Owner Jim Irsay of the Indianapolis Colts during media day for Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. Photographer: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire
Indianapolis Colts

McMullen: Irsay set Colts back years by extending both Grigson, Pagano

(Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

Misdirection is a big thing in the NFL, usually involving offensive play calls.

There are other ways league powerbrokers use that mindset, however, and one of them unveiled itself in Indianapolis on Tuesday when Colts general manager Ryan Grigson tried to go all David Blaine on his constituency by releasing two of his defensive starters, veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie and linebacker Sio Moore.

It’s almost NFL tradition now that when you fail in London, someone is going to have to pay, and after the Colts dropped to 1-3 on the young season by failing to complete a late rally against previously winless Jacksonville, Grigson and, to a lesser extent, coach Chuck Pagano, tried to take the bullseye of their backs by putting it on two of their underperforming defensive players.

The sleight of hand probably isn’t going to work, however, unless Indianapolis figures out a way to compete with Houston at the top of a bad division over the final three-quarters of the season.

Grigson is probably the main culprit here because he’s done an extremely poor job of building a roster around star quarterback Andrew Luck.

Meanwhile, releasing Cromartie was like putting the proverbial Band-Aid on the broken leg when you consider the descending former Pro-Bowl player was a late signing anyway who was only brought in because projected starters Vontae Davis and Patrick Robinson were dealing with injuries.

With Davis and Robinson already back and nickel corner Darius Butler on his way, the 32-year-old Cromartie was likely always going to be the odd man out anyway and it was just sped up a bit when Pagano benched him for the second half in London after Jaguars’ WR Allen Robinson, not exactly a slouch, beat the veteran for a TD.

Moore, meanwhile, was acquired in a trade with Oakland at the beginning of the 2015 season and settled in as part of an ineffective inside linebacker rotation next to D’Qwell Jackson.

While Moore was the biggest name in a trio that also includes Josh McNary and rookie Antonio Morrison, he proved to be a major liability in coverage so Grigson decided to rearrange the deck chairs on his Titanic.

The bottom line here is that if you are releasing meaningless pieces of your defensive rotation on the Tuesday after Week 4, you are desperately searching for answers you don’t have and, perhaps more importantly, will not be finding.

Back in the offseason, Colts owner Jim Irsay surprised many by not only by keeping both parts of a tandem (Grigson and Pagano) that didn’t like each other and did not seem to work well together, but also extending them through 2019.

It was a vote of confidence to both men and also a nod to the fact that professionals don’t need to get along personally to do their jobs.

“I’m banking on the investment we’ve made in both of these men,” Irsay said back in September before the season began. “I think it’s going to pay off. In the end, you guys know me, it’s about winning. I make decisions with professional football. This is about winning. It’s not about being cruel, it’s about professional football. We have to win in our business. So you try to make sure you’re making the toughest decisions needed to win. And I think Ryan and Chuck understand that.”

That said, in a relationship like the GM/coach one in the NFL, getting along and trusting one another is a helpful dynamic and it’s becoming rather obvious that Irsay should have shaken things up in some way back in the offseason — whether it was keeping only one or jettisoning both.

Misdirection like Tuesday’s moves in Indianapolis may get you through a week in a bad year, but it’s not changing the endgame for the Colts and that means some hard decisions for Irsay that will end up being made even more difficult because he foolheartedly “contractually tied” together Grigson and Pagano.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.

McMullen: Irsay set Colts back years by extending both Grigson, Pagano

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