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Injury to Andrew Luck highlights Ryan Grigson's failures to improve offensive line

Ryan Grigson has failed to adequately improve the Colts' offensive line, and now star quarterback Andrew Luck is hurt - something that owner Jim Irsay certainly will notice.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

I'm of the opinion that a general manager shouldn't be criticized for injuries.  When injuries are used to say a GM has made bad moves, I think that's pretty lazy analysis.  For example, when people criticize Grigson for signing Arthur Jones because he's now been injured in two straight seasons, I don't put much weight into it.  Grigson doesn't have a crystal ball and he can't foresee those injuries happening.  It stinks, yeah, but it's not Grigson's fault.

So this article isn't one focused on blaming Grigson for Andrew Luck's injury.  But it is an article pointing out this fact: Grigson has not done a good job of protecting the quarterback.

Andrew Luck gets hit a lot.  Way too much, in the minds of most fans.  Certainly, the fact that the Colts throw the football a lot adds to the number of hits, but the line still hasn't been good.  Part of that can be attributed to the fact that the Colts have used 86 different offensive line combinations since Luck entered the league, according to ESPN Stats and Info (the second-most in the league during that span).  And part of it is simply because the Colts don't have an overly talented offensive line to begin with.  Furthermore, the Colts have committed the fourth-lowest annual salary on their offensive line of any team in the league during that same time span (according to ESPN), which doesn't tell the whole story (thanks to the rookie wage scale) but at least paints part of the picture.

There are some who would say that the Colts can and have won with a sub-par offensive line, and they'd be right.  There are others who would say that Ryan Grigson has actually addressed the offensive line but just done so poorly, and they'd be right.  I don't think it has to be an either/or thing: the offensive line needs to get better, but the Colts can still win with a sub-par offensive line.  And the Colts have tried to address the offensive line, but they haven't done a good job at scouting the players they have added.

But really, this article isn't about this discussion, either.  Because regardless of your opinions on the offensive line, there's one person who's opinion ultimately matters when talking about this subject, and it's Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay.

This is the owner who publicly said this offseason that he wants to win multiple Super Bowls with Andrew Luck at quarterback.  This is the owner who, before the playoffs started in January, emphasized that the Colts have the responsibility to surround Luck with talent that can win a title.  This is the owner who said that this season was as anticipated as any that he could remember for his team.  This is the owner who, according to multiple reports, will not be as patient with his management and coaching staff this time around due to his desire to win multiple titles with Luck under center.  This is the owner who, when asked about the Colts' biggest needs earlier this offseason, pointed to the right tackle position as one of them.  And this is the owner who, in 2013, tweeted that, "I DEMAND better" protection of Andrew Luck.

See, you can say whatever you want about the offensive line being an overrated area of need for the Colts, but owner Jim Irsay clearly expects the team to protect their franchise player.  And if you were the owner of a sports franchise with a young star who is the face of your franchise, you'd want the same, too.  Irsay has very, very high expectations for the Colts with Luck at quarterback, and he knows that in order to do that they need to protect him better.

So that brings us to this point: Jim Irsay will certainly notice Andrew Luck's injury.  He's been watching his quarterback get hit often through the first three weeks, and now he's seeing his quarterback appear on the injury report with an injury to his throwing shoulder - one that has caused him to be limited in practice this week.  And the Colts seem to, at least to some degree, think that the poor offensive line play had a part in the injury.  When asked what play Luck was injured on, head coach Chuck Pagano simply said, "pick one of them."  In other words: he's been hit so often that you could point to any number of plays as the one on which Luck was hurt.

Bringing us full circle, the Colts have not done a good enough job addressing the offensive line and protecting Andrew Luck, and now Luck is injured.  It seems the Colts think the injury is at least in part due to the poor offensive line play, and Jim Irsay sees Luck as his franchise quarterback and a player who he can win multiple titles with.  So with Luck now appearing on the injury report, it's a reality check: they haven't done a good enough job of protecting Luck.  And if he's not healthy, the Colts aren't winning a title.

Jim Irsay isn't going to make any overreactions or sweeping changes right now.  But with the uncertainty surrounding the future of head coach Chuck Pagano, I don't think anyone is necessarily safe in the front office either.  Especially if Irsay wants to make a big-name head coach hire, it might have to mean cleaning house and finding a new GM as well.  It's just speculation at this point, but I'm sure that seeing his star player hurt will resonate with Jim Irsay.  And I don't think that should be a particularly comforting thing for Ryan Grigson.  After all, it's one thing to play with fire, but it's another thing to get burnt by it.  You notice more when you get burnt, and it serves as a more lasting impression than simply messing with fire.  Ryan Grigson has played with fire by not improving the Colts' offensive line, and now the Colts are being burnt for it with an injury to Andrew Luck.  Jim Irsay can't help but notice that.