As the Indianapolis Colts begin a search for their next general manager, we already know of one candidate who will get an interview and consideration for the job: Colts VP of football operations Jimmy Raye III.
Raye will act as essentially the Colts’ interim GM in the meantime, just without the title. Jim Irsay said that Raye, along with head coach Chuck Pagano, will handle the Senior Bowl efforts this week. Irsay said that he talked with Raye on Saturday afternoon about the details of leaving for the Senior Bowl on Monday and some issues with the team.
Make no mistake: Raye seems to be a legitimate candidate for the job, not just one who will be a throw-away interview or someone who could simply satisfy the Rooney Rule. No, Raye seems to be a guy who will get serious consideration from the Colts about a promotion to general manager. So who is he?
Raye is the son of a Jimmy Raye II, a long-time coach at the NFL level. The younger Raye has been working in the NFL for quite a while as well, as after a brief stint as a player with the Kansas City Chiefs he wound up becoming an offensive quality control coach for the Chiefs a few years later, in 1995. The next year, he was hired by the San Diego Chargers as a scout, a job he occupied for the next four seasons. In 2000, he was hired by the Chargers as their director of college scouting, and he served in that role for eight years before again being promoted to director of player personnel in 2008. He filled that role for five years until, following the 2012 season, he was passed over by the Chargers for their general manager opening in favor of Tom Telesco. Though Telesco said that he wanted to keep Raye around, Raye instead left to fill Telesco’s old job as the VP of football operations in Indianapolis.
In his four years with the Colts, Raye has served as the right hand man to Ryan Grigson and has had a role in a number of areas of roster development, such as the roster moves, cap dealings, and free agent signings. Raye’s big contributions seem to have come through the draft, however, as he’s been involved in draft preparation, NFL Combine work, prospect visits, and since 2014 has been in charge of the Colts’ undrafted free agent signings.
“He is unique in that he has a great blend of football pedigree along with a deep scouting acumen, but his unwavering honesty and integrity is what I feel sets him apart,” Grigson told Colts.com about Raye last year.
Colts fans probably don’t like to hear Raye praised like that from the unpopular former GM, but take heart: one of the things Grigson said he liked about Raye was that he wasn’t just a “yes man” and wasn’t afraid to disagree with Grigson. Said Grigson:
“I think anyone will tell you that Jimmy Raye is the furthest thing from a ‘Yes Man’ there is in this league, and that is critical for someone in my position. Quite frankly I don’t like to hear some of his opinions sometimes, because I may be leaning very hard in a certain way and express a passionate position in an animated way, but Jimmy is someone who can hit you right back between the eyes with a well thought-out alternative perspective in a very matter of fact way.”
Jimmy Raye also agreed with that assessment:
“I think it helps him make better decisions. I take a lot of pride in that. Being that person for him that’s a voice of reason that can give him the tough conversation when he needs it and tell him exactly what he needs to hear. Sometimes he doesn’t want to hear it, but at the end of the day, I think he appreciates my honesty and candor with him.”
Throughout his career, Raye has developed a reputation both with the Colts and around the NFL as a very respected personnel man, so it’s hard to determine how much blame he should shoulder for the Colts’ failures in the draft and free agency recently. And throughout his career, Raye has proven to be capable of finding guys through the draft and free agency. With the Colts, for example, Raye has helped find guys such as Zach Kerr, Jonotthan Harrison, and Denzelle Good. Two of them were undrafted, and the other was a seventh round pick out of Mars Hill.
With the Chargers, Raye experienced even more success. It’s hard to remember because it’s been so long ago, but there was a period in the mid-2000s when the Chargers were a really, really good team. They won the AFC West in four straight seasons (2006-2009) and in 2006 they went 14-2 and were the top seed in the AFC playoffs. Raye played an integral part in that, as he played a role in drafting LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, and others, as well as signing Antonio Gates as an undrafted free agent and making a trade for Philip Rivers in the 2004 NFL Draft. So understand that Raye had a role in bringing in two franchise quarterbacks and a future Hall of Fame running back during his time with the Chargers. In addition to all of that, from 2000-2012 (Raye’s time as the director of college scouting and director of player personnel with the Chargers), San Diego led the NFL in college free agents who made the 53-man roster.
At the very least, Raye is a guy who’s perfectly capable of leading the Colts’ draft efforts right now as the GM search gets underway. But Raye will also be a candidate for the Colts’ GM job, just like he’s been a candidate for a number of GM jobs in recent years as well. And while a number of Colts fans won’t like the move because it’s a “Grigson guy” who might be in favor of keeping Chuck Pagano around, Raye’s resume in the NFL is impressive and he’s a well-regarded personnel man. There’s nothing wrong with making him a candidate for the GM job, nor with having him serve as the interim GM in the meantime.