The Monday Morning Quarterback is currently doing a series on the 100 most influential people in football for the 2015 NFL season. There are all kinds of people on the list, from players to coaches to general managers to executives to owners to league executives to journalists and others. The list has so far gone through numbers 41-100, and there have been three general managers revealed on the list so far (out of 60 people total): the Broncos' John Elway came in at number 91, while the Buccaneers' Jason Licht came in at number 89. A full 29 spots ahead of Licht, however, is the highest-ranked general manager currently revealed on the list so far: the Colts' Ryan Grigson, at number 60.
Here's what the MMQB's Gary Gramling wrote about Grigson a few days ago:
Drafting Andrew Luck was the easy part. The more challenging task—and the one by which Ryan Grigson, the Colts' 43-year-old general manager, will ultimately be judged—is finding the right pieces everywhere else. This is Grigson's fourth offseason trying to do just that in Indianapolis. There has been good (drafting T.Y. Hilton, trading for Vontae Davis), bad (signing Hakeem Nicks), ugly (trading away Jerry Hughes) and unspeakable (dealing a first-rounder for Trent Richardson). But there's no reason to play the role of Captain Hindsight, not with the Colts on the verge of very big things. Grigson's margin for error gets smaller after this season; Luck's cap hit, just a little more than $7 million in the fourth year of his rookie deal, will more than double next season and skyrocket when he gets his new contract. So Grigson filled glaring weaknesses with short-term solutions: Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, Trent Cole. Then the GM delivered a head-scratcher on draft day: In their triumphant return to the first round (the 2014 pick went to Cleveland in the Richardson debacle), the Colts seemed to go the luxury route with speedy Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett, a similar player to Hilton who figures to be the fourth wideout on a team that also uses two tight ends frequently. Then again, with the Patriots weakened by big losses in their secondary, and with Indy just months removed from a playoff win in Denver, Grigson might be thinking his team already has what it needs to get to Super Bowl 50. He might not be wrong.
Why is Grigson so influential for the 2015 season? It's simple: he's the architect of a team that is among the favorites for the Super Bowl, who has made a lot of moves this offseason to try to get there, and has a superstar quarterback who is due to receive a mega-extension soon.
I've already written multiple times this offseason how Grigson did things exactly the way that he needed to this offseason in signing veteran players, considering that he will soon need to hand out extensions to Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Anthony Castonzo, Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener, among others (the Colts might not be able to keep them all, but their contracts will all be up soon). But with that said, there are many people who have criticized the Colts for adding so many veteran players in free agency, such as Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, Trent Cole, and Todd Herremans. That's usually not the way you want to go about free agency, but it's the way Grigson did things this offseason. There is clearly a reason for it and it's a smart one, but there are still people who criticize the Colts for it. The pressure is on Grigson for those to work out.
Furthermore, the Colts' selection of Phillip Dorsett in the first round was criticized by many, though that criticism seems to have worn off a bit as people realize how good of a player Dorsett can be. But everyone knew the Colts needed defense, yet with their first round pick they added another offensive skill player. Another move that might be smart by Grigson, but a risk nonetheless.
And then we come to the point about contracts. Andrew Luck is under contract for 2015 and also for 2016 since the Colts picked up his option, but it's expected that the Colts will give him a new mega-deal next offseason that will almost certainly make him the highest-paid player in the game. Along with that, star wideout T.Y. Hilton will be a free agent after the season, as will left tackle Anthony Castonzo and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Grigson will have to be incredibly smart as he and cap expert Mike Bluem work with the salary cap, and the contract situations will be a reason for people to keep an eye on Indianapolis.
In short, there's no doubt that the 2015 season will be the biggest test for Ryan Grigson yet. There's no more rebuilding for the Colts; they're ready to win now and there are many who see them as a Super Bowl contender. Grigson made a lot of veteran free agent signings this offseason and invested heavily in the offensive side of the football when the team desperately needed defensive help. Furthermore, the contract situations of a number of Colts will likely also loom over the 2015 season as well. There's a lot of pressure riding on Ryan Grigson, and for a number of the reasons already mentioned, the MMQB ranked him as the 60th most influential person in football for the 2015 season, the highest ranking for a general manager so far on the list.