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Colts fire general manager Ryan Grigson

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Defense wins games and the Colts defense never improved.

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts fired general manager Ryan Grigson on Saturday after five years with the organization, the team announced.

Colts owner Jim Irsay fired his general manager after the team finished at 8-8 for the second consecutive season. Grigson’s ousting is in large part because the roster he built was short on talent, particularly on defense.

“I think that we needed to make a change, I felt,” Irsay said. “Intuitively, you get the feeling when the timing is right and change will help. While continuity is something I want and long to have ... but in this case I felt the time was right to make a change. We needed some new direction.”

Irsay told USA Today’s Tom Pelissero in December that he did not plan to make any changes in the front office or with the coaching staff, with a caveat.

“Right now I’m not anticipating making any changes,” Irsay said following a loss to the Houston Texans. “That can always change. It always can when we’re sitting down at the end of the year and evaluate things. But I’m just looking at seeing if we can win these next three games.”

The Colts won two of the last three games of the season, but there were clear frustrations with the team’s lackluster performance. Even players celebrated the firing of Grigson with punter Pat McAfee and former Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman taking to Twitter:

Indianapolis was entrenched in the AFC South race well into December, but the Colts surrendered the division to the Texans. Following three consecutive 11-win seasons, they missed out on the playoffs for the second straight year.

During his tenure, the Colts drafted terribly

Outside of drafting quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in his first draft in 2012, Grigson and the Colts missed on a lot of picks. T.Y. Hilton, a third-round pick in Luck’s draft class, developed into a deep threat, but that’s really the only other hit Grigson produced.

Bjoern Werner was the team’s next first-round pick in 2013. Werner was a defensive end who had 6.5 sacks in three NFL seasons. He’s now out of the league. The following year, the Colts didn’t have a first-round pick because they traded it to the Browns for running back Trent Richardson. Richardson played 29 games with the Colts, before being released after averaging just 3.1 yards per carry in his two seasons with the team.

Drafting well pays off -- the Oakland Raiders certainly have shown as much this season. But the Colts were putting together 11-win seasons. There’s no question that even if Grigson had been decent in drafting players, the Colts wouldn’t be worse than a 10-win team, especially in a weaker division like the AFC South.

While the picks weren’t good, Grigson thought he could build the team through free agency, and well ...

Their offseason moves weren’t any better

The Colts decided to plug in veterans to try to have a quick fix and “win now” as is often done in the NFL. Gosder Cherilus, LaRon Landry, Ricky Jean Francois, Erik Walden, Donald Thomas, and Matt Hasselbeck all received contracts that were at least $3 million per year.

The majority of those moves were made to improve the defense, and all but Walden and Hasselbeck were cut after just two seasons. Walden remains with the team, and Hasselbeck retired.

The Colts defense ranked 30th this season, and they kept surrendering big plays. Indianapolis could not stop the pass or run, and its offense had to keep scoring points to keep up with opponents. The offense has largely held its own since Luck’s arrival, but it’s tough when the defense never gives them a cushion.

The combination of poor drafting, and an inability to build a contender through free agency is a recipe for disaster, and it’s led many to feel that some of Luck’s best years have been wasted. It’s easy to understand why Grigson is gone, when a quarterback like Luck is having his career affected by anything other than his play.

A standard had been set, and Grigson didn’t meet it

This marks the first time since 1998 that the Colts have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. For Irsay, that’s not acceptable. Under Bill Polian, the Colts had eight consecutive playoff appearances, including seven seasons of 12 or more wins. They appeared in two Super Bowls, and won one of them.

“It’s about winning and winning the right way and trying to sustain success over a large period of time,” Irsay said. “We’re used to being in the playoffs. This is the first time in almost 20 years we (wouldn’t have) made the playoffs in back-to-back years. That’s extremely disappointing.”

With Grigson out, questions about the job security of Chuck Pagano were raised, but Irsay said Saturday that the coach is safe. It’s possible that Pagano got a pass because Grigson was blamed for much of the team’s struggles:

While there were rumors that Peyton Manning was interested in a front office role with the Colts, Irsay said Saturday that the former quarterback is not in the picture for the search for a new general manager.

Indianapolis must now hire one who can sign and draft top-notch defensive players to help out Luck and the offense. The Colts can’t make the playoffs, let alone win a Super Bowl, if they can’t stop teams from scoring.