INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Irsay is in his 40th season with the Colts since his family purchased the team in 1972.
Irsay has been in complete control of the club since 1997, and he has been one of the more adept stewards among his 31 peers.
On Wednesday, Irsay tabbed 39-year-old Ryan Grigson as his new general manager. The old-school owner with a new-horizon vision knows the Colts have their man.
"It is great to announce our new general manager, Ryan Grigson," said Irsay. "It was a long-extensive process in identifying candidates and whittling those down and determining who the best man was. We got our man, and I'm really excited about that.
"I could not be more excited. As we go forward, Ryan is a riser. He's a guy who is going to continue to get better. He has all the tools, all the talent to continue to rise up to the next level of being a general manager."
Grigson joins the Colts after serving for the past two years with Philadelphia as director of player personnel. He was promoted to the role after serving the four previous seasons as the team's director of college scouting. Grigson's first position with the Eagles came as a western regional scout, a tenure served from 2004-2005. Philadelphia earned a 75-52-1 regular season record during Grigson's tenure, making the playoffs five times in eight seasons. Four times the Eagles won 10 or more games, while winning three NFC East titles, making two conference championship game appearances and reaching Super Bowl XXXIX.
Grigson began his NFL front office career in 1999 as a national scout with the St. Louis Rams. The Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV in his first season, then appeared in Super Bowl XXXVI two seasons later. St. Louis earned a 56-24 regular season record during Grigson's tenure, making the playoffs four times in five seasons. Four times the Rams won 10 or more games, while winning three NFC West titles and capturing two conference championship games.
"It's a big, critical decision for the franchise," said Irsay. "There is a new wave of people in the people who are qualified than ever to take that next step up. In the end, it's an intuitive decision. I picked Ryan because I felt that he had a vision, that he had an intelligence, that he had a depth of perception and awareness. He was capable of taking it up to the next level."
Grigson is from Highland, Indiana, and he played collegiately at Purdue. He was a freshman tight end who played his final three seasons on the offensive line, earning captain honors as a senior. An intuitive Irsay likes the lineage of linemen making it big in the league either in playing or non-playing capacities.
"In this league, we've seen a lot of offensive linemen do a lot of great things," said Irsay. "George Young was a Hall-of-Fame general manager who was a Colt way back. Gene Upshaw, obviously, did tremendous things. We've had many great coaches from offensive linemen. There's been a pedigree there. I think there's an intelligence, there's a toughness, there's a teamwork-understanding mentality.
"From the first time I walked into the room and started the interview with Ryan, there was something special there. There was something immediately even after five minutes that I could sense. I really thought he was a guy who was going to be one of the most serious candidates. That impression stayed with me. Sometimes they say first impressions are important."
The most pressing matter for Indianapolis is to decide on its coaching situation. Jim Caldwell has directed the team for three seasons. Irsay acknowledges this is a pressing issue that will be handled as expediently as possible.
"Obviously, that is right on the front burner with Jim Caldwell and his staff," said Irsay. "Jim and I have talked this week. I know Ryan talked with him briefly this morning. I don't have a time frame in terms of Ryan and I sitting down and saying definitively, 'We're going in this direction.' It's something we're going to be working at over the weekend and probably get there early next week.
Irsay stressed decisions of this magnitude with the club always have been a collaborative and smooth process.
"It will be something he (Grigson) and I will discuss," said Irsay. "I think the way it's always worked around here and the best way for it to work is that the general manager and the owner are on the same page, the head coach and the general manager are on the same page. If that isn't the case, which is very rare that we've experienced here over the last 14 years, then you find a way to solve it."