Jim Caldwell was fired as coach of the Indianapolis Colts, who had dismissed Bill Polian as vice chairman and his son Chris Polian as general manager after their worst season in 20 years.
The Colts hired Ryan Grigson, the Philadelphia Eagles director of player personnel, as their GM last week. Grigson said he met for seven hours over the weekend with Caldwell, who has a 28-24 record since succeeding Tony Dungy as the Colts’ coach before the 2009 National Football League season.
“Change sometimes isn’t always easy, but it’s part of this game, part of this league and part of the steps needed to get going in this new era of Colts football,” Grigson said at a televised news conference.
Caldwell, who had been part of the team’s coaching staff since 2002, was unable to overcome the loss of quarterback Peyton Manning this season as the Colts tied for the league’s worst record at 2-14. Manning, a four-time NFL Most Valuable Player, missed the entire season after neck surgery.
“Ryan and I had a chance to evaluate the situation thoroughly since he was hired and this was the direction we needed to go,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said.
Caldwell’s departure comes a week after the Oakland Raiders fired coach Hue Jackson following the hire of GM Reggie McKenzie, who said it was time for the organization to “start anew.” There had been calls for Caldwell’s ouster in Indianapolis, including a website called firecoachcaldwell.net that featured a petition with almost 6,000 signatures.
The Colts have the first pick in the April draft and are in position to take Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck, who is regarded by draft analysts as the No. 1 player available. Manning is 35 years old, may be nearing the end of his career after 14 years in the NFL, and his health remains a question as he recovers from his neck injury.
Irsay is certain the Colts will draft Luck, ESPN reported last week before the hiring of Grigson, who helped the Eagles bring in six Pro Bowl players over the past two seasons. Grigson directed the Eagles’ college scouting from 2006 to 2009, drafting running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Both have made Pro Bowl appearances.
The Colts reached the Super Bowl in Caldwell’s first season as coach, winning their first 14 games and going 16-2 before losing to the New Orleans Saints in the NFL’s title game. Indianapolis went 10-7 last year, winning at least 10 games and making the playoffs for the 11th time in 12 seasons.
Polian ran the front office and Manning was at quarterback throughout that span, winning the Super Bowl title after the 2006 season. Polian was hired in 1998 and drafted Manning with the first pick that year, when Jim Mora was brought in as coach to replace Lindy Infante.
“Just like it was in 1998 with the uncertainty, it’s tough to change,” Irsay said. “We’ve had such excellence and greatness over a long period of time here and that’s what I expect us to return to. But it’s not an overnight process.”
Manning had neck surgery following the 2010 campaign, and setbacks in his recovery prevented him from playing this season. His streak of 227 consecutive starts dating back to 1998 ended in Week 1 and the Colts opened the season 0-13 without him, scoring more than 20 points just twice.
The Colts tied for 29th of 32 NFL teams in points scored and surrendered the fifth most points in the league. It was the franchise’s worst season since 1991, when the Colts went 1-15.