Not rebuilding, just building in Indianapolis

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
10:00
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Grigson didn't have time to spare five minutes on the phone to do an interview. He was too busy talking and wearing his thumbs out texting agents as he prepared for the start of free agency.

The questions, just three of them I might add, were sent via email to the Indianapolis Colts general manager.

"In the middle of free agency, I felt like I had a homework assignment due," Grigson jokingly wrote after answering the questions.

[+] EnlargeRyan Grigson
AP Photo/Johnny VyRyan Grigson and the Colts have set the expectations high, and nothing short of the Super Bowl will suffice for the general manager.
If you know Grigson, you know he's always working, never settling for what happened in the past. He's that nonstop workaholic who is always believing another move should be made to improve the team.

That mindset was a necessity for Grigson when he took over for the fired Bill Polian in 2012. The Colts were coming off a 2-14 season after which they not only dismissed Polian, but also said their final goodbyes to quarterback Peyton Manning after 14 years, 11 playoff games and two Super Bowl appearances.

So the rebuilding process couldn't take long for Grigson, the first-time general manager. Not with holdovers like Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea used to winning.

Grigson is headed into Year 3 of not rebuilding the Colts, but building off the success the franchise has had in the past two years.

They're 22-10 and made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, while dealing with the loss of coach Chuck Pagano for 12 games while battling leukemia in 2012 and the loss of five offensive starters last season.

"The element of surprise kind of goes away when you have such high expectations," Grigson said. "This is a winning organization and the bar is set high. I think that kind of environment is a healthy one for everyone involved. I'd hate to be somewhere that your expectation was anything less than being Super Bowl champs every year."

Grigson and Pagano walked into the perfect situation.

Andrew Luck, the best quarterback taken No. 1 overall since, well, Manning in 1998, led an impressive Colts 2012 draft class that also included receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.

Grigson's obsessive, always-needing-to-be-working mindset is in high gear because the Colts are in position to take another step in the AFC next season. Manning and New England's Tom Brady are a year older and moving another step toward the Hall of the Fame.

Now it's up to Grigson to add the proper pieces around Luck. This is the perfect time for the general manager to redeem himself after his 2013 offseason moves didn't live up to expectations.

"No matter the circumstances, the last two years we expected to be in the Super Bowl and believed in that goal until the last tick came off the clock," Grigson said. "Year 3 will be no different; we just have to find a way to see it all the way through."

Indianapolis went into free agency on Tuesday with the fifth-most salary cap space.

Just like in Green Bay, players want to play in Indianapolis despite the small-market mentality some have about the city.

Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who the Colts signed to a four-year deal on March 6, was attracted to the franchise's history of success. That's understandable after he spent his first eight years in Cleveland, where that organization appears to be just spinning in circles.

Pagano is more than a coach to the players. He's the person who will ask a player about his off-the-field life nearly as much as he talks about offensive and defensive schemes.

"Having a sitdown dinner with him, I knew right away he was a good guy," Jackson said. "We barely talked football. Any time you can do that, you know you're dealing with a good guy. He's been through a lot in his life, obviously. The guy is high on life and I want to be around people like that."

Luck's arm, legs, smarts and mental toughness are the main reasons why the transition from the Manning era hasn't been too turbulent. It's also why Indianapolis is an organization that will remain a destination for free agents as long as the kid from Stanford is taking the snaps from center.

Former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks has already publicly talked about wanting to catch passes from Luck.

"First of all, winning makes you an attractive team," punter Pat McAfee said. "But I think the chance to hitch your wagon to an up-and-coming, hopefully Hall of Fame quarterback, which [Luck] should be, I think that's a big deal for a lot of the older guys that are looking for a ring, or maybe for the younger guys that are trying to jump-start their career. I think Indianapolis is becoming a very, very promising-looking destination for a lot people who want to win and hitch their wagon to a player who's going to be great for a very long time."

Mike Wells

ESPN Indianapolis Colts reporter

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