INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the things that took place during the marathon meeting between Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano on the day Pagano signed his four-year contract extension on Jan. 4 was a “heart-to-heart” and “man-to-man” conversation between the general manager and head coach.
That was a requirement from Irsay, who had read and heard about the tension between Pagano and Grigson during the franchise’s most disappointing season since 2011.
There couldn’t be holding back any feelings between Pagano and Grigson because if the Colts were going to have an opportunity to win going forward and if the two were going to co-exist they had to put their differences aside.
“It was a question of making sure there was clear communication,” Irsay said. “If someone had a problem with something someone was doing, make sure you bring it up and clear the air immediately and don’t just let it slide and simmer underneath you. Again, you like to have a little tension in your organization. You like to have two people with vision and they’re going to fight for it. I really think it came together in an incredibly good way. I think all day Monday afternoon and early evening [on Jan. 4] was very important for those guys.”
As much as Grigson and Pagano publicly denied their relationship problems, a rift between the two was there. Grigson’s hands-on approach with which players Pagano should play grew tiresome with the coach. A number of media outlets, including ESPN.com, wrote about it. It got to the point that there was little communication between Grigson and Pagano by late in the season.
That’s not the way a franchise should be run.
Irsay ended the news conference on Jan. 4 saying he was not going to let anybody bully his head coach.
“What I did with those guys was, ‘You guys have to communicate clearly on how you have a feeling on things,’” Irsay said. “Little things sometimes are big things. They talk about fight or flight. Well Ryan is more fight, Chuck is more flight. Sometimes you don’t have clear communication and that can lead to a little bit of tension under the carpet.”
One area Irsay said Pagano had to improve in was not letting his personal relationships with players impact what the Colts are trying to accomplish on the football field. Pagano clearly is a player's coach. A number of players went public with their desire for Pagano to return as coach immediately after their season finale against Tennessee on Jan. 3.
“Chuck is such a relationship guy and it’s a strength of his," Irsay said. "But again, he can’t let emotion, sentiment get in a way of winning in professional football I’ve been real clear with Chuck and Ryan as well. You always try to continue to work on weaknesses any individual has.”
Pagano has already shown signs of being able to put feelings aside because he's fired seven coaches since he received his new contract. Grigson received a three-year contract extension on Jan. 4.
“They have to reach deep and realize how hard it is to win and you can’t take short cuts or let emotions sway your decisions,” Irsay said. “That’s a little bit more with Chuck because he’s such a relationship guy. He’s proven it to me when he made the move with [Rob Chudzinski] over Pep [Hamilton as offensive coordinator] and then he looked at his coaching staff, some of those guys he was really close to, and it was hard for him. But he moved forward from it. I really like the guys we’ve added.”