When owner Jim Irsay made the decision to keep both general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano around moving forward, he made one thing very clear: their futures are tied together.
Irsay made it a point to note that Grigson is "contractually tied" with Pagano, meaning that since Pagano was extended four years through the 2019 season, Grigson was given a three year extension to also run through the 2019 season. "[Ryan Grigson] and Chuck, they're both going forward together," Irsay said. "Chuck made a point of that unsolicited, alone in my office. I had no problem with that. We're not announcing anything or anything like that along Ryan's line, but yes, Ryan contractually is going forward with Chuck. We're not going to have an update on Ryan Grigson in June. We're moving forward. This is our team. These are our guys. These guys are ready. Like I said, there's been a lot reported, a lot written. Like I said, I know what the reality is and this is definitely what's best for the Indianapolis Colts going forward. I'm sure of that."
While Irsay's point was regarding the contracts, there's a bigger sense to it as well. Simply put, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano don't always get along, and that's putting it mildly. There have been a ton of disagreements in recent years, from things like the coaching staff to personnel to who plays on Sunday, leading to tension in the front office. It's hard to imagine that situation not affecting the players and the overall team. In fact, according to reports, the Colts held a players-only meeting last year as they tried to drown out the distractions caused by the front office tension.
Jim Irsay wants to believe that Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano are his guys moving forward. He wants to believe that they can get things worked out, that they can put their differences aside and that they can get the Colts to the Super Bowl. That's why he extended both guys and is moving forward with them despite everyone expecting him to do otherwise. But he's also putting them on notice: their futures are tied together. By making the point that they are contractually tied going forward, he's making the larger point that if they can't get things figured out, they'll both be gone. It's not that "which one was worse?" discussion that so many fans were having in the weeks leading up to Monday, it's simply this: either they get it figured out or they'll both be fired together. They are, in many ways, tied together.
The hope, then, is that this would lead to more unity and that this would lead to them working together better moving forward. There will still be disagreements (as there are with any NFL front office and with any GM/coach relationship), but they can't let things get that bad again. My guess is that Irsay has redefined and made clearer the responsibilities of each and likely gave Pagano some more say, trying to ease that tension.
"We agree to disagree," Pagano said Monday, "but at the end of the day, you leave every meeting with a handshake and a hug and you say, ‘Okay, look, it's about one thing and one thing only. It's about the team and it's about making decisions that are best for the Horseshoe.' It's not about me. It's not about Ryan. It's not about any one person. I've talked since day one about team first, self-second and serving. We're both here. We're honored and privileged obviously to be able to serve this organization and Mr. Irsay and his family and this community for another four years. That's a blessing. We're both humbled by that. Again, we're going to do everything with the Shoe in mind, period, what gives us the best chance to win and what's best for this football team."
That's easy to say but much harder to do, and Jim Irsay is taking the risk that Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano will be able to work things out. If they do, that's great for everyone involved, but if they don't, they'll both be gone, as they're tied together moving forward.