestly like dog years to me,” said Grigson. “I feel like I’ve learned and experienced so much in one year that it feels like January 11, 2012 was an eternity ago. I am grateful for the experience.”
Indianapolis is appreciative, too. Grigson spearheaded a draft class that reaped huge results on the field. He blended rookies with “pillar” veterans on hand and some acquired through free agency to form a tight bunch that ignored skeptics who downplayed optimism and withstood the challenge of losing Pagano for a 12-week period due to illness.
The Colts went 5-3 in the season’s first half in creating separation in the playoff chase that it never yielded. In clinching a playoff seed with a week to play, the spunky team was 9-1 in games decided by seven points or less, winning its last eight straight within those tight margins.
The Executive-of-the-Year candidate is a week into his off-season and though he is immersed in 2013, he reflected on a few things that stood out to him in the past year.
“(I saw) that things in this league move very fast. As an organization, you (had) better be prepared for the worst before it happens because it just may,” said Grigson. “In order to get things done, you have to trust and delegate to those around you, or they or you won’t grow in this process. Lastly, the value of true teamwork cannot only help pull you through serious adversity, but (it) can lead you to success when everyone buys in and is willing to serve one another in the process.”
The concept of “buying in” was trumpeted throughout the locker room all season. Veterans and rookies alike used the term freely because it was felt so deeply. Players mentioned playing for each other almost as often, too.
The season brought challenge beyond the absence of Pagano. A total of 68 players were needed to get through 16 games, while 42 players started. Thirteen players finished the year on injured reserve, and more than half of the roster was comprised of players with less than three years of experience in the league.
Grigson adeptly infused talent as injuries interrupted continuity. The offensive line used seven starting alignments, never opening more than three straight games with the same unit. The secondary was another hard-hit area with five different starting alignments.
New schemes taught new tricks to established players, and newcomers were instructed aggressively with the approach and were taught to contribute.
What historically has been a tight organization was found evident in the 2012 Colts. The team-oriented nature of the players acquired by Grigson helped counteract the year’s adversities.
Though the season ended with a playoff loss, Grigson framed the year.
“After the initial pain and disappointment (of the Baltimore loss) wears off, I couldn’t feel more positive on our accomplishments this year as a team because of what they all overcame,” said Grigson. “Conversely, I feel even though we exceeded everyone’s expectations we still didn’t exceed our own because we believed we could go all the way this year.
“Like Chuck said, that feeling in the locker room in Baltimore will serve us all very well this off season, and we shouldn’t forget that feeling moving forward.”