There’s at least one thing that Colts general manager Ryan Grigson deserves credit for so far this season, and it’s his presence in the media. For much of his first four seasons in Indianapolis the GM was out of touch and out of the public view, which wasn’t always a good look - particularly when things go wrong like they did last year.
This year, however, Grigson has been much more forth-coming and has done plenty of engagements with the media. Every week he answers questions from fans on a local radio show, and then we’ve also seen him do several other one-on-one interviews so far this year. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out as well - like we saw last week when he seemed to blame Andrew Luck’s contract (which was just signed this offseason) for the trouble building a defense (which has been the case for the past four seasons, too). But a benefit of engaging with the media is also that Grigson has the chance to address those comments later on.
That’s what he did in a recent interview with WTHR’s Bob Kravitz, who asked him a question regarding how Luck’s contract impacts building the team and, particularly, the defense.
“I think even a way to look at it,” Grigson began, “I’m being completely transparent of where we are fiscally, the environment we’re in when you make those type of investments, not only signing our own and the huge contracts we did, and that’s T.Y. [Hilton], [Anthony] Castonzo, all those guys including our quarterback, you’re in a different fiscal environment than you’ve ever been before, that’s just the facts. That’s the reality. But we have to be able to, within that environment, we have to be able to hit like no other on the draft. Those select free agents that we are able to sign, that we do have the funds to sign, we have to nail them. And we expect to. We have to nail the college free agents, we have to get lucky on a couple of street free agents like Rashaan Melvin. We’ve got to be able to hit on those guys, and it is what it is.
“It’s really no different, I think if you even look at in the past here, Dwight [Freeney] was a part of that great defense, was a part of the great teams that were here before us. They had gotten him off a 6-10 season, and then they hit on Robert [Mathis] with a fifth round pick. We have to be able to do things like that. I have to be able to find those type of players late in the draft, because our resources are shrunk to a degree. I do like always trying to acquire extra picks and we’ve been successful doing that in every draft for the most part, so the more picks you get the better, the more comp picks you get the better, that gives you health going forward from a big picture perspective, like the real sound teams do in the NFL. And I want to follow that model. So we have to be great at the draft and all those other parts of it.”
Grigson’s comments help to clarify what he meant about it being hard to build a defense, as he wasn’t trying to say that Luck’s contract was to blame for the defensive struggles but rather that it simply makes it more complicated and makes their moves even more important. And while you can still build a great defense with an expensive quarterback (look at the Broncos), Grigson is right in emphasizing the need to hit on their picks and their signings even more now than in the past. Grigson was open about his struggles in free agency in the interview, saying that they need to be better at it, and he added that he thinks the past couple of drafts have been good in adding a lot of starters.
One other aspect of free agency that Grigson mentioned was the cap situation, which he talked about after discussing his free agent moves. “It’s got to be better,” he said of free agency, “and now we’re going to have to be a lot more selective with our free agents and we’ve got to hit on those guys and make sure we can fit here in a lot of different ways, even just from a locker room standpoint, a character standpoint, and so forth. But the other thing I think gets left out of the equation a lot is how our contracts are structured for these free agents. We have a lot of flexibility in the out years. And it keeps us in really good cap health because we’ve been very disciplined in our approach from a cap sense.”
The cap situation and the structure of a lot of the contracts is certainly something the Colts have done well, as they’ve for the most part been able to get out of free agent mistakes without owing a ton of dead money. That will continue to be important moving forward as the Colts operate with some higher-paid players, starting with their quarterback.
It was a very good and honest interview overall from Grigson, particularly when he spoke about the criticism he’s received. Most people (especially with the Colts) like to tell the media that they don’t hear any of the outside noise and just tune it out, but Grigson was honest in saying that because he likes to know what’s going on around he league - including how other teams are doing, whether guys are getting in trouble, etc. - it’s impossible to ignore the criticism entirely. He specifically mentioned how last year some of the things that were said about him were totally false (such as the idea that he just forces things and decisions on people against their will), but that his job as GM is to take the bullets. He said that he’s not afraid to call someone out on a false report, but that for the most part he has to keep his focus on his job and try not to listen to the criticism - something he says he strives to do.