The Indianapolis Colts' 2015 season hasn't gone like anyone expected, as the Colts sit at just 4-5 after their bye week and facing an extended period without their franchise quarterback. Another subject that has become a recurring storyline throughout the Colts' disappointing season, however, has been the coaching and management situations.
The Colts and head coach Chuck Pagano didn't agree to a contract extension before the year, making him a lame duck. Reports have emerged that there are disagreements between Pagano and general manger Ryan Grigson that go beyond the normal in NFL complexes, with reports suggesting that Grigson has taken control of things that are typically reserved for coaches, such as personnel decisions and coaching matters.
Grigson doesn't talk publicly much, but today he appeared on 1070 the Fan with Dan Dakich and talked about a variety of things, but most notably his relationship with Pagano and those rumors. Grigson said about what you'd expect him to in that him and Pagano get along well (though, in my opinion, the interview sounded like Grigson downplaying the issues as nothing abnormal rather than denying that problems exist).
Another common report we've heard tossed around is that Grigson was the driving force behind the hiring of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton in 2013 and that Pagano wanted Rob Chudzinski instead, but that is something Grigson denied.
"Yeah, that's kind of something that I don't quite understand," Grigson said about those rumors, "because it was really probably one of the easiest decisions that Chuck and I had to make in these almost four years. At the time, B.A. (Bruce Arians) was still our coordinator when Chud was hired as head coach of Cleveland, so obviously his name was never brought up in the discussion. That wouldn't make much sense. We're really happy he's here now. But shortly after B.A. was hired, we had a pool of names at that point of the year and you have to move fast. Those guys get gobbled up quick. So we could have went with guys that were maybe more ready, that had a lot of skins on the wall as a coordinator, and we had them targeted. But the whole premise from the beginning was how we were going to approach this thing here and the motto that we were going to use was, you know, I was a rookie GM, Chuck was a rookie head coach, Andrew was coming off of a rookie year, we wanted to grow together, and we didn't want to have a coordinator who maybe on paper was more accomplished or more well-read but we wanted someone that wasn't going to be one-and-done that [left] our quarterback needing three coordinators in three years.
"So that's why Pep was the easy choice," Grigson continued. "We wanted stability. We wanted someone that had familiarity, and that was really just a no-brainer. And he did a heck of a job while he was here, and thank goodness we had Chud as a fallback option because when you have a hot name and you have someone who's in demand like Pep was, and rightly so from the success we were showing on the field and what we were doing offensively and the wins, but at the same time, when someone's in demand and has people wanting to interview him for both college and pro jobs pretty consistently, you have to have plans B, C, D, E, and F so that you can still remain competitive. So that's that."
As Grigson mentioned, the timeline in the hiring process is worth noting. Rob Chudzinski was hired as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns on January 10, 2013, while Bruce Arians wasn't hired as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals until January 17, 2013. So even if Chud was Pagano's first choice, it wouldn't have been possible for the Colts to hire him. The Colts surely knew that Arians was likely going to get another job, though, and as Grigson noted, they needed to have backup options, so it's entirely possible that in Pagano's mind he was thinking about Chud as a replacement if Arians did leave. That option couldn't become reality, however, as Chud was off the market by the time Arians left the Colts.
Either way, however, it's not as if Pep Hamilton was a fallback option - Ryan Grigson was clear that he was the easy choice and the guy the Colts wanted. He said that it was a decision that he and Pagano both agreed upon.
"No. Never," Grigson responded when asked whether he forced Pagano to hire Pep. "It was almost a loose conversation like, ‘that's a no-brainer.' There were two other guys and we were like, ‘are we going to go with this guy or this guy?' They're both legit and one of them was a head coach the very next year just like we figured. So to me, it just fit the bill. It fit, it was year two for us, you had another piece that we could all grow together with, including myself and Chuck and our quarterback. It's not very often that you get someone with a young quarterback that did as much as Andrew did, even going through what he did with his head coach being out and B.A. taking over and then losing B.A., but then he gets a familiar face.
"It was all about the quarterback in a lot of sense and it usually is in this league. So you didn't want to make the transition, as smart as Andrew is and as resilient as he is, you want to make that as easy of a transition as possible. So when a guy falls out of the sky that coached him two years previously that he has tremendous respect for and intelligent and is going to run an offense that is coveted by our coach and what we wanted to begin with, which is establish a strong running game and all those things, it just fit like a glove."
Ultimately, the results of hiring Pep Hamilton were mixed. There's no doubt that the Colts offense had success under Pep, as in 2013 they had the fewest turnovers in franchise history and in 2014 Andrew Luck set a franchise record for single-season passing yards and led the league in passing touchdowns. This year, however, the offense was struggling and the Colts simply felt that they needed a spark. So, after their week eight loss to the Panthers, the Colts fired Hamilton mid-season and replaced him with Rob Chudzinski.
"In this league, we were stuck in the mud there for a while and things weren't working so you have to make a change, that's the nature of the business," Grigson said. "It's tough, and Pep's a heck of a coach and he's going to continue being a heck of a coach. It's just the nature of this league. It's tough business, and that's why every day you have to make tough decisions."