INDIANAPOLIS – This Sunday marks three weeks since the 2011 season ended with a 19-13 loss in Jacksonville, concluding a 2-14 season for the Colts.
It marked the first time since 2001 that Indianapolis did not earn a playoff berth. It marked the first time since then the team did not produce a double-digit victory total. Both streaks were remarkable accomplishments in a highly competitive professional sport.
Both, however, were consigned to history.
For Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay, it marked time for a chance.
On January 11, Irsay determined a new course for the franchise he has steered since 1997 and which his family has owned since 1972 by naming Ryan Grigson as general manager. The 39-year old Grigson, an Indiana native, joined the club after 13 distinguished seasons in personnel capacities with St. Louis and Philadelphia.
The pair is addressing the front-burner issue of selecting a new head coach for the franchise. As the chief steward, Irsay values tremendously the approach to build the correct way to sustain the success the club has enjoyed through the overwhelming majority of his leadership tenure.
The process includes the vision to win, and it will include faces old and new.
"You are going to bring every player back that you think can help you win," said Irsay. "I think in that context you are going to do whatever you do to can to win. This is a rebuilding process. Ryan has come in because there are significant needs in a lot of areas of the roster. We want to get there as fast we can, but we want to build it right."
The very nature of the NFL for years has been a mixture of continuity and change. Playing rosters typically are retooled in a range of 25 percent annually. The new head coach tabbed by Irsay and Grigson also will help put together a coaching staff to attack the 2012 season head on.
Though the playing roster and coaching staff for the upcoming season will sport new faces, the goal remains the same. Winning is the only barometer for the franchise.
"I know from Ryan (Grigson) and the new head coach, whoever it may be, I guarantee they are going to be focused on winning immediately. That is what you try to do," said Irsay. "You go into the opening game and try to win the game and win the next one. You never limit your expectations.
"From the macro perception of an owner, you understand there is a rebuilding process. There are going to be…people in the organization that were a part of what we were last year that will be going forward."
Upon Grigson's hiring, Irsay mentioned the team must address its salary cap situation going forward. The approach used in the past yielded results, but a more balanced approach will be applied going forward. The cap problems are not insurmountable, but correcting the approach is part of the new horizon.
"Ryan and I have talked a little bit about this. In going forward, we've talked about where we want to be more balanced," said Irsay. "Defensively, we had a lot of cap money spent on offense and that sort of thing, but we want to be balanced in terms of really being excellent on defense and (being) more consistent. I think that is something that when the vision of the franchise is seen, Ryan is looking at in terms of the head coach that we interview. That will be part of the vision. This is, obviously, a big, transitional time.
"I don't think the (new head coach) has to be offensive, defensive or anything like that. It is a heavy-lifting process right now. There is no question about it. There are a lot of balls in the air. We are after it, and we are excited. We want to win as soon as possible, everyone knows that."
Grigson shares Irsay's excitement as the search for the new head coach ensues.
"We want to do things in an expedient manner," said Grigson. "It stands to reason that we want this to be the right decision, and we're going to go about it the right way.
"We want to get the best guy for the job. We are going to identify the people we think are best, bring them in, sit down with them, just like Mr. Irsay sat down with me, and see if they have those core traits that we find are absolutely essential for the position of head coach. Those are the people that we are going to move forward with.
"It is going to be me and Jim (Irsay) looking at that man eyeball-to-eyeball and getting a feel for, 'What is he made of? Is this is the man to lead us in the new direction of the franchise?' It sounds intense because it is. That is how much we care about this."
Whatever the decision is on the head coach, the coaching staff and in personnel evaluations that result afterward, the goal for Irsay is singular, "Having sustained success for greatness, that's what it is about."