Colts fire general manager Ryan Grigson after 5 seasons
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Ryan Grigson spent everything he could to bring another Super Bowl title to Indianapolis.
He paid a heavy price for coming up short.
On Saturday, Colts owner Jim Irsay fired his general manager after five up-and-down years that ended with Indy missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98.
''We are in the business of professional football and that is the business of winning,'' Irsay said during a 20-minute news conference at the team headquarters. ''It's about winning and you do everything you can to make sure you are in the position to win, period.''
After almost three weeks of silence from the Colts, the assumption was that Irsay would again surprise Colts' fans by keeping Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano for another season.
Instead, Irsay took time to analyze his own franchise and sought advice from outsiders such as former Super Bowl-winning coach and current ESPN commentator Jon Gruden. Eventually, he reached the same conclusion fans did weeks earlier - a change was needed.
So a little more than a year after announcing Grigson and Pagano had both received contract extensions through the 2019 season, Grigson is out.
As for Pagano, his immediate future is still with the Colts.
''He is our coach for 2017,'' Irsay said. ''The new general manager will come in, evaluate our whole football program and we will see where we are at. Again, I hope Chuck can be our coach for many years to come. He is our coach this year.''
Grigson's blunt personality didn't always mesh with Pagano.
Irsay even acknowledged last summer he asked the two men to resolve their differences before giving them new deals. On Saturday, Irsay said they got along better than the public believed and cited a statement issued later by Pagano as evidence.
''I'm grateful for the opportunity Ryan gave me,'' Pagano said. ''We shared many great memories, moments and victories together over the past five years.''
But others inside the building also didn't get along with Pagano, and it became abundantly clear as word leaked that Grigson was out.
''Thank God. `Unwarranted Arrogance' just ran into a brick wall called karma,'' Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee posted on Twitter before Irsay made it officials.
Former receiver Reggie Wayne wrote ''Now we can play ball....!''
Former linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who played for the Chicago Bears last season, chimed in with ''Well that took longer than expected.''
Grigson also was reviled in New England because of his role in the Deflategate scandal.
It was Grigson who tipped off league officials that Tom Brady used improperly inflated footballs during the 2015 AFC championship game, a violation that eventually led to a four-game suspension for Brady as well as a fine and the loss draft picks for the Patriots.
Five years ago, all this seemed unfathomable.
Grigson looked like a genius after hitting it big with his first four draft picks - quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and receiver T.Y. Hilton - and used a series of shrewd, cost-effective moves to turn a 2-14 team into a playoff team. It went down as one of the greatest turnarounds in league history.
But when Grigson, the gambler, drafted first-round bust Bjoern Werner in 2013, traded a 2014 first-round pick to Cleveland for Trent Richardson and then loaded up on a group of aging, high-priced free agents to make a Super Bowl run in 2015, Colts' fans grew anxious and eventually angry because they didn't see a direction or progress.
Even worse, the 44-year-old former offensive lineman never quite put together the offensive line Irsay expected to protect his franchise quarterback.
Luck missed 10 games because of injuries over the past two seasons and was sacked 41 times last season. He also recently had surgery on his throwing shoulder, an operation Irsay believes will help Luck get getter.
And with potentially $60 million to spend in free agency this year and a chance to get the Colts righted for the prime years of Luck's career, Irsay couldn't afford to take any more chances. He had to get it fixed.
''I really felt that the time was right to make a change, that we needed some new direction in the vision of our football program,'' Irsay said.
Now the questions are all about Grigson's successor.
Irsay said vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye III will interview for the job and will accompany Pagano to next week's Senior Bowl festivities. Rumors over the past few weeks in Indy have centered on Peyton Manning.
Don't count on it.
''There were never any serious negotiations or anything like that for him coming in to be general manager,'' Irsay said. ''I would welcome the opportunity for him and I to talk about that possibility someday that he would play some role in our organization.''
During Grigson's first three seasons, Grigson's teams went 11-5, won two division titles and reached the 2015 AFC championship game.
The last two finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs, first with Luck out for nine games then with Luck healthy for all but one in 2016.
''There is no question in my mind that this was the right move for the franchise,'' Irsay said.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.