Earlier this offseason, the Indianapolis Colts only extended a small, one-year contract extension to head coach Chuck Pagano, something he justifiably turned down. Since that moment, things have continued to escalate, perhaps most notably with the tension between general manager Ryan Grigson and Pagano that has led to a mess internally as the team has struggled to a 3-5 record.
The Colts have said that the tensions between Pagano and Grigson haven't had an effect on them as they tune out the noise, but that has always been hard to believe. According to the Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder, the talk has indeed impacted things, so much so that a players-only meeting was held last week, led by guys like Robert Mathis and D'Qwell Jackson, as the team tries to refocus on the field and not the noise surrounding their head coach. Holder wrote that some players have really felt the weight of the tension and that was the reason why the players-only meeting was called. Holder wrote that the intent of the meeting wasn't to "gripe" about their coach's position but instead try to save their season by moving on from "an unhealthy environment" and focus on winning.
Just as interesting, however, was Holder mentioning one of the reasons why the tension has been weighing on players: they notice Ryan Grigson and management dictating who plays. Wrote Holder:
Chief among them: coach Chuck Pagano and his staff are being directed to follow lineup decisions — usually the coaches' prerogative — made by the front office, something numerous NFL sources confirmed. This has been a recurring source of irritation for Pagano and his coaches. During the past several weeks, and even dating to last season, there have been instances in which, sources said, players approached Pagano or his assistants with suggestions or requests, only to be told they could not act on the ideas because of forces beyond their control.
This franchise is just a mess. We've heard about Ryan Grigson making lineup changes (such as with the center position last year) and how he's controlling a lot of it, but it sounds to be an even bigger issue than many realized. Basically, Pagano is being told who to play, and even when the players come to suggest ideas, the coaches can't act upon them because of Ryan Grigson's control.
It's an absolute joke. I mean, there's not much more to say about it, and it all starts with owner Jim Irsay. His decision to not extend Chuck Pagano this offseason led to a ton of uncertainty about the head coach that, according to this report, really has been affecting the locker room - so much so that a players-only meeting was called as a result. And then Irsay's willingness to totally empower his general manager to meddle in coaching decisions is baffling considering Grigson has not established himself in the NFL. It was one thing to give total control to Bill Polian, who had earned it, but it's a completely different thing to give it to Grigson, who was never a general manager before until he was hired by the Colts.
I really don't know how you can read a report like this and come away with any other conclusion than that the Colts need to clean house and move on from Ryan Grigson in particular. The coaches haven't been great, but it sounds like their hands are tied as Grigson tries to pretend he's better than he really is. The tension has weighed on the team, and it sounds like the franchise is just as much of a mess as many have feared.