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How Ryan Grigson Has Taken The Indianapolis Colts From First To Worst

Indianapolis Colts fans are used to success. Since 1999, the Colts have made the playoffs 14 times and won their division 11 times in 17 seasons.

They not only had Peyton Manning for the majority of his great career, but they now have Andrew Luck, the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning, who having himself a great career thus far.

The key words being “thus far.” This is where the criticism comes in and none of it is on Andrew Luck, but the worst general manager in all sports (not just football) and an owner who really needs to fire the worst general manager in all sports.

There are three major reasons why the Colts have been as successful as they are. One is because the entire South division is about as intimidating as a Daffy Duck tirade.

Even right now the Houston Texans are on top with a 4-2 record, but two of their four wins are from within their division, a third against the 1-5 Chicago Bears and the fourth an upset of the Kansas City Chiefs. The times they’ve faced quality opponents (the 5-0 Vikings and 5-1 Patriots), they’ve been creamed.

Two is because the Colts had Bill Polian running the team from 1998 until 2012.

Polian is a recent Hall of Fame inductee and while I personally have questioned if he left some great players and championship opportunities on the board later in his career, there’s no denying that he had an amazing career as a front office architect.

He did a good job in making sure that Peyton Manning had a good offensive line and great receivers to throw the ball to and a quality run game.

The third and final reason is because their divisional rivals have been either rebuilding and/or incompetent for close to two decades. The Titans were run by a great coach in Jeff Fisher who likes to construct his team the hard way around run game, great defense, and not focusing on scoring a lot of points.

That’s not the best way to build a team and Fisher’s record shows that.

Even now, the Titans are still trusting Mike Mularkey to be the head coach and many sports fans couldn’t tell you anything positive about him and his career 21-42 coaching record.

The Jaguars have gone through their own phases of general incompetence and front office work. They drafted Blaine Gabbert, Justin Blackmon, Tyson Alualu, and Luke Joeckel before finally getting a first round pick right with Blake Bortles.

They still need a new head coach over Gus Bradley and they still need more consistency from Bortles and their drafts.

The Texans have only just now taken over because the Colts have gradually depleted themselves of talent over the last five seasons. They could’ve gotten there two years soon had they not made the ridiculous error of drafting guard Xavier Su’a-Filo over quarterback Derek Carr, who has been an excellent young player in Oakland.

These criticisms of the overall division is to highlight that if Grigson was a relevantly competent GM, he’d have no problem with this division since he’s got a top 10 quarterback at worst in Luck.

Once a team has that elite passer, it is so much easier to win games.

So just how bad is Grigson? He’s easily the worst in the NFL. There’s no competition. Outside of the 2012 draft and a trade for Vontae Davis, he’s been a guaranteed miss for the most part. In 2012, he got Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.

Right now, Fleener is in New Orleans having a career year better than all but one of his four seasons in Indianapolis, showing the Colts missed out on maximizing a good player. They also could’ve drafted linebackers Bobby Wagner and Lavonte David and wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey over Fleener.

Since Hilton was drafted in the third round 92nd overall in 2012, the Colts have missed or underachieved on virtually every draft selection since then. Let’s go over in detail.

Highlighting the ineptitude of the 2013 Colts draft is Grigson botching the 24th overall pick on defensive end Bjorn Werner. While simultaneously passing up on cornerback Xavier Rhodes, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, center Travis Frederick and safety Matt Elam in the first round alone. The Colts did not have a second round pick as they traded it to the Miami Dolphins for cornerback Vontae Davis. An excellent move as Davis has made two Pro Bowls since then.

The rest of the entire 2013 draft class is no longer with the team except for the average third round guard Hugh Thornton, who is currently on injured reserve. What makes this an error is Grigson chose Thornton over fourth round tackle David Bakhtiari, who recently earned a lucrative contract extension with the Packers and is a top ten player at his position now.

Going forward to the 2014 draft, the Colts had no first round pick as Grigson thought it wise to trade it for NFL all time draft bust Trent Richardson. Granted, Richardson was young and had been in Cleveland, but it’s Grigson’s job to analyze tape and the Cleveland tape showed that Richardson’s running ability didn’t translate to the NFL and he quite inexplicably forgot how to play the position.

Cleveland ended up trading the pick to Philly for the 22 spot to get Johnny Manziel. If the Colts keep their draft pick and trade up to that spot, they could’ve gotten Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett over the Chargers. If the Colts don’t trade from 26, they still have a chance at a quality player like safety Deone Bucannon or defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

Where the Colts failed to do their homework again is drafting offensive tackle Jack Mewhort in the second round over both Pro Bowl receivers Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry since Reggie Wayne was almost done with his career. Grigson did end up addressing the receiver position with the next pick, but I think Colts fans would say that third round pick Donte Moncrief has been anything but a steal.

Grigson also passed on Trai Turner, who has become a Pro Bowl guard with the Carolina Panthers and Devonta Freeman, a Pro Bowl running back with the Atlanta Falcons. His final three draft choices are no longer with the Colts.

The Colts did go to the 2014 AFC title game after upsetting the Denver Broncos, but suffered Deflategate and a beatdown against the Patriots and it was back to the drawing board in 2015. But owner Jim Irsay should’ve been looking for another GM because Grigson only continued his failures.

There’s GMs who pick for need or best player available. Then there’s GMs like Ryan Grigson who looks at his roster and says, “Ah! I have signed Andre Johnson and still have Donte Montcrief  and T.Y. Hilton as receivers. Let’s complicate things by drafting another one.”

Hence the reason I’m sure a lot of Colts fans were booing at their draft parties when Philip Dorsett was announced as the Colts first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft over safeties Damarious Randall and Landon Collins or linebacker Stephone Anthony.

Grigson spent the next four picks trying to upgrade the defensive line and secondary, but seeing as the Colts are STILL near the bottom of the barrel in points and yards allowed on defense, it’s safe to say these players, while young, aren’t looking good for the future and cornerback D’Joun Smith is now a Detroit Lion.

Out of his last three picks, only offensive tackle Denzel Goode is still with the team.

Let’s not harp on the 2016 draft class as they are still rookies, but the outlook is grim considering the team has gotten worse since last year and now are last in the AFC South at 2-4 primarily because Grigson is inept at his job.

To recap everything, from 2012-2015, Grigson has had 30 draft choices. 11 of them have been in the first three rounds and 19 in the fourth round onward. Since the 2014 first round pick was traded for Trent Richardson, he will represent an additional first round pick to evaluate. The same goes for the 2013 second round pick which was traded for Vontae Davis.

Round one: Luck is an obvious hit. Werner is a big bust. Richardson is a mega bust, how he traded for him is beyond most analysts. Philip Dorsett looks like a waste of a pick due to lack of opportunity and/or talent. That’s 1/4 in the most important round.

Round two: Fleener is gone, but was a good tight end when they had him. Vontae Davis has been a great corner with the Colts, so that’s a great addition there. Jack Mewhort is a solid guard and the 2015 second round pick was traded to the Buccaneers along with a fourth for a third and higher fourth. So, that’s 3/3 somewhat for Grigson, but don’t forget that he picked Fleener and Mewhort over better players.

Round three: Allen and Hilton are hits with Hilton as an A+.  Hugh Thornton is an okay guard who is injured right now and Donte Moncrief is an underachieving wide receiver at best while Henry Anderson has done nothing to make himself memorable. 3/5 there and that’s being generous.

First three rounds: 7/12 overall if I’m generous with the two guards. Luck and Hilton are great. Vontae Davis was a great trade and his best decision besides taking Hilton (Luck is too obvious to be called a great decision). The two guards are decent. Montcrief and Anderson are irrelevant at the moment. Allen and Fleener are solid. and the three remaining first round picks are busts or closing in on it.

Rounds four-seven: Let me make this quick. 16 of these picks are not on the Colts anymore and the three who are, are from the 2015 draft so who knows about their future. That’s 3/19. Overall combined, Grigson is 10/31 on draft picks. Talk about a scary number in more ways than one.

Owner Jim Irsay gave Grigson an extension despite this and his reported major differences of opinion with head coach Chuck Pagano. Grigson, instead of taking responsibility for his failures at the draft board, has blamed Andrew Luck’s big contract for the Colts inability to improve defense.

Well, what about his draft choices that have only helped the team decline even before Luck’s big contract? Luck can’t win without a team around him and draft picks are cost effective for a reason.

The first three rounds are where you get your starters and good general managers find great talent there. Grigson has done that twice. You get depth in the fourth round onward and great general managers find those project depth players and make them starting material or even into Pro Bowlers.

This is where Grigson’s value is further revealed. Most of a GM’s picks won’t be Pro Bowlers, but if you’re a good GM, you’ll find depth spots for these guys and special team places because that’s how you build your championships teams without sacrificing your cap to free agency.

That’s how the Ravens, Steelers, Patriots, Giants, Broncos, Seahawks, and Packers have won championships the last few years.

At the end of the day, the Colts are committed to Grigson for the time being, but if they lose enough, he will lose his job. The only question is how long will it take? It could be this year, the next, or worse. But unless the light turns on in Grigson’s head somehow, Colts fans should get used to losing.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com