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Thursday, April 3, 2014
Irsay-Gordon is leading the way in Indy

By Mike Wells


INDIANAPOLIS -- Carlie Irsay-Gordon, the 33-year-old with a wide range of interests, from performing arts to majoring in religious studies in college, was working on her Ph.D in psychology when she had to put that on hold.

The likely plan, the one that's been in the making for years, to have Irsay-Gordon and her sisters, Casey Foyt and Kalen Irsay, eventually run the Indianapolis Colts was accelerated because of an unfortunate situation involving their father and owner of the team, Jim Irsay.

So here Irsay-Gordon sits at the top, giving the final "yes" or "no" on decisions made by Colts general manager Ryan Grigson on the football side and chief operating officer Pete Ward on the business side.

Irsay's decision to enter a rehabilitation facility for his addictions following his arrest last month has lifted Irsay-Gordon from the shadows and into the front of the organization until her father returns.

"She'll do well. She's a sharp businessperson," former Colts assistant and current Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "She's very much like her father; she has great personality, she's extremely bright, she has a good feeling for people. I've worked for a bunch of owners, and Jim Irsay -- he talks about faith, family and football. It's real. And she has that same mindset."

Irsay-Gordon joins principle owners Martha Ford, widow of the late Detroit Lions owner Bill Ford Sr., and Virginia McCaskey of the Chicago Bears as the only females running NFL franchises.

Carlie Irsay-Gordon
Colts vice chair/owner Carlie Irsay-Gordon (center) presents a jersey to Scott West and his wife, Julie West, on Oct. 6, 2013.
Irsay-Gordon started as an intern in the team's football and marketing department and worked her way up to her current title of vice chair/owner prior to the 2012 season. She graduated from Skidmore College in upstate New York, where she majored in religious studies, and she has represented the Colts at the NFL owners meetings every year since 2004. She and Grigson were bouncing ideas off each other throughout the meetings in Orlando, Fla., last week.

"She never ceases to amaze me with some of the questions she asks. She has it," Grigson said. "I've told this to Jim because I know these are the things that he would like to hear. And it's why [coach] Chuck [Pagano] and I have a great working relationship with her, because she gets it. It's not like we're sitting here trying to explain things to her. She already has a really good base of knowledge, and not just from an operations standpoint with dollars and [the salary] cap."

Irsay-Gordon, who is married to an attorney and has three children, has declined all interview requests because of her father's legal situation.

Like her father, football runs deep in Irsay-Gordon's blood. She's been around it her entire life.

"I grew up in a football family, so I know exactly what it's like to grow up in a football family and be around it your entire life," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "You can see that."

The Colts are in a delicate state because they're trying to continue to move up in the AFC and they don't want Irsay's legal and personal situation to become a distraction. There's no getting around it, the situation will remain, but Irsay-Gordon isn't expected to be a boss who will constantly be looking over Grigson and Ward.

"How much interaction do we have? They have their jobs to do and we have our jobs to do," Pagano said. "The great thing about the entire Irsay family is that they hired us to do a job and they let us to do our job. So, when we have to communicate, those lines of communication are always there. They're always open. It's a great working environment, and we have great working relationships with all those people."

The similarities are unmistakable between father and daughter. They're "wired" the same when it comes to football, according to Pagano. Irsay-Gordon hates losing more than she loves winning -- much like her father.

One of the biggest differences is that you won't find Irsay-Gordon on Twitter the same way her father uses it to voice his displeasure when the team isn't living up to his expectations. She's tweeted only nine times to her nearly 800 followers in four-plus years.

"She expects [excellence] just like her father does," Grigson said. " ... That's something that their father, I'm sure, has ingrained in them. But at the same time, there's a tremendous amount of respect given to everyone in the building, and they display that. There's no pretentiousness or condescension. You know who's in charge, but the delivery, I think, is something that's unique in this league."