The Real Story with Irsay, Manning, Gruden…and Ryan Grigson

NFL Holds Annual Meetings Amid Lockout

(Editor’s note: Jim appears to have published this article on two sites. I’ve had a copy since Monday or so.  You can, apparently, also read it here: – MD)

I’m going to tell you a story. No, scratch that. I’m going to tell you the truth. Now in this instance, the truth is based upon news from my source, and only a handful of people can confirm any of this. Brace yourself…they won’t, and I won’t ask them to.

Yes, I know exactly what you’re thinking. Who even are you? What do you know from anything, and whom exactly is this “source” of yours? Why do you carry any credibility, beyond that you’re just looking for attention?

To be fair, all of those questions are perfectly legit. I would have the exact same questions if I was in your shoes. I’m just an average guy with exceptionally little hair. However, I’m a guy who was flat out lucky to be in the right place at the right time, when approached by someone who started to share information. Information that has proven to be absolutely correct.

Of course, I will not identify my source. Will anybody identify their sources? No, they won’t. The reason I won’t identify mine is because livelihoods are at stake. Not mine, mind you. I’m not paid to share things with you.

Why do I carry any credibility? That’s not something I can answer, nor will I attempt to influence you in any way. You are welcome to read my other articles recently posted, and see what came to pass. I welcome you to head to Twitter and read my timeline. I haven’t run with much on Twitter, however when I have, it oddly turns out to be accurate.

There is one simple reason I’m going to share this with you, and I only ask for one thing in return. I’m sharing it with you because I want you to know the truth. I’ve seen all the national and local PR angles on this. I’ve seen the swell of gratitude toward Jim Irsay for “trying” to improve his franchise.

I want you to know what happened behind the scenes the last several weeks. I want you to have the information at your disposal, and then you can decide to believe it, not believe, or to print this and use it as lining for a litterbox or birdcage.

What do I want in return? I want you to be mentally flexible. I want you to read this and think. Really think. I want you to have the information and be in a position to make informed decisions, because in one way or another, you are a paying Colts customer.

Peyton Manning and Jon Gruden potentially taking roles with the Colts has been reported, or rumored, for a few weeks now, depending on where you choose to find information. The Peyton Manning executive role idea was born back in November, as the 2006 Super Bowl championship team reunited to celebrate at a home game.

Manning and Jim Irsay began to informally float and discuss the possibility. Irsay surely was unhappy with his team and sought improvement. It sat in that state for the next several weeks.

Then came the loss in Oakland on Christmas Eve, finally ending the Colts slim playoff hopes. Yes, cosmetically they made it look much closer than it was, however the Colts were dominated until Derek Carr was knocked out of the game with a broken leg. Following this loss, Irsay was beside himself.

The way in which they lost, being battered for five straight touchdown drives and looking about as inept as possible, finally got to Jim Irsay. Got to him so much so that many of his senior executives spent the next several days at Irsay’s house. Yes, over the holidays. From the time the executives returned to Indianapolis on Christmas Eve, save for a very brief break or two, there was a sequestering. What exactly happened during that time is known only is small circles. However, an invited guest to Irsay’s home at some point during that time was Peyton Manning.

Why his home? Quite simply, the helipad made it very easy for high profile individuals to come and go without the attention it would garner at West 56th Street. High profile people such as Manning. It is not confirmed if Gruden actually was an attendee, however the idea of his candidacy was known and discussed.

Thereafter, the Colts finished their season with a not-so-rousing last second win over the terrible Jacksonville Jaguars. The same Jaguars who beat the Colts in London, and at that time “convinced” Irsay that he had to make changes. Media camped out at the Colts facility for Black Monday and was treated to an uncomfortable and generally awkward Chuck Pagano diatribe.

Between now and then, many things have been reported. Irsay’s plane being tracked to Houston following the Wild Card game, which happened to be broadcasted by Jon Gruden. Irsay, Manning and Gruden meeting together during that time.

The resulting storyline is that Jim Irsay made a “serious run” at Peyton Manning, and he sure tried to land Jon Gruden. Gruden declined, however Irsay remains hopeful of working things out with Manning. That is the PR feel good story that the Colts are floating, anyway.

Yes, those are the end results. The reasons as to why that happened are not public information, and the Colts don’t want that to be public. That would cast some shade on the PR story that they’re trying to get out in front of people.

Back to the pursuit. Two members of the Colts executive staff were called back early from their vacations last Wednesday night. They were to return to Indianapolis by Thursday, which led to speculation that it was to review and potentially finalize deals for Manning and/or Gruden.

That’s true, in part. A main reason for that executive recall was to run models on franchise valuation under various scenarios. Those models would be the basis of the equity “negotiations” with Peyton Manning.

The Peyton Manning deal died on the table, reportedly last Friday the 13th. I am by no means a financier and will note this in as simple of terms as I can. Irsay and his daughters could not come to an agreement that met Manning’s desires to convey equity. Manning wanted a small piece of ownership upfront in lieu of a sign on bonus, and then wanted what are called “warrants”, or an option to buy an additional minority stake down the road at a price tied to current value. Based on experience in mergers and acquisitions and creative finance, my source confirms that this is a very fair structure.

However, the Irsays wanted Manning to buy in upfront, at least in part, based upon a fairly inflated future forecasted value. A value which Peyton himself would be largely responsible for creating. Further, they wanted him to buy more equity later on, once again at an additional premium.

In other words, Irsay wants Peyton Manning as a partner, but only on his terms. Let’s say that I own a company and I want you to join as my partner. However, I’m not letting you buy in at current value or giving you a tiny piece of equity upfront. I want you to buy into my company, right now, at a much higher price than current value. A price that I’m demanding based on anticipated future company performance; performance that you would be largely responsible for creating and delivering.

But wait, there’s more! Instead of letting you buy in at current value down the road, after you helped drive my profits even higher, I want you to buy more ownership stake based on an additional premium. Sounds great, no?

No shrewd businessperson is taking that deal. Under those terms, the Irsays reap all of the upside of Manning’s efforts. Not surprisingly, Peyton said no, and the deal died. Sure, Jim Irsay is “still hopeful” of something coming together. Man, he made a serious run, didn’t he? Barring a miracle, like the Irsays making Manning a reasonable equity offer, Jim can hope all he wants. It’s not going to happen.

Now, this is where it gets even worse. Had the deal for Peyton Manning been successful, Manning would have unceremoniously offloaded Ryan Grigson. That’s right; Manning would have been allowed to fire Grigson. It didn’t come to pass.

This does not mean that the Gruden deal was tied to Manning. In fact, Irsay still could have secured Jon Gruden. All he had to do was part ways with Ryan Grigson. It has leaked that Gruden wanted total control, which is a bit of a misnomer. Gruden simply wanted Irsay to secure his own approved GM. Irsay declined, choosing to stick with Grigson.

Let that sink in for a minute. If the Peyton Manning deal was successful, it was fine to dump Ryan Grigson, hire Gruden as coach and get to the business of turning around the Colts.

Instead, the Irsay family pinched their pennies and tried to squeeze Manning into a deal he wasn’t comfortable accepting. This will prove to be even more ridiculous because some other franchise will ultimately give Manning his deal, namely Cleveland or Tennessee, and I fully believe that he will have great success.

Even after the Manning failure, Jim Irsay still had Jon Gruden; however, Irsay wouldn’t trust his end personnel judgment on his own, without Peyton Manning. It was full speed ahead with Gruden combined with Peyton Manning; it just wasn’t going to fly with “only” Gruden and a GM he would have chosen.

Now I know what you’re thinking. This is too far-fetched! There is no way Jim Irsay would try to railroad Peyton Manning and let Jon Gruden walk. It is mind-numbing, to be sure. I expect you to believe that firing Ryan Grigson was perfectly fine with Peyton Manning on board, but it wasn’t ok with Gruden alone?

Yep. That’s exactly what I’m telling you. Jim Irsay clearly doesn’t trust Gruden’s personnel ability, and simply wasn’t willing to source another GM if it wasn’t Manning. Jim Irsay literally passed on Jon Gruden and another GM in favor or Ryan Grigson and, most likely, Chuck Pagano.

Wait a minute. Irsay still hasn’t said that Pagano is safe! No, he hasn’t. He hasn’t said anything publicly since Black Monday. I also know that there are rumors that Chuck Pagano will be fired, and Irsay continues to search for replacements.

Two problems with this. First, if Pagano was gone, and Irsay was as displeased with him as we all want to believe, he could have already been fired at any point in time. He hasn’t been. Second? I know that nobody in their right mind wants to believe that the franchise is that big of a cluster. It just can’t be, can it?

Yes, it absolutely is that big of a cluster. Irsay can’t be stubborn enough to come back with Grigson and Pagano and pretend that none of this happened, can he? Yes, he absolutely can.

It makes less than zero sense, I know. Here’s the thing about Jim Irsay: right or epically wrong, once he sets his mind to a course of action, he doesn’t change.

I can’t say with 100% certainty that Chuck Pagano won’t be fired. After all of this fallout, maybe Jim Irsay sacrifices Pagano to try and save some face. Yeah, maybe he does. That doesn’t cure the problem.

Ryan Grigson isn’t going anywhere, folks. Irsay’s unexplainable loyalty to Grigson does have an upper limit: Peyton Manning could have fired him. Jon Gruden? Absolutely not. If only Irsay was serious about offering Manning a fair deal.

I can’t pretend to know why exactly Ryan Grigson has ingratiated himself so dearly to the Irsay daughters and Jim. My source has attempted to get that very answer, and in the end, it seems to be insanely simple. It seems that Jim Irsay sees Ryan Grigson as the son he never had. He always desperately wanted a son that played football that he could pass along the family business to, however had three daughters.

That is an insane reason to cloud your business judgment to the point that you ignore horrible job performance. Again, the franchise is a cluster under the Irsays.

I’m going to shoot you straight. Well, not that I’ve been sparing details anyway. Here is the ultimate truth: Peyton Manning isn’t coming. You really want to know why? Jim Irsay’s ego can’t tolerate bringing Manning in as a partner. Jim is Mr. Horseshoe, and not Peyton Manning, Bill Polian or Unitas himself is going to change that.

How can I say that? He had Peyton Manning at the table, requesting a very fair equity model, and balked. Not only did he balk, they tried to force Manning into a completely ridiculous deal. Now Irsay is falling back on the “serious run” PR angle, and what’s worse, I already see people buying it on Twitter.

Jim Irsay went into this without a net. He set his sights on Peyton Manning and Jon Gruden, and had them both at the table. However, when it finally came down to closing, Irsay wouldn’t make the extremely reasonable accommodations to secure either man.

There you go. There is the truth that you will not see printed anywhere else. You won’t see it confirmed by anyone, either. After all, that makes the franchise look even worse, no?

Now I know, you still find it hard to believe I’m doing this for absolutely no gain. Maybe I get a few new Twitter followers out of the deal? Maybe people think I’m nuts and unfollow or block me? I am more than comfortable with any of that. It’s not as if Twitter gets me anything.

I also know that some people just refuse to believe anything that isn’t confirmed by an Adam Schefter or even a Bob Kravitz. That’s fine by me. From the start I told you I’m not trying to convince anyone. Both men owe their livelihoods to their profession, and do great jobs. They also both can lose sources at any time.

In the end, Ryan Grigson is here to stay. Whether they replace Chuck Pagano or not, you have Ryan Grigson instead of Peyton Manning and/or Jon Gruden. I don’t need to convince you of anything. That fact alone should tell you all you need to know about the Colts franchise.


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