It's fair to say that Ryan Grigson's early success as the Colts' general manager had more to do with timing than his abilities to stock the roster with good players. He arrived in 2012, shortly after the team had won just twice the season before, and shortly before they would use the first-overall pick on Andrew Luck, who promptly led the Colts to 11 wins in each of his first three seasons.
But signs of trouble were there early; in Sept. 2013, Grigson traded a first-round pick to the Browns for Trent Richardson, who appeared in 19 games over two seasons, rushed for 977 yards, averaged 3.2 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns before, mercifully, he was cut. But Grigson remained, where he continued to make suspect personnel moves all while clashing with then-coach Chuck Pagano.
In 2015, it was reported that Grigson had a pattern of "meddling" during Pagano's first four seasons, and that included insisting that Pagano play -- and even start -- Richardson. After back-to-back 8-8 finishes, Grigson was let go in January 2017.
But that wasn't the only fallout; Luck's prime had been wasted on a general manager ill-equipped to handle the job, and a series of poor personnel decisions had left the roster in tatters. And on top of it all, the NFL's best punter, Pat McAfee, instead of spending another day playing for Grigson.
This week we got more insight into McAfee's decision, which he said was about a lack of respect, and he likened it to the recent news that he would be leaving Barstool Sports, where he has been since 2017.
"I began being disrespected by the business people in the building," McAfee said on his podcast. "I've decided I don't want to make money for those folks anymore."
On that same podcast, McAfee recounted a time in 2016, after the Colts were blown out by the Steelers, 28-7, in a Thanksgiving Day game. The Colts' lone score came after McAfee, on fourth down, completed a 35-yard pass that set up an 8-yard Frank Gore touchdown run. Days later, McAfee was called into Grigson's office where he thought he might be thanked for helping the team avoid a shutout on national television.
"Maybe this is an olive branch," McAfee said he thought to himself at the time. "...I'm leading the league in almost everything, I don't think I've given up a return yard in maybe two months, three months, I'm the No. 2 jersey seller for the Colts, I'm doing a lot of charity work. Maybe this is Grigson being, 'You know, I fined you three to four times before about dumb (expletive), but I would like to be friends.'"
McAfee continues: "He goes, 'Sit down.' And I'm like, 'Whoa.' ... There was already in my head an idea of me being sick of making money for Ryan Grigson and the Colts operation at the time. It was at that moment that I realized, 'I'm (expletive) done here.' ...
"He has the picture on a piece of paper, slams it on the desk, pushes it across the desk to me and I look at it. At this moment in my head, I've already said '(expletive) it' to this guy. I look at the photo and look up at him. It's like a moment of silence."
This was the photo, which had been posted to Instagram:
And the issue, according to McAfee, was that the photo had been taken in the "football room."
It gets crazier.
"He pulls out my contract, opens it up, goes to a clause. 'Since this isn't your first offense, I can fine you a game check for this,'" McAfee remembered Grigson saying, via the Indianapolis Star's Matthew VanTryon. "You only get 17 game checks in your entire salary, so if you want to look up what that was, it was $100,000 almost. I said, 'For what?' He said, 'Is that a football room?' I said, 'Well the title is an equipment room. There's footballs in there I guess.' He goes, 'Why do you have to be such a smart ass? I can fine you anything I want. This is why we're losing.' This is why we lost to the Steelers, he tells me."
Unfazed, McAfee responded with this:
"I said, 'You paid a guy $140 million and you can't keep him healthy. Your offensive line is Swiss cheese. He's blown out his shoulder three times, and you're worried about this (expletive)?' He goes, 'What did you just say to me?' I go, 'Oh yeah, I'm the best in the game at what I do. I wish you would do the same.' This is a moment he did not expect. He goes, 'You're going to walk into my office and disrespect me?' I go, 'You called me in here.' He said, 'I'm going to fine you a whole game check.' I said, 'Cool bro,' and literally walked out of his office. As I walk out, he gives me the, 'Get out of my office.' I go, 'Already walking out.'"
We didn't think it was possible to like McAfee anymore than we already did.