AFC South writers weigh in on Colts offseason decisions


The Indianapolis Colts opted to retain not only coach Chuck Pagano but also to extend GM Ryan Grigson’s contract following a tumultuous 2015 season. Was it the right move?

One of the best parts of ESPN’s NFL “blog” network is the interaction between the team writers. Today, Mike Wells posed the question of whether or not owner Jim Irsay made the right decision when he doubled-down on the Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson duo.

The entire season was plagued by reports that the relationship between the two was “toxic” and that it was inevitable that Pagano wouldn’t be re-signed following the end of a very disappointing season. This wasn’t just a few reports here and there, every local reporter and a number of national ones were saying the exact same thing and these stories started long before the season began.

We heard reports of Grigson meddling with the lineups (which was reinforced by baffling Trent Richardson-ness), Pagano not being able to pick his coaching staff, and a general dislike between the two.

To their credit (more or less) the two men sat down with Irsay and were able to hash out their differences (we assume). That led to nearly all of the coaching staff being fired and replaced by people Pagano picked out, even though we can debate whether or not some of those firings were warranted.

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It is safe to say that this whole move was a huge shock to Colts fans and the media back in January. But was it the right move? The three other AFC South writers all expressed concerns over the matter but looked at if from different points of view.

Paul Khuharsky covers the Titans, but used to be ESPN’s sole AFC South blogger. He liked the continuity aspect, but notes that both coach and GM are deeply flawed at their jobs. Yes, there has been success with Grigson and Pagano but often times it seems to be in-spite of the two and has relied deeply on Andrew Luck heroics.

Grigson has whiffed more often than he’s hit on both free agents or draftees, while simultaneously failing to keep Luck upright. For every big win against the Broncos or Seahawks, there are blowout losses to the Patriots or Steelers (or Rams or Cowboys).

Khuharsky feels that this offseason has been better for the Colts and might be a sign of an upward trend for the team. He also notes that there really isn’t a great alternative to Grigson or Pagano out there either.

Tania Ganguli covers the Texans for ESPN. She thinks keeping both or neither was the only option available for Irsay. To pick one over the other would have either sent a horrible message to the players (firing  a beloved coach like Pagano) or hamstrung a future GM (with a coach he might not want).

The Texans are currently in that boat with a GM and coach that didn’t come in as a duo and she believes that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a problem (noting that this has set the Jaguars back a few years). One of the biggest issues for the Colts struggles last year was Luck’s health. Most owners would chalk the season up to injuries and forgive a bad year (2011 notwithstanding), and that is exactly what Irsay ultimately did.

Irsay essentially said “we’re too reliant on Luck to win and without him at 100 percent, we struggled. Therefore I’ll bring back the guys in charge and hope they can keep him healthy enough to improve our results.” While both Grigson and Pagano have multi-year deals, if Luck is healthy and the team struggles, there is reason to believe that management duo won’t be given much leeway.

Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco isn’t buying that Grigson and Pagano are playing nice with each other. He believes that this is a ticking time bomb that could potentially sink the season when the two blow up. Given the reports all last season it isn’t unreasonable. There was an awful lot of bad blood between the two and a few hours with the boss hardly seems like enough for them to kiss and makeup.

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This still seems like a very tenuous relationship and one that Irsay will have to manage closely this season. Winning is the ultimate cure all in the NFL and can mask even the biggest issues. If the Colts get off to a hot start in 2016, we won’t hear a peep from either side about a rift.

Another slow start and we could be seeing cracks forming at an alarming rate. The Colts would have to completely fall apart for either Pagano or Grigson to be fired at the end of the season, but it isn’t impossible.