Colts' Grigson following familiar blueprint to build contender

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

To understand where Ryan Grigson envisions taking the Indianapolis Colts, it's advantageous to first know where he's coming from.
The former Purdue and NFL offensive lineman worked his way through scouting by starting at the ground floor -- on the road, as an area scout with the St. Louis Rams in 1999. Ever-attentive and meticulous of mind, research and detail, Grigson was a sponge for information. How the veteran personnel men went about their business, defined themselves as professionals. How they commanded and received respect.
Among Grigson's many mentors, he puts Charley Armey near the top.
"Back when I started, there weren't a lot of young guys on the road," Grigson recalled in January 2012, when he was introduced as the GM of the Colts.
"You had a lot of old, former coaches. Crusty old guys who didn't like the young guys out there. So you just kept your mouth shut and you listened. They had some of the best lessons I've learned. Some of the greatest pieces of my foundation that were laid came from being in the film room and round tables with Charley and the scouts and just listening to them speak about players, (including) positions I wasn't keen on coming out in my first couple of years. That knowledge has served me well because I feel like I have a very good memory. I'll take notes and re-use those things."
Grigson remains, at the root, a nails-for-breakfast grinder who considers himself an overachiever and thrives doing scout's work -- charting games, in-person campus scouting, breaking down film. As a general manager, he's earning a reputation as a risk-taker.
Wednesday's trade for running back Trent Richardson was Grigson's 16th in 20 months as a general manager. The swap of a first-round pick for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, a player the Colts studied tediously and discussed internally from ownership down to scouting assistants, is the one that could help define Grigson, the 2012 Executive of the Year.
The deal that defined Armey more than any other?
Although it hardly appeared so at the time, that defining moment happened when the former Rams vice president of player personnel swung a deal for a disgruntled running back with chronic knee problems, Marshall Faulk.
It's also a trade Armey took the harshest criticism for in the immediate aftermath of the deal.
One of Armey's cardinal rules, applicable to the draft, free agency and trades, was to "never pass on the impact player."
Faulk had four 1,000-yard seasons in five years with the Colts, who were drafting fourth overall and wanted to add draft assets with an eye on two premier running backs in the draft - Ricky Williams and the one they'd ultimately choose, Edgerrin James.
What did Armey give up? A second and a fifth-round pick in the 1999 draft.
"That might be one of the best trades in the history of the National Football League for value. I can't remember many trades as valuable as that one, for what you gave up and what you got," Armey said years later.
Faulk is a talking head on NFL Network now and wears the yellow blazer awarded Hall of Famers for his greatest achievements as the engine of the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis. Back then, he had a reputation for being a selfish player. Mike Martz, offensive coordinator of the Rams in '99, and coach Dick Vermeil, found that claim to be unfounded. Sure Faulk wanted the ball -- and want running back doesn't.
Richardson reported to the Colts on Thursday with 17 games on his resume. On his way out of Berea, Ohio, a few teammates anonymously said Richardson had plenty of work to do before achieving stardom. More aptly, it's possible his 3.5-yard rushing average is a byproduct of not having enough workers alongside. The Browns have allowed 11 sacks and scored 16 points in two games.
Vision is on Grigson's side. He said last April you don't pass on the great ones, a reference to being in position to draft quarterback Andrew Luck. Now Grigson has a shortage of draft picks for 2014, something the likes of Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson might frown upon, but critics have never caused him a second glance.
Grigson and his scouting staff reviewed the history of dynasties in all sports as an offseason exercise. Corny? Grigson said he knows some teams will think as much. But Grigson devoured the presentation, with his notepad close by and synapses firing.
"I just sat there and kind of just took notes. A lot of them had some similarities," he said Thursday. "You're talking about teams with phenomenal success, multiple, multiple championships -- the Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Celtics, the Yankees, the Steelers. The drafts they had. The bar is set really high when you look at those franchises. We're not there yet but it's something to shoot for. We set the bar high. Our owner sets the bar high. That's why we have the Lombardi (trophy) in here. That's the goal. Anything that falls short of that isn't what we set out to do."
Grigson wasn't sending an intentional message by trading for Richardson. He was merely remembering his roots. But if a message must be conveyed, then it certainly was to those paying attention.
"That you have an owner that is committed to winning," Grigson said. "Part of that on Chuck (Pagano) and myself and no matter the circumstances, every day we work to get better. Just like today; yesterday we had a great day for the Colts organization and moving forward. But today is another day with our nose to the grindstone. We have no choice but to attack it like that. There's no siestas in the NFL. You can't hug it out today. Yesterday was fun, but it's back to work."

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