When the Colts fired Ryan Grigson, I assumed, like most other people, Chuck Pagano would closely follow Grigson out the door. To slightly paraphrase Jim Irsay’s words from last year, Pagano and Grigson were tied together. They were like love and marriage. They go together like a horse and carriage. And yes, I hummed that song as I typed. Needless to say, I was shocked when the Pagano wasn’t fired soon after. While some of the guys at the Draft Indy podcast clearly don’t have any idea what a horcrux is, I assume Pagano must have his very well hidden to survive. This of course assumes the overly optimistic Pagano has a darker side in order to create the horcruxes but I digress.
Then, after listening to Chris Ballard’s press conference and interviews, the picture started to become much more clear regarding the relationship between Grigson and Pagano. Grigson was the only authority on who the Colts signed in free agency or drafted. It appeared he barely consulted anyone else and trusted his opinions above all others. From former players’ tweets, Grigson rubbed people the wrong way with his brash style of trying to intimidate anyone who opposed him. He was the man who would be King. Yeah, that never seems to work out well.
As we all know, Pagano is more of a defensive-minded coach intent on running a 3-4. However, Grigson continually undercut Pagano’s efforts to build a formidable defense. If you look at Grigson’s draft record, he drafted only one 3-4 OLB who actually played that position in college, Trevor Bates, in the 7th Round of the 2016 draft. Bates was cut and immediately signed by the Patriots. Also, Grigson drafted an NFL low 4 defensive backs. Yes, that includes both cornerbacks and safeties. When you know defense has been a continuous Achilles heel year after year, you would think building a defense by drafting young talent might be a wise decision. Grigson instead decided to barely draft defense at all and rely on overpaying in free agency.
Grigson also drafted 10 offensive linemen. Now you can’t be too mad about that because he was attempting to protect Andrew Luck, but you’d have to think more than a couple of those picks would be at least moderately successful. Regardless, Grigson kept trying to find offensive linemen to plug in instead of help build talent on the rest of the roster like I’d guess was Pagano’s desire.
With Ballard, Pagano gets a very different style as a general manager. Ballard has already candidly admitted he will make mistakes. Anyone ever hear that from Grigson? Anyone? Ever? If Ballard makes a mistake, he likely won’t continue trying to force the coach to prove him right. He’ll say lets turn the page and move on for the betterment of the franchise. Ballard has already started rectifying Grigson’s mistakes by cutting D’Qwell Jackson and his overpriced contract. This is likely just the first of many cuts to come.
Ballard came from franchises where the GM and Coach are on the same page or at the very least in the same book. They work together to bring in the best players for the system. Grigson never did. Ballard is a former coach. He’s got an eye for talent. Ballard doesn’t seem like the guy who will force a square peg into a round hole and call it gritty. He’ll call it dumb because it doesn’t put the franchise in the best position to succeed.
Pagano never seemed to get this type of support from Grigson. Irsay tried his best to cultivate their relationship but sometimes you’ve got to eradicate the weeds in order for the crops to flourish. Pagano may finally have a say in bringing in talent he feels will better the team and not be beholden to where a player is ranked on the draft board. Anyone really think Pagano, like almost all of Colts fans, wanted to pass on Landon Collins for Phillip Dorsett because, for still some unknown reason, Dorsett was ranked higher? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
For someone that was consistently pessimistic of Grigson for a number of reasons, it’s refreshing to hear Ballard’s perspective on running a franchise. It’s refreshing to hear the heaps and heaps of unsolicited praise the Colts received from highly respected front office and talent evaluators for hiring Ballard. It’s refreshing to truly have a new hope.
For the first time in years, I’m optimistic about the Colts direction moving forward. You should be too.