We might never know what transpired behind those closed doors Monday.
Not yet. Maybe never.
Only Colts owner Jim Irsay knows for sure, and he’s not going to say — ever.
While the local and national media spent countless hours camped out, speculating the probable demise of Chuck Pagano — and to a certain extent general manager Ryan Grigson — a decision had to be made.
Someone had to pay, right?
No playoffs. No AFC South title. Civil war between Grigson and Pagano had tarnished the organization’s trademark goodwill and created a toxic environment within the brain trust. No matter which side you lobbied for, change seemed to be the only remedy, one way or the other.
It was only logical in a stalemate between egos.
Not quite. As news finally broke late Monday night in enough time to make the 11 o’clock news, the best course for the franchise’s future was status quo or so Irsay wants us to believe. Handing out a four-year contract extension to Pagano and another three years to Grigson, the two combatants stepped behind closed doors only to find catharsis on their way out.
How? Handshakes and hugs, that’s how.
“We agree to disagree,” Pagano remarked on his publicly reported rift with Grigson in the past. “But at the end of the day we leave every meeting with a handshake and a hug. It’s not about me. It’s not about Ryan. It’s not about any one person. I’ve spoken from Day One about team first, individual second.”
If the Colts public relations team didn’t get a hefty Christmas bonus last month, they definitely deserve one now.
“It’s a great, feel-good story,” Irsay said during the live televised press conference.
Indeed it is. Out of left field no doubt, marking the end of the war — for now.
How long will the peace last? Depends on the NFL Draft, winning and progress.
Irsay has gone all in, and “(Ryan) and Chuck, they’re going forward together,” he said.
One way or the other, these next four years will ultimately determine their fate, especially with Andrew Luck in his prime. In retrospect, though shocking, it’s a fair decision based on past results alone, but it also comes with inherent risk. Sure, the Super Bowl-or-bust mantra Colts fans were spoon fed after Grigson’s big splash free-agent signings last offseason, were a tad bit misleading, if not overly wishful.
Father time caught up quickly with Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, causing many to call for Grigson’s firing.
The offensive line, while able to congeal for a patchwork AFC Championship run last season camouflaged the organization’s primary area of need, which oddly was ignored last year for flash over substance.
The Trent Richardson trade. Enough said.
Yet, three consecutive 11-5 records from 2012 to 2014 speak volumes as does an 8-8 finish this year.
In each of the organization’s past three winning campaigns, the Colts took a substantial step forward back to where they hope to finish.
Irsay recognized that and said he believes Grigson can put the Colts in position to win, which prompted him to rank his GM above the likes of NFL Hall of Famer Bill Polian in comparison.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the only other NFL coach besides Pagano to win at least 11 games in his first three season was Jim Harbaugh with the San Francisco 49ers. That’s not bad company.
This year’s debacle had everything to do with injuries as it did with defunct personnel — and a brutal non-divisional schedule.
Needless to say, internal squabbling didn’t make matters better and forced Irsay’s hand.
Did Irsay reach out to Sean Payton on Monday behind those closed doors as reported by The Tribune Star? It’s a safe bet he did, and others are soon to follow.
Was the team better off without Pagano, who has become such a prominent figure in the community and among the players and fanbase? Monday’s decision answered that clearly.
Instead of trying to find the next Bruce Arians, Irsay decided to draw a line and sink a large financial commitment on both Pagano and Grigson. One with even higher expectations than before.
In no uncertain words, Irsay decision was announced with rather large fine print. He expects results. The goal is winning a Super Bowl.
“It was careful consideration. It wasn’t fan pressure, player pressure or anything along those lines,” he said at the press conference. “Look, Chuck’s won 44 games in the last four years. That’s not easy to do.”
Burying the hatchet proved easier behind closed doors, and now it’s a waiting game, again.
The only question is, who’s going to flinch first?
Rich Torres is the sports editor for the Daily Reporter. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.