Sporting News has named Colts general manager Ryan Grigson NFL Executive of the Year, capping off a surprising 11-5 season, and one the greatest turnarounds in NFL history. Grigson edged out Denver Broncos general manager John Elway in a 9-8 vote. The honor puts him in elite company, with the likes of Dan Rooney, George Young and former Colts GM, Bill Polian. He had already been named executive of the year by Pro Football Writers/Pro Football Weekly just a few weeks earlier.
Said Grigson, “My staff put together a list of names. We looked under every rock known to man, but if we didn’t have coaches who believed in us and believed in what we were doing and in developing young talent, then we would have never realized our ceiling on the field this year. I can’t say enough about my staff and those around me, especially the coaches.”
Grigson oversaw an Indianapolis Colts draft selection process that yielded quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill and running back Vick Ballard during the first 6 rounds. All were instrumental to an 11-5 season that culminated in a playoff appearance virtually no one saw coming at the start of the season.
It was also Grigson who chose Chuck Pagano. Together, Grigson and Pagano appointed Bruce Arians interim coach while Pagano underwent treatment for leukemia.
Perhaps most striking was how he managed to put together a workable roster while weighted down with $38 million in dead cap money. Losing players like Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, Joseph Addai and safety Melvin Bullitt was no trivial thing. But Grigson was relentless in his scouting and signing of quality players like safety Darius Butler, Canadian Football League linebacker Jerrell Freeman, cornerback Cassius Vaughn, tight end Weslye Saunders, kick returner Deji Karim, Center Samson Satele, and Guard Winston Justice. He even got stud cornerback Vontae Davis in a trade with the Miami Dolphins.
After a 2-14 season, and with cap constraints to work with, it’s hard to argue with the results. No one imagined the Colts would even sniff the playoffs. Many wrote them off as a rebuilding team at least 2-3 years away from reaching contention. While there are still many holes to fill in the roster, 2013 should prove to be an interesting year, as the Colts will be among a small handful of teams with loads of cash to spend. With another good draft, and some smart agent signings, the Colts may prove to be closer to greatness than anyone suspects.