Indianapolis Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson on Monday was named Sporting News' NFL Executive of the Year, the online publication announced.
The award was voted upon by NFL coaches and team executives. It is especially noteworthy that Grigson was just in his first season as the Colts' GM.
"It's truly an honor to be recognized for this award and I'm thankful to all of my peers who considered me for this accolade," Grigson said in a statement. "Our success this season encompassed the entire organization, including the unwavering support from Mr. Irsay (team owner Jim Irsay), the dedication of the entire scouting department, the leadership of the coaching staff and the gutsy performance of our players week in and week out.
"I also owe a big debt of gratitude to my wife, Cynthia, and my five children who sacrificed so much in my first year as general manager. This was a very special season and the courage shown by Chuck (head coach Chuck Pagano, who missed 12 games while battling leukemia) and this team will be etched in me and the entire Colts family for a lifetime. This year was a stepping stone en route to our ultimate goal -- hoisting the Lombardi Trophy together. We're going to continue to work tirelessly until we reach that objective."
Added Irsay, "I am thrilled for Ryan Grigson on winning The Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year award. This was a challenging year in anyone's book, but Ryan is one of the hardest workers I know, and his dedication paid off. We knew we had someone special when we hired Ryan a year ago, and he is extremely deserving of this honor."
Grigson was hired Jan. 11, 2012, right after the Colts compiled a terrible 2-14 record. One of the first things he did was release former head coach Jim Caldwell and replaced him with Chuck Pagano and a virtual entirely new coaching staff. The Colts finished 11-5 and in second place in the AFC East before losing in the opening round of the playoffs, a 24-9 wild card defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, who will face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl this Sunday.
The nine-win improvement from 2011 to 2012, which tied for the third-largest one-year turnaround in NFL history. The Colts also became only the second team in league history to win 10-or-more games after losing 14-or-more the previous season.
"I'm very excited for Ryan and when you consider what he had to do this season from a personnel standpoint, this award is particularly well-deserved," Pagano said. "He compiled a remarkable draft class and consistently maintained our roster with able bodies as the year went on and we had to deal with injuries.
"Ryan was steadfast in his decision making and did a phenomenal job through difficult circumstances. He has outstanding vision and passion, which are two essential traits that he'll use as he continues to build this team for sustained success."
Among Grigson's other highlights included drafting Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the team's No. 1 draft pick, along with three others, all four of which became starters on the Colts: tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and running back Vick Ballard.
Luck broke the NFL rookie single-season record for passing yards (4,374) and 300-yard passing games (six). Allen set a new franchise record for the most receptions (45) by a rookie tight end. Hilton led all NFL rookie receivers with five 100-yard receiving games, despite being the 13th receiver selected in the draft.
Luck and Ballard led the team in passing and rushing, which made the Colts one of only three teams in NFL history to reach the playoffs with rookies leading the team in those two categories. In addition, the Colts rookie class accumulated the most total scrimmage yards (3,108) in a season since the 1970 merger, breaking the previous NFL record set by the Colts in 1999.
Grigson also signed several key free agents including defensive end Cory Redding, nose tackle Brandon McKinney and safety Tom Zbikowski. He also added to the Colts' offensive line by acquiring tackle Winston Justice in a trade and signing center Samson Satele and guard Mike McGlynn. Also on offense, he executed a trade for quarterback Drew Stanton and signed wide receiver Donnie Avery.
He also re-signed veterans in wide receiver Reggie Wayne and outside linebacker Robert Mathis, both of which were selected to the 2013 Pro Bowl. Wayne recorded one of the best seasons of his 12-year career, posting 106 receptions for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns. Mathis registered eight sacks on the year and intercepted his first career pass, while adding 51 tackles (31 solo), two passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Other key acquisitions included cornerbacks Darius Butler and Vontae Davis, who combined for seven interceptions. Butler was signed on September 25 after being waived by the Carolina Panthers prior to the start of the regular season, while Davis was acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins on August 26.