I'm going to step out onto a limb here: Ryan Grigson rightfully received the recognition he deserved.
Provocative, right? In all seriousness, I'm surprised that the Sporting News' 9-8 vote in their NFL Executive of the Year poll was even that close. Grigson may have been a sweaty, nervous, jacket-less wreck during a few of his early press conferences, but he was sharp and aggressive when it came to re-vamping the Colts' roster.
Here's a synopsis of his moves (note: I didn’t include Mewelde Moore because I didn’t want the “F-” to drag down the overall GPA):
The Draft class: A
Let's forget Andrew Luck for a second, because he was really a no-brainer at #1. It seems that every pick made a contribution in some way. Dwayne Allen (1st among rookie TEs in receptions, yards, TDs) and T.Y. Hilton (2nd among rookie WRs in yards, 1st in TDs) were two of the most productive rookies at their positions. Vick Ballard stepped up in a big way for an injury-riddled backfield. LaVon Brazill showed some flashes in limited Special Teams, and receiver action. Hilton (along with Deji Karim and, eventually, Brazill) also breathed some life into the return units, which had been long dormant. It looks like it's already the Colts' best draft haul since 2006 – Polian’s last great draft class - where they also squeezed value out of several later-round picks (Jennings, Johnson, Bethea).
Winston Justice, Mike McGlynn, Samson Satele: C-
Justice was banged-up most of the year, and will likely leave via free agency, but he was adequate when he was in the lineup. Satele didn't perform poorly, but was outplayed by A.Q. Shipley. McGlynn had a forgettable season, and graded out as Indy's worst offensive lineman in 2012.
Donnie Avery: C+
Ideally, Donnie Avery isn't your #2 wideout. In his defense, 781 receiving yards was pretty productive for a guy that came off the scrap heap. Grigson will have to find someone better suited to compliment Reggie Wayne on the other side. Avery's drops were an issue, but hey, he did do this:
Avery dropped passes, but was a super-awesome clutch hero in Detroit!
Jerrell Freeman: A-
While his 145 tackles (5th in the NFL) don't paint the entire picture, Freeman was a terrific find for Grigson. The former CFL All-Star burst onto the scene with a pick-six in the opener in Chicago, and helped the Colts overcome the early season loss of Pat Angerer to injury.
Cory Redding: A-
Redding's leadership was an A+. The big defensive end helped the locker room acclimate itself to Chuck Pagano, and their new 3-4 defensive scheme. He was the Colts' best run stopper.
Cassius Vaughn, Darius Butler, Tom Zbikowski: C
Oddly enough, Vaughn and Butler both won AFC Defensive Player of the Week Awards in turnover-filled wins over woeful Tennessee and Jacksonville teams. They were both in over their heads against Anquan Boldin - especially Vaughn - in the playoff loss to Baltimore. Zbikowski, brought in because of his familiarity with Pagano's scheme from Baltimore, just isn't good enough to start at safety.
Vontae Davis: B
Grigson really stuck his neck out in trading for Davis, giving up a 2nd rounder but refusing Miami's demand for T.Y. Hilton (thank goodness for that). While Davis was awful at times early in the year, he had a very strong finish to the season. Also, he's the only starting-caliber man-to-man corner on the entire roster.
Half of the Colts' starters in their AFC Wild Card Round game in Baltimore were Grigson acquisitions. That list jumps to twelve when you count Reggie Wayne, who was brought back into the fold for an absolute bargain (3 years/$17.5M). Considering the Colts carried almost $40 million in dead money this year, it's amazing that Grigson was able to put together a roster capable of making the playoffs. Oh, and I didn't even mention his decision to bring in Bruce Arians to mentor Luck, or the terrific coaching staff that he assembled.
2012 was a dazzling debut for Ryan Grigson. However, even after an eleven-win season, the Colts are still several pieces away from being a Championship contender. Grigson's job is hardly done, but there's no reason not to be confident in his abilities. People say that the Colts have found their franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. They've also apparently found their franchise general manager in Grigson.