After the debacle of the 2011 season, the Indianapolis Colts were at a crossroads. Peyton Manning's status was unknown, but one thing was for sure: General manager Bill Polian and his son Chris had been caught unprepared for Manning's absence. As well as they had developed the team that dominated the AFC South for a decade, they had misfired on more recent draft picks and had neglected to have a suitable backup for Manning.
Owner Jim Irsay responded to the disaster of 2011 by completely cleaning house, including jettisoning Manning and the Polians. Such a bold move put Irsay in the unenviable position of needing a "home run" hire for his next GM. He needed someone who could quickly rebuild the Colts through the draft and who could find some "diamonds in the rough" who could instantly contribute to a team that would be limited by the salary cap in the short term.
When Irsay tabbed former Purdue lineman and Philadelphia Eagles director of player personnel, Ryan Grigson, many locals shook their heads. Grigson had no experience as a GM and was extremely young. Was Irsay merely hiring a "puppet" who he could control after ceding personnel power to Polian all these years?
Grigson acted quickly and boldly. Manning was gone, along with head coach Jim Caldwell. Grigson then went out and hired his head coach, Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. In the draft, he of course selected Andrew Luck overall as expected. What no one anticipated was Grigson mining five more starters from the draft.
Combined with some shrewd free agent signings of players like DL Cory Redding and CFL refugee Jerrell Freeman, Grigson formed the nucleus of a playoff team seemingly with duct tape and bailing wire. As if his off season moves weren't impressive enough, Grigson orchestrated a trade for a starting cornerback (Vontae Davis) at the beginning of the season and managed over 60 different roster moves due to injury. Grigson's touch was so magical that he plucked Deji Karim from parking cars at a Texas hotel to returning kicks for the Colts. Karim returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown against the Houston Texans that iced the game.
Grigson was named the Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year for his accomplishments. If Grigson can continue his Midas touch with personnel moves, the Colts could once again return to the dominance they saw under Bill Polian. If that's the case, Grigson will be much higher ranked on our list when we celebrate the Colts' 40th season in Indianapolis.
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