KRAVITZ:  This time around, Irsay can’t allow for any late-night Monday surprises

Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano (WTHR file photos)
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Bob Kravitz

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - There can’t be any Black Monday surprises this time around on West 56th Street. There can’t be any last-second efforts to woo Sean Payton to Indianapolis, followed by a bizarre Kumbaya press conference late Monday night to announce extensions and a new contract for Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano. If Jim Irsay doesn’t know what he’s going to do already – if he doesn’t know whether he’ll retain the pair or if he doesn’t have some kind of agreement in place to bring in new blood -- then shame on him.

What could possibly happen Sunday against Jacksonville that would change Irsay’s mind one way or the other? Is 8-8 that much better than 7-9? Either way, your franchise failed to make the playoffs for a second straight season, failed to have a better record than a Houston team that benched its quarterback, Brock Osweiler, and is now poised for another post-season embarrassment with the immortal Tom Savage behind center

There can be no waffling this time. Irsay can’t go into the office Monday with no true idea what he’s going to do next, as he acknowledged was the case last year. If he’s going to keep Grigson and Pagano, he should say so – soon, possibly after Sunday’s game – and quiet all the now-annual speculation. (Plus, it will save all us media types a day-long stakeout at the Colts practice facility). And if he’s not, he needs to pull the plug Monday morning and have replacements (or replacement) in mind -- much like he did in 1998, when he fired everybody and quickly announced the arrival of Bill Polian.

Understand, this is not a no-brainer. You may disagree with that assessment, but that’s your prerogative. I feel a change is necessary, but there are some smart people who can make the case to maintain continuity.

Compare the first five years of the Polian Era with the first five years of the Grigson Era. The Grigson Colts have won more games. The Grigson Colts have won more playoff games. At the end of Polian’s fifth year, the Colts were finishing off their season with a 41-0 loss to the Jets at the Meadowlands, so it’s not like they appeared to be just a player or two away from becoming a dominant AFC team. And as much grief as Grigson gets, often from me, his more recent drafts have yielded some very nice young talent.

In many ways, the Colts have been the victims of their own early success. After Year 3 of the rebuild found them in the AFC Title Game, they felt they were a handful of veteran free agents away from taking the final step. I don’t blame Grigson for going that route; you have to take a mighty swing when you feel you’re close and you’ve got free agent money at your disposal. The problem was, those vets were, by and large, the wrong vets. Throw in Luck’s injuries and the result was 8-8.

That said, while the Polian Colts were wobbling in those early years, the GM was loading up on great young talent. Not good talent, mind you. We’re talking either Hall of Fame or Ring of Honor talent. Peyton Manning, of course. Reggie Wayne. Dwight Freeney. Followed over the next few years by Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Robert Mathis, Joseph Addai and others. That’s not to say that Grigson has left the cupboard bare: Andrew Luck. T.Y. Hilton. Ryan Kelly looks like he’ll be a staple at center for years to come. Jack Mewhort is very solid. And others.

Where Grigson has whiffed, and whiffed badly, is in the first round, where you can’t afford to swing and miss, whether you’re picking sixth or 16th. Bjoern Werner was part of a 2013 draft that produced exactly zero players on the current roster. He traded a first-rounder for Trent Richardson (and here, I feel compelled again to acknowledge that I loved the move at the time). He drafted Phillip Dorsett who, in my mind, is their fourth-best wide receiver.

Grigson and Pagano wanted to build a team that can run; they can’t run, not as effectively as they would like, although Frank Gore should exceed 1,000 yards this weekend. They wanted to build a team that could stop the run; they can’t stop the run. They wanted a team that could pressure the passer; no success there. They wanted a team that could protect Luck; it’s only been the last half of the season that the offensive line has made strides in that area.

In my view, it’s not an easy decision.

It may be easy for you as a fan – throw the bums out! but it’s not necessarily easy for Irsay.

I would say this: You don’t stay in a bad marriage for fear you’ll never find anybody better. If Irsay believes this group can’t get it done – and he clearly went into last season wondering about Pagano -- he needs to make a change, whether that involves a bombshell like Peyton Manning/Jon Gruden (yes, there are rumors, just rumors) or men with lower profiles. If he’s comfortable with the current administration, move on and start looking for pass rushers in a pass-rusher-heavy draft.

But there can’t be any Monday surprises. It’s OK if it’s a surprise to us in the media; hell, we’re surprised all the time. It just can’t be a surprise to Irsay, who should have his mind made up already and should be ready to move first thing Monday morning. No waffling, no last-minute reprieves, none of that. By now, Irsay should know his next step. If he doesn’t, the Colts’ problems go far deeper than we thought.

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