Why Ryan Grigson Deserves Blame for Indianapolis Colts' Recent Struggles

Tyler Brooke@TylerDBrookeSenior Analyst IIDecember 4, 2013

Feb 21, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson speaks at a press conference during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Grigson did a fantastic job turning the Indianapolis Colts from a 2-14 team in 2011 to an 11-5 playoff team in 2012, helping him earn the NFL Executive of the Year award.

However, given how poorly this season has gone, Grigson deserves, at the very least, a good amount of the blame this season and, at the most, the majority of it.

Things haven't exactly gone as planned for the Colts in 2013.  Yes, the team is currently 8-4 and has essentially locked up the AFC South title, but there are a number of concerns for the Colts that could keep them from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender once the playoffs begin.

Below is a look at what Grigson has done during the 2013 calender year, showing how his success from last year just hasn't translated to this season.

Free Agency

Nov 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (81) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Colts 40-11. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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During the offseason, the Colts had a ton of cap room and a number of areas where they could have improved. Grigson and the front office brought in a ton of new faces, addressing a lot of those needs.

It hasn't turned out well so far.

Before the season, many were concerned about the big contracts of players like Erik Walden, LaRon Landry, Gosder Cherilus and others.  But fans settled down after a bit, trusting that Grigson made the right decisions, and that he at least understood the areas in which the team needed help.

Almost all of the players Grigson brought in as free agents haven't played well or have hardly played at all.  

The offensive line was a big concern, so the Colts brought in Cherilus and Donald Thomas.  While Cherilus has played relatively well at right tackle, he certainly hasn't live up to his five-year, $35 million deal.  

Thomas went down for the year in Week 2, and it's certainly not fair to blame Grigson for his signing, mostly because Thomas is a good guard that was a big need.  But at the time, it certainly was frustrating to see the Colts let players like Andy Levitre and Louis Vasquez go to other teams, considering how well each of them has played on their new teams.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 06: Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks runs the ball past Erik Walden #93 of the Indianapolis Colts during a game at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 6, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

On defense, players like Walden, Landry and Greg Toler haven't contributed at levels fans were expecting.  Toler and Landry had notable issues with durability before joining the Colts, which has been a problem once again in 2013, as the two have missed a combined nine games.  For Walden, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) has him with a minus-5.6 overall grade.

Perhaps the best signings were on the defensive line, with Ricky Jean-Francois and Aubrayo Franklin doing a solid job doing what they must to stop the run, and even to get to the quarterback in the case of Jean-Francois, as he has three sacks this season.

Back on offense, Ahmad Bradshaw appeared to be a smart signing, giving him a relatively cheap one-year deal, and he played rather well when healthy. But an injury ended his season as well.

Matt Hasselbeck's signing was a real head-scratcher for me.  Some said that he was there to help Andrew Luck be more comfortable in the offense, but is a 38-year-old backup quarterback worth $7.25 million over two years?  

Colts 2013 Key Free Agent PFF Grades
OffenseTotal SnapsGrade
Gosder Cherilus8089.5
Ahmad Bradshaw*1032.7
Donald Thomas*721.2
Matt Hasselbeck13-0.3
Stanley Havili283-2.0
Darrius Heyward-Bey561-8.3
Ricky Jean-Francois4056.0
Aubrayo Franklin2751.0
LaRon Landry537-1.0
Greg Toler421-3.8
Erik Walden655-5.6
Pro Football Focus (*=out for season)

Lastly, I wanted to talk about perhaps the worst signing during Grigson's time as GM, and that's Darrius Heyward-Bey.  It was supposed to be a low-risk, high-reward addition, but with how poorly DHB has played, he's hurt the offense significantly.

According to PFF, Heyward-Bey has the second-highest drop rate in the NFL for receivers that have had at least 25 percent of the team's targets, dropping an estimated 22.86 percent of passes, or eight drops on 35 catchable balls.

This alone is enough to upset a lot of fans, but then there has also been the issue with the team's 2013 draft picks.

NFL Draft

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25:  Bjoern Werner of the Florida State Seminoles stands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (L) as they hold up a jersey on stage after Werner was picked #24 overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft
Al Bello/Getty Images

After April, it looked like the Colts had made some smart picks.  Considering how well the 2012 draft went, it was expected that Grigson would follow it up with another one.

It's been about the opposite.

First-round pick Bjoern Werner has not made the transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker this season, during a season where the Colts really need another pass-rusher not named Robert Mathis.  He's played in just nine games, grabbing 12 combined tackles and just 0.5 sacks.

Without a second-round pick, the Colts added help on the offensive line in the third and fourth rounds with Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes.  

Thornton has seriously struggled trying to replace Thomas, registering a minus-14.8 grade with PFF, making him the second-lowest graded player on offense behind Mike McGlynn.  Meanwhile, Holmes has yet to play a single snap, usually being a healthy inactive heading into each game.

Montori Hughes hasn't played much either, but there's not much to criticize about him, at least for now. But the final three picks after him in John Boyett, Kerwynn Williams and Justice Cunningham aren't even on the final roster of even the practice squad, and you would have liked to see at least one of those picks work out.

Colts 2013 Draft Pick PFF Grades
RoundPlayerOn Active Roster?SnapsGrade
1Bjoern WernerYes212-5.9
3Hugh ThorntonYes743-14.8
4Khaled HolmesYes00
5Montori HughesYes292.0
6John BoyettNo00
7Kerwynn WilliamsNo00
7Justice CunninghamNo140.6
Pro Football Focus (Offense/Defense only)

Expectations were high for these rookies after the Colts drafted players like Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Vick Ballard in 2012, but no one has made a seriously positive impact out of this draft class.

I would say the Colts could look to turn things around with a big impact player in next year's draft, but without a first-round pick, those chances aren't very high, which brings me to my final point.

The Trent Richardson Trade

Nov 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson (34) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Colts 40-11. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I didn't like it when it happened, and I certainly don't like it now.  The trade for Trent Richardson might have been one of the bigger mistakes Grigson made over the past two years.

Richardson has struggled, plain and simple, even going as far as losing the starting job to Donald Brown last week against the Tennessee Titans.  In his 10 games with the Colts, Richardson has run for 306 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 2.8 yards per carry.  

Among running backs with at least 100 carries, Football Outsiders has Richardson as the 31st running back out of 35 players in terms of defense-adjusted value over average, or DVOA.

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 14:  Trent Richardson #34 of the Indianapolis Colts carries the ball against the defense of  Michael Griffin #33 of the Tennessee Titans in the second quarter at LP Field on November 14, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by An
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

But it's not just Richardson's struggles that made this a bad trade.  The loss of a first-round pick for next year could really hurt the development of this team.  They have a number of needs, but the biggest one comes at offensive guard.  The Colts could have grabbed a top-tier prospect at the position like Cyril Richardson out of Baylor or Gabe Jackson out of Mississippi State, but the odds of grabbing either of them in the second round are very low.

The Colts brought in a player like Richardson to focus on winning a Super Bowl this season, but injuries and a game plan that refuses to adjust without those missing players will make it very hard for the Colts to make a very deep playoff run against teams like the Denver Broncos or New England Patriots.

A win-now mentality is great, but when a team is as plagued with injuries as the Colts are, it's also important to focus on fixing the depth issues for the future. 


Overall, it's been an incredibly rough season for Grigson, and he certainly needs to refocus for next season.  

Perhaps the best question about Grigson's situation was brought up by Brad Wells of Stampede Blue, who wondered if the reason for success last season was due to Tom Telesco, the former Vice President of Football Operations, who is now the General Manager of the San Diego Chargers.

It's certainly not the only reason for the change over the past year, but it very well could be a big one.

The Colts still have the playoffs to think about with an all but guaranteed division title this season, but there needs to be a long discussion about what they need to fix before the 2014 season if they want to have a chance at making a Super Bowl run with Luck and company.

All contract information provided by Spotrac.com

Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerDBrooke

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