• Colts coach Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson have seemingly been on the hot seat for years now, so why hasn't owner Jim Irsay fired them yet?
By Chris Burke
January 04, 2017

There will be ample time in the weeks and months ahead to analyze what the Colts need to do to fix their roster, through free agency or trades or whatever.

For now, though, here’s what owner Jim Irsay should do: Something. Anything.

Indianapolis’s coach (for now?) Chuck Pagano said Monday during his season wrap-up press conference that he doesn’t “have any reason to believe that I wouldn’t be” still at his post next season. He added that he had yet to have his end-of-season meeting with Irsay.

Sure, that’s understandable—the Colts’ season ended Sunday afternoon, so it’s hardly absurd that Pagano and Irsay would decompress a bit before sitting down. But the longer Irsay drags out any decision about the futures of Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson, the more he wedges himself in between a rock and a hard place.

Six other NFL teams already are in need of a coach and/or GM, and the majority of them have set the wheels in motion on finding those hires. If Irsay opts today or tomorrow or next week to cut bait on Pagano or Grigson, he’ll already find himself well behind the 8-ball in chasing the perceived premier candidates.

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His other option—staying the course—might be an even more egregious miscalculation. The Colts did finish just a game out in the AFC South, but clawing their way to a mere 8–8 came almost entirely on the back of Andrew Luck. The roster as a whole is well off being championship-caliber.

A significant amount of blame should fall on Grigson, who has been unable to stop the gradual depletion of talent over the past couple off-seasons. He did hit the jackpot in Round 1 of last year’s draft with center Ryan Kelly, but his work both via the draft and free agency otherwise has been spotty at best.

Move the Colts into another division and their issues would be highlighted further. Only the AFC South’s continued run of mediocrity kept the Colts moderately competitive in 2014 or ’15.

“I think continuity is huge,” Pagano said Monday, via the AP. “We live in, I call it the Burger King mentality. Burger King world, I want it my way and I want it now, that’s reality. Sometimes you have to go through some stuff to get places.”

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Which is all well and good, except that it’s very similar—OK, not the Burger King part, but the rest—to what Irsay said after last season, when he announced, in a mild upset, that he would retain (and extend the contracts of) Pagano and Grigson: “My focus and our focus was always on winning. And going forward, with the best way we can to win... continuity plays a role. It’s important. You like to have continuity when you can have it.”

Continuity is important, no question. When organizations bounce too quickly from regime to regime, they wind up stuck with situations like those currently facing the 49ers or the Bills.

Continuity is not enough on its own, though. Relying on the familiar was how the Rams locked themselves into five years of 7–9ish ball under Jeff Fisher. It’s part of why the Bengals have been good but never great during the Marvin Lewis era. Eventually, a team has to show meaningful progress.

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Have the Colts done that under Pagano and Grigson? If anything, just the opposite has happened.

Perhaps Irsay doesn’t feel like Pagano or Grigson’s job security needs to be addressed (he’s wrong on that front, given the questions aimed at Pagano Monday). Maybe he is working on a move behind the scenes, hence his quiet front.

Whatever the answer, all we’re left with for the moment is speculation. And the longer Irsay goes without clearing the air, the harder it will be to bounce back in 2017. There is not much time to waste if Irsay wants a fresh start. There’s not much recent evidence to support the status quo.

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