INDIANAPOLIS – Every first year in a regime change brings about a new process, but it has been how many people with the Colts, and one in particular, have worked that process, that pleases first-year General Manager Ryan Grigson.
Grigson helped hire a new coaching staff, and his personnel acumen and doggedness has provided leadership that has seen the Colts produce one of the league’s best turnarounds.
He sees definite reasons for the return to prominence by the Colts.
“Those players bought into the vision from day one. They believe in one another and the process Chuck (Pagano) has outlined,” said Grigson. “The assistant coaches have adapted this whole year in an uncanny and masterful way in terms of constantly getting new guys ready to play each week and at the same time adhering to those players from a developmental standpoint.
“I can’t say enough about our staff’s attitude and how hard they have worked in Chuck’s absence to make this thing go. Lastly, I don’t think there is another interim head coach on the face of the earth now or before that could have done a better job from a football standpoint, leadership standpoint or really a human standpoint than Bruce Arians. Bruce is a living, breathing example of the “Next Man Up” philosophy.”
The predominant minority on the playing and coaching rosters are returnees. Seventeen of 20 coaches are new this year, and approximately the same number of players was with the club prior to this year.
It is a dramatic restructuring that caught the eye of Houston’s Gary Kubiak.
“I think it’s got to be considered one of the finer jobs done in football in a long time,” said Kubiak. “When you flip the organization like you did, the way they were able to make it work, I can’t tell you how impressed I am.”
It has been a unique week with the return of Pagano from a three-month battle with leukemia. He went through three chemotherapy treatments, yet stayed engaged via periodic visits and perpetual use of communication mediums.
Though his presence was not totally direct, his message never left the players. His return this year inspires Grigson deeply.
“(It’s) just amazing, really, pretty much miraculous. Then you look at the calendar and it’s Christmas? It is just a little overwhelming,” said Grigson. “At the same time, the word ‘special’ really doesn’t do the whole thing justice. To be honest, I prefer ‘Miracle on 56th Street.’ ”
Pagano was hired on January 25, just days after a traumatic loss by Baltimore in the AFC Championship game. His interview manner struck Grigson, causing him to tell a colleague, “Players will run through a wall for this guy.”
Eleven months later, Grigson still never has seen a person with such a spirit.
“No, even when he was in his darkest hours of treatment he was focused on this team and those around him and not himself,” said Grigson. “It epitomizes all he has preached from his first day on the job. Without that fighting spirit that burns inside him, I highly doubt he is back this week nor would this team be where it is.
“Again, I feel this team and staff identified with his spirit from the beginning and has taken on that personality of our head coach. One that doesn’t spend a second feeling sorry for itself, it just says, ‘Okay, what do I need to do to fix this situation and reach my goal that I have my eyes affixed to.
“That is why Chuck’s attitude transcends football. He is an example for how to live your life, in sickness or in health.”