12-25-16: Christmas with Diamond Jim and the Dysfunctional Duo: The First Post of December

9:57 am on a Central Indiana Christmas morning as I type this sentence. As always a nice gap between posts thanks due to school (final stuff wrapped up last weekend) and doing 10 hour days here and there on the work front. With a four day weekend given due to Christmas falling on a Sunday, yours truly worked 7 am to 2 pm on Friday (the office was closed but the department was there to do extra stuff) and then began holiday shopping at 2:01 pm of said Friday. Learned a valuable lesson: lots of people do the same thing. The result was me doing the vast majority of said shopping in and around semi-scenic downtown Noblesville (known to those who may read this blog as Sonland City)  with a 1 am trip on Christmas Eve to the local Kohl’s. Line was the longest I’d ever seen when I went at 3 pm. That was not the case at 1 am as I took advantage of the store being open 24 hours. Family holiday stuff was taken care of last night, and here I am typing in the midst of doing laundry while enjoying some peace and quiet (and most importantly no $!$%#@ school work) before debating if I stay at said school or decide to go elsewhere. (More on that later because, well, holidays. Forget I mentioned it.)

But as the post title notes there was something to do before said holiday functions: attempt to watch the local professional football franchise-Diamond Jim Irsay’s Indianapolis Colts by way of Baltimore in 1984– try to keep their small as f— playoff chances alive by trying to defeat an Oakland Raiders team that on paper was every bit superior both on the field and in the coaching ranks when compared to Irsay’s approved boys of head coach/University of Miami supporter Ground Chuck Pagano and front office savant/general manager/ex-Eagles super scout ‘Big Grig’ Ryan Grigson. I had expected a loss where the locals would find a way to lose close by screwing around via bad Pagano decisions and the inability to get defensive stops when it mattered most. Not like I am winning the lottery by proclaiming it, but I was right. The Colts allowed a backup quarterback by the name of Matt McGloin to make two critical first downs to keep them from having a shot at tying the game and forcing overtime. The last one came over the outstretched arms of Grigson approved acquisition Vontae Davis as Raider fan favorite and media man Amari Cooper sealed the game with a third down catch that made me say ‘well, of course our best defensive player will get beat when the season is on the line.’ So I got to see the man holding the ball below show why the Colts defense deserved its cruddy ranking of 27th out of 32 teams in the National Football League:

…and I in turn then had to face the prospect of not worrying too much about watching NFL football after next Sunday nor buying any additional overpriced Colts related merchandise to go into Diamond Jim’s pockets. For the second straight year a Colts team with what should be the best quarterback by far in its AFC South Division– one Andrew Austen Luck-will be sitting at home while a Houston Texans team that has been quarterbacked by the likes of Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage will have won the division crown. While an actual win next week would put the Colts’ record at my personal preseason prediction of 8 wins and 8 losses, nonetheless it is not always fun to dedicate 3 to 3 1/2 hours of your week to watch a team that simply is going to have mediocrity as its ceiling. Making the same mistakes over and over again doesn’t help either. Like being unprepared for games. Or having special teams related f–k–s like the botched fake field goal in the first quarter when you have a future Hall of Fame kicker (multimillionaire  Adam Matthew Vinatieri) to kick said field goals. Or having your coach challenge catches that were actual catches and losing time outs that would eventually cost you when trying to make a comeback after giving up 26 STRAIGHT POINTS. In short it was the usual bag of manure Colts fans have witnessed during these 2015 and 2016 regular seasons: s—–y play early against a quality team, try to make comeback against quality team, fall short against quality team. Add to that the inability to beat the division rival Houston Texans (the Colts are 1-3 against them the last two seasons) and the Paul Tagliabue approved Jacksonville Jaguars (the Colts are 1-2 against Jacksonville during the past two seasons with said Jacksonville in town a week from today) and those 11-5 regular season records that come from feasting on AFC South opponents like Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee quickly turn into records of 8-8. Which basically sticks you in NFL purgatory and makes people look for excuses in saying WE BE ONE PLAY AWAY towards getting the world title as opposed to being 8-8.

Which in turn leads me to quit babbling and cut through the s–t to the main point: Diamond Jim’s sons are at the crossroads, and his financial commitment (four year contracts through 2019) and adoration for the Dysfunctional Duo of Ground Chuck and The Big Grig (particularly Grigson, whose player acquisition efforts via both free agency and the annual college draft are both not really inspiring) has me at the crossroads of whether the team is going to be worth the time, effort and financial commitment to fully support as long as said Ground Chuck and Big Grig are underachieving in a division that is regularly considered among the worst in professional sports.

TLDR: I don’t see the local NFL team contending for a World title-much less making the $!$%@% Super Bowl– as long as Irsay allows Pagano and Grigson to be the forebearing sons of his organization. And with that, it’s going to be more difficult as a fan to be motivated to give two s–ts about the local NFL team no matter how much positive press coverage they get with a local Indianapolis media that all but wipes their proverbial buttocks after the local team s–ts on themselves week in and week out when faced with playing a team not located in Nashville. (In 2015 and 2016, the Colts are 4-0 against said Tennessee Titans squad residing in Nashville. Against the rest of the league, they are 11-16. Not the recipe for being an icon no matter how many Robert Mathis replica jerseys from 2008 are still being carted around by Indy suburbanites.)

With discussing Pagano, I’ll let his defenders simply watch this GIF from last year’s nationally televised epic fail against the NBC approved team from the Boston area:

….and when discussing Grigson, watch number 92 in a blue uniform not really do too well on this following play:

The gent wearing 92 is a former Colt first round draft pick selected by Grigson by the name of Bjorne Werner in 2013 (which was not too long ago). With no career ending injury or decision to quit the sport altogether made by this man,  said Grigson approved man Werner should be at the very worst on an NFL roster and at the very least some kind of cornerstone player for the local team to build around for its future. Turns out he’s neither. How bad was the dude? HE NO LONGER PLAYS IN THE NFL. And before the team’s current drift into mediocrity when they actually made the 2014-15 AFC Championship game against New England, Werner was a healthy scratch WHO COULD NOT MAKE THE ROSTER FOR THE BIGGEST GAME THE TEAM HAS PLAYED SINCE 2010. No NFL team has wanted him since he was finally waived this past March. Point? Blowing a first round pick that badly in today’s NFL is like throwing millions of dollars into a furnace. And unfortunately for Colts fans, Grigson -with help now from Pagano as shown by the acquisition of Pagano approved but  not ready for prime time player TJ Green of Clemson as the team’s starting safety-gets to be the son that stirs the drink when it comes to drafting and signing players. Not good.

Should people continue to defend Grigson, I’ll leave a GIF of this former first round pick (courtesy of 2012, which was also not too long ago) that was wearing number 34 who ALSO is not currently in the NFL these days:

Best to not say anything else after the words Trent Richardson. Most NFL fans know. However, as of this day Irsay has his franchise contractually obligated to THREE MORE YEARS of the Dysfunctional Duo. When one would ask ‘Why the f–k did that happen?’ I would respond with curse words. To bring a non-Dave Chappelle like response to the matter, I’ll turn to the coltfreaks.com message board for a good response from a man who knows his football by the codename of GoBigBlue88 after the team looked inept this year against Kansas City:

None of this matters unless Jim Irsay realizes that putting together a winning franchise that plays watchable football is more important than teaching heartwarming life lessons on loyalty and family. He wants this organization to be a family. Well, guess what? Pagano and Grigson are the sketchy uncles you deliberately cut out of the family, and replace with better guys who marry in.”

As for Diamond Jim, again I say take it away GoBigBlue88 (this time after barely beating a losing Chicago Bears squad earlier in the season:

“I also feel like it makes no sense to have Chuck Pagano as the head coach of a franchise with Andrew Luck at QB. Jim Irsay really messed this one up. He committed to the worst possible coach for a modern passing offense. And he committed to a GM who doesn’t invest in the pieces the head coach wants to run his awful system. The result is a complete mess that wastes Luck’s talent, amplifies a lot of shortcomings, and makes Jim Irsay the man who owes us answers.”

TLDR: The organization is at the crossroads, and it is up to the owner to decide if he really wants to risk three more weeks-much less three more years-of a Dysfunctional Duo that really doesn’t do much at all to inspire thoughts of winning the World title. Now if he wants 8-8 records each year…those are his boys, all right. However that may not work much longer in a marketplace that doesn’t really care to support mediocre pro sports teams ran by questionable ownership decisions that enable s—y front office work and s—-y coaching. (See the 2007-2011 Indiana Pacers as a good example of this. That trade for Troy Murphy didn’t sell too many tickets or win too many games. Since I went to games for THREE DOLLARS apiece back then,  humor me and take my word for it.)

My summary take on the whole thing goes to two points:

-Irsay has been a good businessman in building a brand that as of the early 2000’s were merely a blip on the local radar to year after year after year of bad teams (the Colts won only TWO playoff games from 1984 to 2002 before winning two to get to the 2003 AFC championship game and starting the onslaught of every household in central Indiana owning some type of Peyton Manning related merchandise).  As a result the tide has turned to where Irsay has gone from begging the city of Indianapolis for money while shopping his team around in the mid 1990’s (ESPN reported him to be in talks with Los Angeles to move the team, and the city in turn renovated the RCA Dome to lower the seating so Colts home games could actually sell out and be shown on local TV) to becoming one of the richest men in the world as a billionaire listed on the Forbes 1000 list. (We won’t even scratch the surface of the funding towards the current Colts home of Lucas Oil Stadium, but safe to say Irsay isn’t hurting in the pocketbook.) To keep the dollars flowing, one must have good public relations. By winning his last two games of the 2015 season, said Pagano had some good PR in effect and had the local Indianapolis media getting down with him despite some bumbling coaching moves as shown above. Good PR equals more people dropping more coin on those overpriced T-shirts and replica Colt jerseys that are sported at the local Meijer. Hence to keep the good PR going, more Pagano.

-Point two: if Irsay was going to keep Pagano for the PR, then at the end of the day it was-and is-still his football team. Hence, he needs to be happy. Hence, his son Grigson was going to be in full effect and part of the process despite seeing a preseason Super Bowl contender of 2015 get embarrassed on national TV by Pittsburgh and New England while needing missed field goal kicking to split the two games against lowly Jacksonville. And to prove that this was no year by year gimmick with the Dysfunctional Duo always having to worry if the other horseshoe was going to drop…..FOUR YEAR EXTENSIONS BAW GAWD.  In the words of the immortal Tara Lynn Walczak, “YIPPEE SKIPPEE.”

Backing up point two on the point reference and the Irsay-Grigson connection….

Photo of younger 1980s Irsay with his late father Robert:

,,,,and photo of Irsay with that man called Grigson:

Simply put, there’s a bond between the two that leads me to associate them together with the team more than players past (Manning) and present (Luck). Hence the “family” connection GoBigBlue88 referred to in his earlier message board posts. And if one wants me to settle down and give Grigson some positive remarks, read here: after Bill and Chris Polian built a roster that took the team from Super Bowl participant in 2009 to the worst team in the league in 2011 when Manning hurt his neck, Grigson was able to do two things: not be a Polian and put together a roster on the proverbial fly that was able to beat AFC South teams and thus return to playoff contention overnight. In 2012, 2013 and 2014 the Colts had a combined record of 16-2 when playing their AFC South counterparts in Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee. While the team record against the rest of the league dropped to 17-13, nevertheless it was no coincidence that the sparkling AFC South record helped get the team to three straight postseason berths via the AFC wild card in 2012 and two straight AFC South division titles in 2013 and 2014. But with the need to improve the offensive line and defensive pass rush apparent after getting drilled by New England in said 2014-15 AFC title game against said New England…..Grigson has built a roster that does neither. Hence Luck is still a candidate to be hospitalized every time he drops back to pass  and the defense will find ways to choke games like they did earlier in the year against Detroit and Houston (the latter on national TV via losing a 14 point lead in the final quarter). Hence your record of 15-16 overall with 6-5 against said AFC South teams in the past two regular NFL seasons. Being unable to beat said South sons leads to where the franchise is at again: at the crossroads with Irsay having a huge cash commitment giving leadership to the man who burned first round picks on Werner and U of Miami man Philip Dorsett as well as the coach who runs fake punts with nine men on one side of the field. As of this moment, not the most inspiring thing to sell towards getting season ticket holders to renew for 2017…or better yet to leave the house this coming Sunday and watch the Colts’ season home finale in person.

My humble opinion is that the key to the Colts’ franchise future comes down to the relationship between Irsay and Grigson. If Irsay feels that Grigson is worth keeping as his right hand man simply because they can contend for the AFC South division title with a 7-7 record in December year in and year out, then I am bracing myself for more of the same that I’ve seen the last two seasons. At the very least I’ll go out on a limb and say next week is a deja vu of last year: Pagano barely beats a division opponent in the season home finale to finish 8-8, gets the feel good gimmicks from local media men, and in turn comes back for 2017. And since the Dysfunctional Duo of Pagano and Grigson kept their gigs last year-and in turn for four more years of paydays-by being “connected to the hip” then I will thus be ready for more Grigson. Irsay in turn next week assures that said Duo are back for 2017. Wash, rinse, repeat.

At the very least will only have to deal with the possibility of giving the Duo TWO YEARS worth of free money away as opposed to three years should the Colts again fail to make the NFL playoffs. Financial deal on the matter, we get: after all, this is a business and Irsay is a businessman. He’s not going to want to cut checks to people not getting down on West 56th Street.

At the very most? I say Irsay’s risking the chance of causing some serious damage to the relationship between the local NFL team and its fan base. Eventually casual fan is going to say WHY WE NO GO PLAYOFFS NO MORE? and in turn say WHY ME BUY JERSEY WHEN TEAM NO GOOD? Better yet hardcore fan and corporate fan may say WHY ME DROP 100 BUCKS TO LOSE TO HOUSTON AGAIN? and in turn may not drop those few G’s a year on season tickets.

While that may not matter to the media men that now swoon to kissing the NFL’s a– because there’s a team now playing to half capacity crowds in a 95 year old building in Los Angeles, I would like to think that the latter matters to Irsay. He’s seen the team deal with fan apathy that comes from losing year after year in the past and in turn not been able to rake the scratch that he later received during the Manning era of 1998 to 2011 for him to become the billionaire he is today. For his sake, I hope his belief in Grigson being the modern day Marvin Gaye of pro football personnel men comes to fruition. If not, then I’m definitely going to be holding on to that Super Bowl Champions hoodie from a decade ago because that will probably be the only World title merch I’ll be seeing for a while.

A long while.

When it comes to 3,000 words on a Christmas Day about the Dysfunctional Duo, I’ll end it with these four: Your move, Diamond Jim.

Merry Christmas to all who may read this.

Jeff

@fitzthoughtsblog

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