I have two favorite bands. I consider one my all-time favorite and the other my newer favorite. My all-time favorite band is Van Halen. I have never been fortunate enough to see them live, and I hear that 2003/04 show at Deer Creek (or whatever it was called back then) was absolutely amazing.
I’m one who can appreciate the David Lee Roth version of the band yet admit that they simply went to another level when Sammy Hagar took the front. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (clever, fellas) was pretty outstanding.
Probably my favorite track on that 1991 chart-topping album was Runaround. The opening guitar riff, power chords and drums and Hagar’s supernatural voice are a perfect combo.
Speaking of getting the runaround, I can’t help but watch what’s going on (or not going on) with the Colts and shake my head. The early morning national media leaks last week that Ryan Grigson was assured he will return. The follow-up from national media that this would include Chuck Pagano as well. The continued silence from Jim Irsay, leaving fans and the local media to speculate.
Then Saturday, word emerged about the plane trip to Houston, which just so happened to be hosting a Wild Card game broadcasted by Jon Gruden. Whether Jim Irsay was on the plane and if any discussions with Gruden actually happened is still largely unknown.
Eight days after Black Monday, there’s still no statement/announcement directly from Irsay, or the Colts, about the team’s direction and football leadership for the 2017 season. Yes, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano are still under contract. No, neither Jim Irsay nor the Colts are obligated to make any type of statement if it is in fact business as usual, which last week’s national media tweets indicated.
Here’s the rub… the vast majority of Colts fans are pretty irate. Now I say vast majority because I’ve seen tweets and message board comments from fans who are behind the team regardless, fans who have braced for Grigano Part 6 (and please God and/or Hollywood, never let that become a movie franchise). I’ve also seen a bit of back and forth about the whole “real fans” topic. The gist of it is fans who are behind the team no matter what have gotten after fans who are upset about the team’s current direction and claim that they’re done supporting the team, or not renewing season tickets
Despite how horribly this situation has been handled so far, I truly believe that Jim Irsay cares. He certainly cares about the franchise and winning, and I think he cares about the fans and their opinion. I also know that Jim is pretty media conscious and he realizes the continued silence is horrible optics.
Although he cares, here’s the thing: Jim Irsay operates on his own plane of existence, and it’s one that is tough to understand from the outside. His current thinking is that if he can’t get “home run” replacement hires, it’s better to stand pat with what he has. Even though it’s become crystal clear over the last two seasons that what he has is bad, and only gets worse by the year.
That the Colts are in this spot right now is based largely on the fact that Irsay decided to part ways with Bill and Chris Polian after the 2011 campaign. Make no mistake, it always irked Irsay that Bill Polian got the credit for that regime’s success, while he was seen merely as a check writer.
That led Irsay to change course, moving away from a President of Operations who had the power over the roster and football decisions. Ryan Grigson was hired to be a “more traditional GM” in the words of Jim Irsay. Really what that meant was Grigson would have personnel clout, however not be the absolute voice on decisions. Irsay would serve as the ultimate go/no go vote.
It is Irsay’s reluctance to reverse course (again) from that decision, and the whiff in hiring Grigson and Pagano that torment the franchise. The decision itself wasn’t horrible, had Irsay selected better candidates for GM and coach. I think what has ultimately proven to be Irsay’s critical mistake was selecting both a first-time GM and coach in 2012, combined with the lack of a clear direction from a seasoned and successful executive.
In his heart of hearts, I think Jim Irsay knows that the two guys he has aren’t all that good. That makes his reluctance to do an upfront house cleaning that much more puzzling. The NFL operates on back channel discussions. Very few GM or head coach searches happen where the hires were honestly not known ahead of time. I’m not saying it never happens, just not that often.
Irsay is keeping Grigson and Pagano on the back burner while he searches for home runs. Bear in mind, Adam Gase wasn’t universally seen as a home run hire last offseason. All he did is take the Dolphins to a Wild Card berth in his first year at the helm. I’m not saying the Colts would have wanted or landed Gase, had they moved on from Pagano. However, if Gase had his choice between the two jobs, you have to think the AFC South and Andrew Luck running his offense would look pretty good compared to playing the Patriots twice a year.
Instead, Irsay is chasing the Sabans, Grudens and Harbaughs of the coaching world. Men who would only come on board if they were given total personnel control, or would have a major hand in picking the GM who would join them. In theory, these would be solid moves. The catch? Irsay’s current setup is not appealing to these types of coaches.
Now, if Irsay were to ask me what to do, I would gladly give him some advice. The truth is, he has to make one move in order to get the franchise back on track. The one move he seems so unwilling to make. Irsay must hire an executive with a clear direction for the franchise, and empower that executive to make the decisions necessary to carry out such a plan.
The thought has crossed his mind, as the reports of Irsay pursuing Peyton Manning are absolutely true. Manning would be that executive setting the clear direction, either working directly with the head coach or appointing a General Manager to oversee the roster. The structure wouldn’t much matter, as the franchise would essentially function the same.
The problem? As I covered in my last article, Manning wants equity in the franchise, and Irsay made that a no-go during initial discussions. So why not bypass that issue and give total control to one man as coach/GM? That is a far riskier alternative, for one. The other problem? He is not getting a Nick Saban or Jim Harbaugh type without having an executive in place to make football decisions for the future, rather than his daughters having control when that time comes.
That’s no slight on Irsay’s daughters in any way. Let me be clear on that. This issue exists right now with Jim sitting at the top of the chain. In order to get the types of home run hires that Irsay wants, he has to appoint a successful and seasoned executive to lead the franchise into the future, under a clear direction.
If you’ll only consider home runs to replace the mess you currently have, you have to be willing to make all reasonable accommodations in order to secure those home runs. The Bill Polians and Peyton Mannings of the world are not available very often.
Otherwise you’re chasing your tail, giving yourself and your fans the runaround. And that, as we’re currently seeing, isn’t a recipe for success. Times Like These call for full measures in order to Miss the Misery, or else Colts fans will be left again waiting for Next Year. Ain’t It the Life?