The Indianapolis Colts are currently 8-4 and in the running for a wild card slot in the AFC. Many give credit to its franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, interim coach Bruce Arians and an assortment of role players who have stepped up in bringing Indy back to playoff contention status in so short a period of time.
Coach Chuck Pagano also has a hand in all of this, as he has inspired the team and the city with the CHUCKSTRONG battle cry.
However, it's about time Colts GM Ryan Grigson be given much-deserved credit.
To note, here are some highlights of what Grigson has done for the Colts so far:
a. Hired ex-Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator and 28-year football coaching veteran Pagano on January 25.
b. Brought in veteran defensive end Cory Redding on March 14. His presence in the defensive line has helped propel the team to 12th in terms of opponents' third down conversion percentage at 38.8 percent.
c. Tapped the services of Donnie Avery to shore up the receiving corps on March 23. With Luck's shovel pass, Avery charged into the end zone to complete the comeback win at Detroit on December 2, solidifying Indy's hold on the first AFC wild card slot.
d. Selected Andrew Luck first overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. More than just filling the departed Peyton Manning's shoes, Luck is having a great season to the extent that some football experts such as NFL.com's Adam Schein consider him to be the front-runner for MVP.
e. Drafted wide receiver Eugene "T.Y." Hilton out of Florida International University in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He earned the distinction of being the first Indianapolis Colt to catch a touchdown reception and return a punt for a touchdown in the same game in a 20-13 home win against the Buffalo Bills in Week 12.
Prior to the Colts' success this season, Grigson inherited a team coming off a dreary 2-14 campaign in 2011. One of his biggest challenges was the quarterback situation.
Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck?
In a November 14 interview with Michael Marot of the Associated Press, Grigson revealed his strong resolve in the face of a difficult decision.
When asked about Manning, he said, "First of all, how do you replace him? You look at him and he's a great player, and he's still a great player. But I knew from a fiscal standpoint and an age standpoint, I knew that we had to change if we were going to have success in the future."
Clearly, Grigson and his team were looking at the Colts' long-term future from the get-go. With the selection of Luck and Manning's departure to the Denver Broncos, both men have enjoyed stellar seasons which has benefited the two fan bases as well.
In another interview with Dan Dakich of Indianapolis radio station WFNI, here is what Grigson had to say when it comes to evaluating and signing players:
"Hey, listen, we're here to find players. Doesn't matter where they're from. Doesn't matter what their life story is. As long as they're good human beings, love the game, and produce on film, and at least have adequate size and seem to play fast, we'll give them a shot."
With this in mind, Indy's current 8-4 record through Week 13 of the regular season speaks loudly of how Grigson has built this team. He has had stints as a national scout for the Super Bowl XXXIV champion St. Louis Rams in 1999 and an area scout for the same team in its NFC Championship season of 2001.
In addition, he was also a western regional scout for the 2004 NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Clearly, Grigson knows what it takes to build a contender.
By putting the Colts in a strong position to make some noise in the playoffs and turning their fortunes around in a big way, he deserves serious recognition as NFL Executive of the Year.
In the aforementioned Associated Press interview, Indy's punter Pat McAfee echoes the same sentiment:
"I think he has to be Executive of the Year so far. You look at the wow factor the day of the cuts. Basically, he rebuilt this team in four or five months. We had a great core group of guys here, and the way he picked up the pieces is just amazing."
NFL Awards voters, take heed. If Indy continues its strong playoff run, this COLTSTRONG GM deserves the accolade in more ways than one.