THE EAGLES weren't surprised when player personnel director Ryan Grigson was hired as the Indianapolis Colts' general manager yesterday, Eagles GM Howie Roseman said.
"We knew this time would come. He was too talented for it not to come. You're always preparing to lose good people. That's part of the NFL," Roseman said. "You know that at some point, they're going to be taking the next step. So, to say this has blindsided us, that wouldn't be truthful . . . Obviously, we have some idea of some of the things we're going to want to do here. Without getting too much into that for now, this is more about Ryan and the great opportunity he has and the great job he'll do for the Indianapolis Colts."
Grigson, who turns 40 next month, was introduced as the successor to fired Colts executive Bill Polian, 69, (though Polian's son, Chris, also fired, had the GM title). Colts owner Jim Irsay said of Grigson: "We really got the man that we wanted" from what Irsay said was a field of 25 to 30 candidates. He called Grigson, who also interviewed in St. Louis, "a special guy in terms of player evaluation" who has "great depth of vision."
Roseman called Grigson "an excellent evaluator and close adviser" who is "very passionate about winning."
Grigson will be entrusted with navigating what is expected to be the drafting of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck first overall, and the possible trading of current QB legend Peyton Manning, who turns 36 in March and missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury.
"As we go forward, Ryan is a riser. He's a guy who's going to continue to get better. He has all the tools, all the talent, to continue to rise up to this level, of being a general manager," Irsay said.
Eagles fans critical of some recent high draft picks might puzzle over why another team would pick someone like Grigson to run the organization. Couple of points there. For one thing, as far as we know, Grigson didn't draft the players here, he just prepared the evaluations. The fact that the Eagles have consistently found useful players toward the bottom of the draft would argue that they are getting accurate evaluations, even if they aren't always following them. Also, Grigson was a Rams scout when the Rams won the Super Bowl (then when they lost it) and an Eagles scout when the Birds went to the Super Bowl. The last few drafts hardly sum up his career.
Eagles fans are more interested in what Grigson's departure means for their organization. Roseman noted that Grigson, who came to the Eagles as a scout from the Rams in 2003, has been involved in every key decision for many years - not just about the draft, but trades and free-agent signings as well.
A league source who has dealt with Grigson called his departure "a big loss to the Eagles." He said Grigson was a "low-ego guy" who was "very bright" and could recite a scouting report on a player off the top of his head.
The most obvious successor to Grigson might be Louis Riddick, the pro personnel director, a Quakertown native and former NFL safety. But Riddick's entire NFL personnel background is on the pro side - he has done no full-time college scouting, and draft preparation was a huge part of Grigson's role here. Assistant director of college scouting Anthony Patch has been with the Eagles longer than anyone else in the scouting department (10 seasons). The Birds also employ former Ravens and Browns executive Phil Savage as a "player personnel executive," really more of a part-time adviser. Savage does color commentary on University of Alabama football broadcasts.
Whether any of these people succeeds Grigson might depend on whether any of them decide to go with him, something that frequently happens in NFL personnel circles when an executive leaves. Roseman confirmed that scouts' contracts run through the April draft, in which the Eagles pick 15th overall, so Grigson won't be able to raid his old department before then.
When he was introduced in Indianapolis, Grigson, a former Purdue offensive tackle and tight end, didn't sound like a man preparing for sweeping changes.
"I've been on teams before where guys just ran [scouts] out for the sake of running 'em out," he said. "That makes no sense to me . . . I like to salvage things."
Grigson said he met Colts coach Jim Caldwell for the first time yesterday. He did not commit to keeping or firing Caldwell. If the Colts draft Luck, a logical choice to develop him would be Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who surely knows the QB position as well as anyone in the NFL. But Mornhinweg carries with him the onus of a disastrous 2-year tenure in Detroit - yes, he was the guy who chose to kick off in sudden-death overtime. And last year, even though Eagles coach Andy Reid pushed for Mornhinweg to be considered in Cleveland, where Reid mentor Mike Holmgren and former Eagles GM Tom Heckert run the show, Mornhinweg did not get an interview.
If Mornhinweg did leave, could the offensive-coordinator spot be a soft landing area for loyal organizational soldier Juan Castillo, assuming Castillo will not run the defense again next season? With Reid on vacation through Sunday, we are unlikely to learn Castillo's fate this week.
In Irsay, the funniest and most controversial NFL owner on Twitter, Grigson will be working for a very different boss than Jeffrey Lurie. It will be interesting to see how Grigson, unaccustomed to the spotlight, navigates the challenge ahead of him with the 2-14 Colts.
Grigson yesterday praised Irsay's "unbridled enthusiasm," and noted how glad he and his wife, Cynthia, were to be returning to their native Indiana, with their five children.
"Coming back, one of the first things I said to a colleague was, 'Wow, I know I'm back home because everyone is really willing to help, and friendly, and good communicators, there's some good energy here,' " Grigson said.