Jim Irsay reportedly looked to recruit Jon Gruden (no) and Peyton Manning (?)
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s risky business to interpret the deafening silence emanating from the Indianapolis Colts headquarters, but if reports are to be believed, owner Jim Irsay has less than resolute confidence in two of his right-hand men.
According to a pair of national reports, each citing unnamed sources, ESPN’s Jon Gruden spurned Irsay’s overtures to replace Chuck Pagano as head coach and Irsay has attempted to convince Peyton Manning to accept a front-office role with the team.
Here’s where it’s worth noting there’s no vacancy at either position. General manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano are under contract through the 2019 season, although their job security has been in question since the end of the season.
The latest reports clearly bring into question Irsay’s confidence in the ability of Grigson and Pagano to return his franchise to prominence. The Colts have posted consecutive 8-8 records and missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1997-98.
There has been no comment from the team regarding Grigson and Pagano – or Manning and Gruden – which has been the case since the team closed the season Jan. 1 with a 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Irsay has declined numerous interview requests.
Early Saturday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter, citing league sources, used his Twitter account to report Irsay was unsuccessful in his attempt at luring Gruden away from ESPN, where he reportedly is the station’s highest-paid on-air employee at $6.5 million per year.
“I know nothing,’’ Gruden was quoted by Schefter. “I’ve told people, I’m not coaching. I’m a broadcaster, I’m not a coach.’’
Later Saturday, FOX Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer reported Irsay also has tried bringing Manning, the iconic Colts’ quarterback, back to Indy as head of football operations.
“Colts owner Jim Irsay in fact made strong push for Peyton Manning as head of football (with) Gruden as coach,’’ Glazer posted on his Twitter account. “Still hopeful to get Peyton.
“While Irsay would love to bring Peyton back its Manning’s call and tho he’s listened I think it would be uphill battle to get him to do it.’’
Irsay prefers continuity within his organization, and that led to him to sticking with Grigson and Pagano after the 2015 season. Grigson was given a three-year extension and Pagano, whose contract was expiring, a four-year deal.
However, in an interview with USA Today in mid-December, his support of Grigson and Pagano was less than steadfast.
“Right now, I’m not anticipating making any changes,’’ he said. “That can always change. It always can when we’re sitting down at the end of the year and evaluate things.
“Look, if you can improve your franchise, even if you’re doing well, you’re going to make that move. You just are, at least I am. It’s about winning and winning the right way and trying to sustain success over a large period of time.’’
Irsay’s comments came a few days after the Colts dropped a 22-17 decision Dec. 11 to Houston that essentially extinguished their playoff hopes.
The Colts defeated Jacksonville in their regular-season finale Jan. 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the following day Pagano said “the plan’’ was to remain head coach even though he had yet to meet with Irsay.
Last week, it was reported by Schefter, NFL.com and The Sporting News Pagano and Grigson had been given an assurance they would return, but there was no comment from the team.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.