BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay could have his patience tested next season. The Colts' lack of salary-cap space has put the team in a position where it can't try to cut corners. The Colts have to make smart draft decisions and develop their young talent while making wise financial choices when it comes to signing free agents on the outside.
“[General manager] Ryan [Grigson] and [coach] Chuck [Pagano] understand the weight of the expectations that I have, the franchise [has], that the fans have,” Irsay said. “But I also am looking for continuity.”
Irsay is used to winning. He won a Super Bowl title in 2006 and went through a stretch in which the Colts won at least 12 games in seven straight seasons.
Those things were done by the previous regime of general manager Bill Polian and coach Tony Dungy. And that’s why Irsay mentioned the stability and continuity Dungy and Polian gave the Colts on several occasions during a 30-minute media session Tuesday.
The Colts are using the past as a model for their future.
“I obviously implore Ryan and Chuck,” Irsay said. “It’s really important they both understand the legacy that was before them. They see these things happening with Tony Dungy and Marvin [Harrison] and Peyton [Manning], etc., and what that era was. That era is kind of echoing around them. They know what the horseshoe means, going from [Johnny] Unitas to Bert Jones to the [Jim] Harbaugh year and to the great era with Peyton.”
The Colts have displayed their patience so far during free agency. They’re well aware of how the other three teams in the AFC South -- Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville -- have all gotten better on paper, while they’ve signed only three backup players in free agency as questions still remain about their offensive line, pass rush and defensive backfield.
Not one bit.
Irsay, Grigson and Pagano are not deviating from their script. Their plan is to build through the draft and continue to be bargain shoppers on the free-agent market.
“It won’t test our [patience] as much as it will the fans',” Grigson said. “We have to be disciplined to this approach. There’s no way around that. We’re not in the position where we say, ‘We have a need at this spot, we’re going to spend $5 million and go get this.’ We can’t do that.
“I think, ultimately, it’s best for the overall vitality of the organization and for the team long term because a lot of times you start those [young] guys out and they hit a few bumps in the road, and midseason they’re hitting their stride and they’re developing right before your eyes. You hope that development continues.”
Trading away a first-round pick for running back Trent Richardson, who turned out to be a bust, and releasing former first-round pick Bjoern Werner are two blemishes that have left a lasting mark for Grigson. But getting production out of last year’s draft class, which featured four players who started at least one game, gives Irsay hope that they can have success surrounding Andrew Luck, who highlights the Colts’ talented 2012 class, with quality players through the draft. The owner said Denzelle Good, who was a seventh-round pick last season, has the potential to start at right tackle for them.
“We’re probably not as far away as maybe some might think, not that we’ve lost this, that and the other,” Pagano said. “But we’re going to continue to build this and build it the right way and try to acquire the necessary pieces. But it’s easy to look back and say we were real spendy in the past and went all in with the hype that surrounded the 2015 season, Super Bowl or bust, this and that.
“Again, the expectations for ourselves don’t change. We have one goal and one goal only. That’ll never change and we’ll keep chasing that goal until we reach that goal and then we’ll start over again. Having said that, we’ll make sure we take it one day at a time.”