KRAVITZ: What in the heck is going on with the Colts? We…Don’t…Know. (Sorry)
INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Jim Irsay knows this is a bad look. He knows that saying absolutely nothing about his general manager and head coach nearly a week after the end of the season ranks as very bad optics. One thing about Irsay is, he's very media savvy and knows what the public narrative is at any given moment, and he knows the public – the media and, by extension, the fans – wants to know how he plans to move forward with his Colts franchise.
So why hasn't he said anything, leaving us all to speculate about Peyton Manning and Nick Saban and, for all we know, the ghost of Vince Lombardi?
Here's my semi-educated guess: He’s still looking. Where he's looking, at whom he's looking, only Irsay and his inner circle know the answer.
But the fact he hasn’t said anything, the fact he hasn’t so much as tweeted, "We will be moving forward with Ryan and Chuck," tells me the futures of both men remain an open question.
Manning? Other local media members say Irsay and Manning have spoken about Manning taking over; my source tells me that's not the case, so somebody is getting bad information – and yes, it could be me who is getting the bad information. It's happened before (see: P.J. Fleck).
Saban? Certainly, the delay in making any kind of statement points to Irsay possibly putting the full-court press on Saban, whose Alabama team will be playing for another national title Monday against Clemson. Or it could be somebody else, although you’ve got to think that if he was interested in, say, a Kyle Shanahan, that would have been done by now.
I don’t have the first clue whether Saban would consider a return to the NFL, but he’s accomplished all a man can accomplish in college. And one thing I know about high achievers is, when they’ve failed at the highest level – Saban spent a few years in Miami – they want desperately to show that they can succeed there if given the right set of circumstances.
It’s possible – unlikely but possible – Irsay will say nothing because both men have long-term contracts and he may figure, "Why should I acknowledge a story that doesn’t exist?" Maybe he’s rather enjoying watching local and national media chasing their tails, reading tea leaves, trying to put two and two together and coming up with…nothing. Maybe he’s getting some sort of perverse pleasure out of this.
But I doubt it.
For one thing, Irsay is exceedingly media friendly and, in fact, actually respects our business, or at least elements of it. It would be completely out of character for Irsay to sit back and mess with the media – and, way more important, the fans – by remaining mum on the subject. He knows the fans are clamoring to know something, one way or the other, and I tend to think he would share that information whenever he had information to share.
So what in the heck is going on?
It is very difficult for any journalist to write or mouth these words because we’re in the knowing business. But…We don’t know.
The latest bit of news/informed speculation dropped Friday morning, when the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez reported that Pagano has told people that Irsay told him he would be retained. Let me say this: Marvez is solid as a rock on these things, a long-time Denver and now national NFL reporter with whom I once worked. And no, I don’t believe Pagano or Pagano’s people leaked this information in an attempt to put pressure on Irsay. That’s not the way Pagano operates. Believe me, I know. I’ve asked him for information on this subject countless times in the past two years and the response has been…crickets.
Haha. Nothing on Grigson but I would be more surprised if he's fired than if he's retained. Jim Irsay likes him a lot & wants him to succeed https://t.co/iC8u1ddgL4— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) January 6, 2017
I trust @alexmarvez and his reporting, always have. For now no confirmation or denial from Colts. Still working on it.— Bob Kravitz (@bkravitz) January 6, 2017
Even if Pagano has been told he’s returning, it doesn’t mean much. Jim Caldwell also thought he was returning, but Grigson and Irsay decided to clean house after the 2011 season, jettisoned Caldwell and hired Pagano. If a new general manager were to be hired, he would certainly want his own head coach, and that head coach may or may not be Pagano.
If Pagano comes back, if Grigson comes back, it will not be the end of the world, but it would rate as a tacit embrace of mediocrity. But I also recall a conversation with Irsay before the Detroit game when he suggested the Colts were in something of a rebuilding situation after three magical years that saw the team go 11-5 every year and win three playoff games. His expectations aren’t your expectations. In his mind, 8-8 may very well align with what he thought his team might manage. This was never a Super Bowl-or-bust season in Irsay’s mind, or really, in any other sane person’s mind.
If they return, though, the parameters have to be set. They have to win the AFC South. They have to move up the rankings offensively. They have to finish in the middle of the league defensively - no small feat considering that three of four of the Colts’ all-time worst defenses have come during the Pagano Era. They have to find a couple of immediate-impact players in the draft and in free agency. No more swings and misses.
If they return, they’re on double-secret probation. Or at least they should be.
So there’s where we are at this moment, which is to say, nowhere.
So we speculate.
And here’s my speculation:
Irsay is still looking, still contemplating his options.
And Indianapolis is still waiting. And waiting. And waiting…