INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Ryan Grigson landed his dream job Wednesday.
After spending more than a decade on the road, scouting for St. Louis and Philadelphia, the 39-year-old Indiana native is coming home to rebuild the Colts possibly with a new coach, a new quarterback and an entirely different philosophy. For the first time, Grigson will be making all those tough decisions.
“I’ve been on teams whose guys were run off for the sake of running guys off,” Grigson said after agreeing to a four-year deal that includes a team option for a fifth year. “That makes no sense to me. I like to salvage things if the ability is there.”
There’s no time for on-the-job training, either, with the Colts coming off their worst record (2-14) in two decades and fans expecting an immediate turnaround.
Then the new GM must sort out Indy’s complicated salary cap problem, a major concern for an aging team bereft of young talent and a young GM with little experience with the cap.
The Colts also must decide whether to pay a $28 million bonus to four-time league MVP Peyton Manning by March 8, renegotiate the contract or let the face of the franchise walk away as a free agent now that it looks as if the Colts will take Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in April. Grigson said he hasn’t spoken with Manning, who missed the entire 2011 season after having his third neck surgery in 19 months.
Grigson also must decide which veteran free agents, if any, to bring back. That list includes Pro Bowl players Robert Mathis, Jeff Saturday and Reggie Wayne, all in their 30s.
Plus, the young GM must replace the highly-respected and powerful Bill Polian, who led five teams to the Super Bowl including two in Indy and was the architect of the most successful decade in league history. Polian, the team’s vice chairman, and son Chris, the team’s general manager, were fired last week, openings that led to Grigson’s hiring.
“He is not walking into a normal situation,” Irsay said. “When you have the No. 1 pick, when you have the salary cap problems we do, when you have injured players we do, when you have the coaching situation we do, this is a tough job to come into, but he’s not without support. We’re going to make the right decisions to win.”
While it looks like a tough spot for Grigson to succeed, he’s beaten longer odds.
In 1992, the Purdue offensive tackle took a hit in the abdomen and was later admitted to a hospital with a life-threatening kidney ailment. Both of Grigson’s kidneys shut down for two weeks, he lost 30 pounds and battled pneumonia while struggling just to sit up in bed. Two years later, Grigson was elected team captain and played so well that the Bengals drafted him in the sixth round.
Grigson never made the Bengals’ roster, playing instead with the Detroit Lions in 1995 and 1996 before jumping to the Canadian Football League for one final season. A back injury forced him into retirement.