INDIANAPOLIS –Ryan Grigson was introduced as the Colts' new general manager on January 11, 2012 and two weeks later, he and Owner and CEO Jim Irsay announced Chuck Pagano as the new head coach.
An off-season of dramatic change kicked into gear with a heavy emphasis being placed on loyalty, trust, relationships and team.
That approach is not unique to the Colts and those terms likely are splashed on the walls of countless facilities, but it is the true implementation that helped allow Indianapolis to jump nine games in the victory column (11-5 in 2012 from 2-14 in 2011) and return to the playoffs after a year hiatus.
On Colts Radio last night, Grigson credited his personnel staff, Pagano and the assistant coaches for helping build the club's culture from the ground up on day one. Doing that included a willingness and ability by the coaches to develop the talent assembled.
Grigson also cited players from all corners of the roster who bought into the process. Players embraced the aggressive coaching pace during the spring and used those workouts and training camp to be ready when the season hit.
The club fought through injuries, starting 42 different players during the year and using a total of 68 through 16 games. Of the 62 percent of the roster having no more than three years NFL experience were nine rookies, and among the 13 players on injured reserve were a number of key veterans such as Donald Brown, Fili Moala, Austin Collie, Brandon McKinney and Jerraud Powers.
Five members of the draft class – Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton and Vick Ballard – started 55 of their 90 combined appearances in 2012. The Colts benefited greatly from their contributions.
Indianapolis (Luck and Ballard) and Washington (Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris) were the only teams making the playoffs whose leading rusher and passer were rookies, and the last time that occurred was with the 1943 New York Giants.
While Pagano missed 13 games while fighting leukemia, interim leader Bruce Arians exhorted young players to know what truly is remembered in the league is what happens in Decembers.
The coachable Colts won nine of their last 11 and five of their last six, including three-of-four in December. They earned the AFC's fifth playoff seed after 15 games, knocked off Houston in the finale and head to Baltimore for Sunday's Wild Card playoffs.
While pleased, Grigson is driven. What matters now is January football. A team that did not lose consecutive games all season – a real accomplishment in the first year of change – now cannot lose again and survive.
"I'd be lying to say I'm not ecstatic and just so proud," said Grigson. "I have to take it with a grain of salt, though, because I feel like I'm doing this team, everyone in the city and the fans a disservice if I'm not just laser-focused like we have been every week.
"Why change what we're doing now? Why stop and smell the roses? I don't think that's ever helped anyone in life or definitely not in the NFL when you stop and smell the roses. Everyone's looking to knock you off. These Ravens, believe me, they want to take it to us. We have to even be sharper than before, everyone knows that."