Lost in the ugliness of today’s game for the Colts is that the Raiders and Colts actually provide a great contrast of teams trying to build around a franchise quarterback.
First, let’s start with the Colts. In 2012 the Colts hired general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano, and they were gifted one of the best quarterback prospects in years in Andrew Luck, and they began to put a team around him. Grigson went to work over the next several years trying to build the supporting cast around Luck: he threw a bunch of money at the offensive line, but it’s still a problem. He drafted a pass rusher in the first round (Bjoern Werner), and he didn’t work out. He drafted a wide receiver in the first round (Phillip Dorsett), and he hasn’t worked out. And he added defensive pieces, yet the defense is among the worst in the NFL. Five years in, it’s impossible to argue anything other than this: the Colts haven’t really gotten much better.
Now let’s compare that with the Raiders. They hired general manager Reggie McKenzie in 2012, and after two rough seasons he drafted Derek Carr in the second round and he began to put a team around him. McKenzie went to work over the next several years trying to build the supporting cast around Carr: he threw a bunch of money at the offensive line, and now the Raiders have one of the very best in football. He drafted a pass rusher in the first round (Khalil Mack), and he’s developed into one of the best in the league. He drafted a wide receiver in the first round (Amari Cooper), and he’s been terrific. And he added pieces to the defense, though it’s still not great. But five years in, it’s impossible to argue anything other than this: the Raiders have gotten a ton better.
So you’ve got two general managers who actually have done similar things trying to build their teams around franchise quarterbacks, and in fact Grigson has the clear edge because he had a head start: he got Luck in 2012 as opposed to Carr in 2014, and also McKenzie didn’t hire Jack Del Rio as coach until 2015. Both Grigson and McKenzie have a franchise quarterback, both tried to buy a good offensive line, both spent first round picks on pass rushers and wide receivers - and yet the Raiders are heading to the playoffs with a 12-3 record and the Colts are staying at home with a 7-8 record.
No, Reggie McKenzie has not had more ‘success’ than Ryan Grigson - McKenzie’s heading to his first playoff berth with the Raiders, while Grigson’s been in three postseasons and made an AFC Championship game. But if we’re measuring general managers by how they’re doing building their teams, you’ve got quite a contrast in these two men. One of them has built a good supporting cast for his young franchise quarterback and is heading to the playoffs; the other has a pretty bad team overall surrounding his young franchise quarterback and is staying at home for the second straight year in January. How’s that for a comparison? Reggie McKenzie has done a heck of a job building his team. Ryan Grigson? Not so much.