AFC South: Carlie Irsay-Gordon


INDIANAPOLIS -- News that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay will be in Atlanta for the NFL owners meetings is good news for several reasons.

It’s a sign Irsay is headed in the right direction after being in a rehabilitation facility for almost two months following his arrest in an Indianapolis suburb. He faces four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance. The police report said he had $29,000 in cash and bottles of prescription drugs in his car.

That he plans to make a presentation to the NFL owners is also a good sign, as it looks like he will continue to run the organization.

Irsay’s daughter’s, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Casey Foyt and Kalen Irsay, will eventually take control of the team one day from their father, but the time isn’t now as long as Jim Irsay finds a way to beat the demons of his addiction problems. Carlie Irsay-Gordon has been running the team in her father’s absence.

"She expects [excellence] just like her father does," general manager Ryan Grigson said during the March owners meetings in Orlando, Florida. " ... 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."

Irsay is passionate about his organization. He’s always in the locker room after games, and it’s not uncommon to see him at practice during the week leading up to a game. That is why Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano are so close to their boss.

"We miss him, love him, wish he was here with us," Pagano said in March. "But again, like I said, I'm not the only guy who would take a bullet for this man."

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.

[+] EnlargeCarlie Irsay-Gordon
AJ Mast/AP PhotoColts 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."
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Faith. Family. Football.

Those are the three things Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay constantly preaches to those in the organization. Those three things have strong ties to Irsay today and will tomorrow and in the future.

The faith has to be there that Irsay can overcome his unfortunate addiction. There's no better time than now for Irsay's immediate family and football family to stick by him as he works his way through rehabilitation. And at some point, many hope sooner rather than later, Irsay will be back running his football team on a day-to-day basis.

"We're going to support Jim no matter what and the biggest thing, No. 1, is his well-being, just getting healthier," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said in between sessions at the NFL owners meetings Monday. "We miss him, love him, wish he was here with us. But again, like I said, I'm not the only guy who would take a bullet for this man."

Irsay isn't at the owners meetings. His daughter Carlie Irsay-Gordon is in Orlando, Fla., representing the franchise while her father is at a health-care facility.

"My whole family's prayers are going for him," Arizona Cardinals coach and former Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said. "Let's hope he comes back strong."

Irsay faces four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance after being arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving in the northern Indianapolis suburb of Carmel late March 16.

"Anyone who knows Jim Irsay [knows he] is a good guy," New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. "He's a kind man, he's well-intentioned, and he's in my prayers. What's happened to him has not changed my opinion of him."

The Colts say they'll be fine with the day-to-day operations while Irsay is in rehab. Truth be told, they'll miss him. Irsay isn't one of those hands-on owners who's always meddling in things, but general manager Ryan Grigson uses his owner as a sounding board. That's not surprising considering Irsay was the Colts' general manager from 1984 to 1993.

Arians recalls Irsay coming out to practice every Thursday when he was the team's interim coach while Pagano battled leukemia in 2012 and they'd walk off the field together talking about a wide range of subjects.

"I don't care which game it was, which year it was, which player it was, schematically, offense, defensive philosophy, he knows it inside and out," Pagano said. "He's been around it forever and ever. He's got a bright eye for not only talent, but everything else he has to do to run a successful program."

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