The tension is rising in Colts Nation. I have to admit even I, one who prides himself on drinking the Kool-aid, have grown a little nervous after Ryan Grigson's uninspiring draft haul. But, I'm here to bare some good news, some bad news, and some non-news to those who read.
The bad news first. And, I'm going to do my best to support my theory and transcribe my thoughts on the matter. But, Ryan Grigson isn't going anyway any time soon. So, complain all you want. But, he's going to be here to stay for at least a few more years until he really ****'s something up.
But, right off the bat, I'll refute my own theory. Considering a very broad analysis of Bill Polian's downfall in Indy, Bill barely got himself fired. And, at first glance it had very little to do with how Bill was managing the personnel he was putting on the field on Sunday's. Think about it however you want, but Chris Polian and Andrew Luck ultimately got Bill Polian fired. Peyton Manning's injury, a 2-14 season, and Andrew Luck presented Jim Irsay a Never-In-A-Lifetime opportunity. Bill had for years begun transforming the Colts' front office into what he most likely perceived as a self-sustaining entity in which he could just collect a paycheck almost in a ****ing "Professor Xavier-like-role". All the while he was injecting his kids all over the payroll in different capacities.
Ironically, somewhere between 2006 and 2009 the team started falling apart. That might sound counterintuitive to what we know now (like, 2 Super Bowl appearances and 1 Lombardi Trophy). But, consider for a second between 2006 and 2009 the Colts selected 33 players in the draft. Of those 33, the only players to contribute in a substantially positive manner are:
- Joseph Addai (who's short career was maligned with criticism after only 2 seasons)
- Charlie Johnson (Can't downplay it. Johnson was a good pick.)
- Antoine Bethea (One of the best late-round picks I can think of.)
- Clint Session (The only player worth a **** drafted in 2007.)
- Tim Jennings (Truthfully, the Polian's struck out with this pick. Jennings' career was a bust until he ended up in Chicago.)
- Philip Wheeler (Like Jennings, Wheeler's career didn't take off until he left the team.)
- Jacob Tamme (What is there to say about a backup tight-end?)
- Pierre Garcon (Another fantastic "nobody" Polian knocked out of the park. Like so many players already on this list, think back on Garcon's career with Indy. Hm. Not too bad right? Garcon led the league in receptions last year with Washington. Mind. Blown.)
- Donald Brown (Without a doubt a first round bust. But, after last season I was a little upset to see Brown go.)
- Jerraud Powers (Still considered a 3rd round CB bust by Polian if you ask me. But, he played some decent ball in Indy.)
- Austin Collie (I love Austin Collie. But, the question has to be asked how has Collie been so much more suseptible to concussions than any other player it seems?)
- Pat McAfee (You better believe it, baby. That other "liquored up 'kicker'" is far and wide one of the best draft picks by the Polian's in the 6 year span from 2006 leading all the way until they were ousted after the 2011 season.)
So, to summarize, that's 12 players of 33 that have been worth even a dime in the NFL (not just the Colts). And, the margin grows even smaller if you consider players that were actually "good" players for the Colts. By my calculation 21%. To look at the entire downfall in total 47 players drafted from '06 - '11. And, factoring in those last two seasons only adds 2 (possibly 3) more players that were worth their weight in lard. Giving the Polian's the benefit of the doubt that's still 21% effectiveness in the draft.
But, I initially wanted to leave out 2010 and '11 for reason. And, I'm going to use this fact to make a point for both arguements. These free agent frenzies, if you recall, they didn't exist before the Grigson regime. The Polian's relied soley on the draft and CFA's to build "sustainable success." The quality of football players suiting up for Indianapolis were declining rapidly.
As a side note, I know all you naysayers like to turn coat at every opportunity to "prove" you're right. But, if you want to argue "the draft is a crap-shoot", consider this comparison. From '98 - '05 Polian was hitting on 32% of his draft picks. If his scouts had been as accurate in the later half of his tenure we'd have 5 other players who are playing elsewhere in the NFL to talk about. Also, the most "meaningful" pick of all, the first round choice, Polian hit 5 for 7 from '98 - '05. From '06 - '11 a mere 2 of 6. I'll reiterate my point, beginning somewhere between 2006 and 2009 the team started to deteriorate quickly.
So, I'll come back down to Earth afte floating away in the numbers to make this one simple point. There is always the possibility that at some point soon Irsay could detect (because he does have a respectable football intelligence) that his football team is losing quality. And, I find it hard to say that's happening right now. But, it IS a possibility. And, that's the only way Grigson is going anywhere any time soon.
Conversely, again, it's hard to argue this football team is getting worse. I'll put it this way. If you would be so kind as to agree with me that Grigson did a pretty damn good job drafting Andrew Luck, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, and Vick Ballard I'll do you (the naysayers) a favor. For the sake of arguement I'll throw the entire 2013 draft class in the garbage. Just completely throw them out. If not a single player in the 2013 draft class improves in ANY WAY following their rookies seasons and just prove to be all out busts... Grigson is still shooting 24%. That would be to say that LaVon Brazill, Josh Chapman, Coby Fleener, Bjoern Werner, Hugh Thornton, Khaled Holmes, & Montori Hughes are just absolutely not going to make it in the NFL. At least (as some have proven) not with Indianapolis. If that becomes the case, Grigson has still drafted better than the Polian's did during the down turn of the Colts roster.
And, if you would be kind enough to imagine with me a little, let's do so. We'll keep those 4 in the bucket. I'm going to toss in Coby Fleener because he seems to be improving. I'm going to toss in Khaled Holmes, because either he or Thornton are going to hit. I just know it. It's a gut feeling. If it's not him it's Thornton. Doesn't matter either way, we're counting bodies not characters in their name. Next, I'm going to get even more imaginative and I'm going to throw in Mewhort & Moncrief. They both, at this point, seem like pretty strong selections. A lot of people are warming up to the Mewhort pick. And so many, like myself, are excited to see how Donte develops. If we toss in just those 4 we're at 8 players. Give me a break here, despite my own personal opinion, I'm leaving Bjoern Werner out of the bucket. I did that for you, the grumpy one's. By doing that I've created a pretty interesting number. 36%. Not a staggering number. But, if you recall, that's still a higher percentage of "good" picks than Polian made leading up to Indianapolis' only Super Bowl victory.
I totally understand that a "good" draft pick doesn't necessarily mean that Grigson is drafting Dwight Freeney's & Reggie Wayne's. You're absolutely right if you're saying that to yourself while reading this. But, there's one thing that Ryan Grigson is doing that Bill Polian (we can talk about Chris Polian later) never did. And, that is infuse the roster with talent outside of the draft and outside of CFA's.
I'm going to come back to that thought. I stepped outside for a moment between paragraphs and I thought of a really fun game to play. I'll call it "UDFA's vs. CFA's". I think that's a rather clever name given Grigson's penchant to use CFA opposed to the more well known term UDFA. I'm sure at this point (if you're even still reading) you're arguing that while the Polian's draft % was lower, wait, wait, wait, I can hear you say it. "His talent in rookie acquisitions was greater because of the UDFA's he found." So, let's stack them up. Polian had a lot more years to stack up players so, you're going to have to give some leway on the selections for Grigson.
1. Mike Vanderjagt - Cody Parkey
Ok, so I'm gonna go year by year here. Parkey may never play a game for the Colts. But, i'll be nice and give the point to Polian.
2. Terrence Wilkins - Da'Rick Rogers
Rogers joined the team mid-last-season. So, it's hard to judge. Wilkins made a lot of contributions to the team and Rogers only scored twice and had that huge catch in the playoffs. Time kills again. Point Polian.
3. Jeff Saturday - Bradley Sowell
Sowell started at left tackle for Arizona this season. But, this would have never been close. Point Polian.
4. Justin Snow - Matt Overton
They're long snappers. This is a wash.
5. Dominic Rhodes - Zurlon Tipton
Tipton is Grigs first and only CFA running back. Point Polian.
6. Nick Harper - Loucheiz Purifoy
Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all? Point Polian. (At this point Polian has accrued 4 years managing the team).
AHA! Stealing this point. Acquiring Freeman was one of the very first decisions ever made as GM of the Colts for Grigson. Gary Brackett was the lone great decision Polian ever made for the MLB position. Point Grigson.
8. Ryan Lilja - Xavier Nixon
Damn! Right when I thought the tides were turning. 7-1, Polian.
9. Melvin Bullitt - Delano Howell
Ut-oh. If you've actually been able to keep up with the years at this point you should know the timeline is getting a little farther apart now. Jury's out on Howell. Point Polian.
10. Jeff Linkenbach - ...
Nixon is, to this point, the only offensive linemen to make the team under Grigson as a CFA. +1 Polian.
So, what was the final score there over a 14 year period? 9 to 1? Geesh. That's pretty rough. I will admit, there are some quality players on that list too. There's not much I can say about the absolute steals that Polian found in Jeff Saturday, Nick Harper, and Ryan Lilja. Undrafted? Geesh.
But, Ryan Grigson hasn't exactly been sitting on his hands. What if we leveled the playing field a little bit?
11. Terrence Wilkins - Hakeem Nicks
Anybody wanna argue if the Nicks signing pans out even a little Wilkins is still the better player? Didn't think so.
12. Dominic Rhodes - Trent Richardson
13. Nick Harper - Vontae Davis
Hm... that's a tricky one. I've got some tricks up my sleeve. I'm gonna give this one to Polian.
14. Cory Simon - Cory Redding
Did you see what I did there? 11-3.
17. Aaron Francisco - Laron Landry
18. Raheem Brock - Arthur Jones
19. Brandon Stokley - Reggie Wayne
Oh, hell yea, I went there.
20. Brock Huard - Matt Hasselbeck
11 - 9
21. Karim Abdul-Jabbar - Greg Toler
I'm just going to stop there. Beside the point I'm trying to make... who the hell remembers the Colts having a DB on their squad named Karim Abdul-Jabbar? Ha. Not making this up, people.
But, the point I'm trying to make is that while Grigson has struck out already a few times in free agency that's because Grigson is taking higher risks, and at a higher exposure, to build this team faster. I think I made a somewhat relevant arguement that in just 2 1/2 years as the Colts GM Ryan Grigson has added comparable if not at times better talent to the roster than the Polian's did in 11. And, you wanna know what the craziest part about all of this is? All of that I went through wasn't even the theory I came here to share.
Ryan Grigson isn't going anywhere for one simple reason. The 2012 Draft class. Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, & T.Y. Hilton. That's more of an NFL offense than the Rams have been able to form since drafting Sam Bradford 4 years ago. All the while, who's on the hot seat in St. Louis? Bradford!
No. I'm not trying to make some outlandish claim like Grigson will hang on to a job because he showed promise or something stupid like that. But, the simple fact is, Polian held on to his job for 6 seasons while the team was actually getting worse and worse every season simply because of Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, and two defensive All-Stars in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Mathis still has some tread left on him for Grigson. And, if he can't groom Werner, Newsome, or another draftee to at least produce half as much as either of those two he'll start striking out in free agency until he knocks one out of the park.
All the while, the football team is going to keep winning ball games. Because, Grigson has built a foundation in just 2 1/2 years. And, he has a Pro Bowl quarterback at the helm. As Tony Dungy used to like to say, "If it's not broken, don't try to fix it." As long as the Colts aren't cash strapped, Grigson doesn't keep making stupid decisions with draft picks like he did with the Richardson deal (which, I liked it first... I'll admit it...), and the Colts keep winning games the Irsay's are going to keep riding Grigson. Because that's what you do. You don't overhaul a team that won a playoff game after just one season after undergoing an overhaul. You start throwing other people under the bus first. "Landry hasn't played to the potential we saw in him when we signed him." "Unfortunately, Hakeem just couldn't stay healthy." "Jackson never became the vocal leader this team needed in the locker room."
Get it? In Grigson We Trust. You guys need to start getting used to that...
I'm going to add in a poll to this post just because they're fun. And, I like to know people are at least clicking on my posts. And, as always, you can always send me your thoughts on Twitter. @Ross_Wheatley