INDIANAPOLIS – Charley Casserly has a unique perspective as an NFL analyst for CBS Sports.
Casserly is finishing his fifth season on the network pre-game show, a stint that developed after a distinguished 29-year tenure in the NFL with Washington and Houston.
Casserly served as a general manager for 16 of those 29 seasons. Casserly's tenure with Washington spanned the 1977-99 seasons. He was elevated to the general manager post in 1989. Casserly joined the Houston Texans in their 2002 expansion season. During those NFL years, he brought teams to Indianapolis to face the Colts.
He has observed the Colts for years in his roles in the league and with the network. Like many others, he holds Owner and CEO Jim Irsay in high regard.
"He understands the ups and downs in the game, which is a crucial part for an owner to understand," said Casserly. "There are ups and downs. You're going to have good years. You're going to have bad years. You're going to have player contracts to deal with. You're going to have injuries. You're going to have off-the-field issues. You're going to have draft choices that pan out and some that don't pan out. You're going to have trades that sometimes work and don't work.
"Having done all those things, I think Jim brings a very unique perspective to it. I think he's done an excellent job. He's hired good people. He's supported them. He's worked hard in the city. All of those things have made him one of the better owners in the league."
Casserly was among many observers who saw Irsay make a dramatic post-season decision to re-shape his franchise. He knows the role Irsay plays as an owner is a difficult one.
"It is a tough position. You have a tremendous responsibility to the fans," said Casserly. "Unlike other businesses, there is almost a community ownership of a football team. People have tremendous passion for it. Every Monday after a game on Sunday, the city is either up or down, depending upon the fortunes of the team."
Having seen one of the most rabid fan bases in professional sports while in Washington, then joining the expansion Texans, Casserly notes the very close attachments fans and communities have with teams.
"There is a public ownership even though there is no financial ownership in the Indianapolis Colts that the owner has to be aware of," said Casserly. "He has a tremendous responsibility to the fans. The fans are shareholders in this business. There's no question about it."
Being in charge of an entity with an extreme public presence holds a certain duty for the top officer like Irsay. When decisions must be made in changing the operating hierarchy, Casserly believes it is one of the toughest duties for an owner.
"I would think so," said Casserly. "Obviously, the Colts have had tremendous success. It's been a great run, one that has been one of the best in the NFL during that period. That is a very tough decision to make. There is a little bit of a leap of faith when you make that decision. You don't know what's out in the future."
Casserly has been the target of searches before. As an observer only in this situation involving Indianapolis and its hunt for a general manager, Casserly notes what Irsay must consider in the process.
"First of all, an owner must figure out what he is looking for on the job description part," said Casserly. "Is this one where he is going to oversee the entire organization? Is this one where he concentrates on the football operation part of it? You first have to start there. If you're talking about someone who is concentrating on the football operation, I think that person has to do three things from a knowledge point of view. He has to know personnel.
"Secondly, he has to understand football concepts, because the coach is going to come to him and give him a blueprint of what he looks for in personnel. As you watch your team play, you have to understand, 'Is this a well-coached team? Is what we are doing sound?' The third thing is you have to have an understanding of the salary cap. You can't just have somebody in charge of it. You have to know what they know about managing a cap. Maybe not necessarily every intricate detail of maneuvering contract language, but you have to understand how things can be maneuvered and fit going forward so you don't put yourself in a problem that you can't solve.
"The three things you have to understand are personnel, coaching concepts and the salary cap."
Visit Colts.com tomorrow for the second part of the Casserly visit when he speaks further in depth on the team.