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Associated Press
If coach Jim Caldwell is still on the payroll when a general manager is hired, it will be hard to justify keeping him after a 2-14 season.

Colts have 5 paths back to greatness

New GM to face tough decisions

Associated Press
Colts owner Jim Irsay may need weeks to find the right general manager to restore the team to greatness.

In choosing his new general manager, Colts owner Jim Irsay said the person must possess “a vision to get us back to greatness.”

After firing vice chairman Bill Polian, the architect of the past 14 seasons, and his son, vice president and general manager Chris Polian, Irsay said Monday it could take weeks before he finds the right person to replace them.

Here’s a look at five people who could be brought in to run the Colts:

Reggie McKenzie, director of football operations, Green Bay Packers: In 18 years in the front office, he has helped the Packers to two Super Bowl championships and overseen the transition from one Hall of Fame quarterback (Brett Favre) to another (Aaron Rodgers).

Eric DeCosta, director of player personnel, Baltimore Ravens: He has been with the Ravens since 1996. Not only did he help make a great coaching hire in John Harbaugh, but he also was behind the drafts of Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Le’Ron McLain and Ray Rice, all Pro Bowlers.

Les Snead, director of player personnel, Atlanta Falcons: In 14 seasons with the Falcons, he has helped with a trip to the Super Bowl, seen the rise of two star quarterbacks (Michael Vick and Matt Ryan) and worked under respected general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

Pat Moriarty, vice president of football administration, Baltimore: If the Colts want to figure out a way to keep their stars, build for the future and make it all work under the salary cap, they may need someone like Moriarty, a “capologist” who worked in commercial banking for more than a decade.

Nick Caserio, director of player personnel, New England Patriots: Since 2001, he has coached and worked in the Patriots’ front office, so he has good insight into all facets of an organization. Plus, the Colts would be taking him from their chief rival.

Whoever the Colts hire, he’ll have to decide what direction to take an organization that finished with the worst record in the NFL, less than two years removed from being in the Super Bowl. Here is a look at what the new general manager will have to tackle first:

Hire a coach. Jim Caldwell may still be on the payroll when a general manager is hired, but you can’t justify keeping him after going 2-14. Jeff Fisher may be the best fit, given his experience in the AFC South with Tennessee and his success with a star quarterback (Steve McNair), but he probably won’t be available long.

Make a decision on Peyton Manning. Irsay seems to want Manning around, despite three neck surgeries, more than a year off the field and a $28 million option that must be picked up before the draft. But a smart general manager will know it makes more sense to pick Andrew Luck, go through one rough year and get ready for the next 12 years.

Make a decision on Luck. If Manning is sticking around, the general manager will have to determine whether it’s better to take Luck, with some sort of succession plan, or leverage that top pick into weapons for Manning to use in the short term.

Evaluate the big four. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, center Jeff Saturday, defensive end Robert Mathis and right guard Ryan Diem all have expiring contacts. Saturday is the best bet to come back because he would be a good influence regardless of the quarterback.

Find the right defensive coordinator. Nothing has dogged the Colts like their defense – it ranked 25th with 370.9 yards against per game, with a 29th-ranked run defense – and it’s time to get this fixed.

Look at the inconsistent players. Wide receiver Pierre Garçon, cornerback Jacob Lacey and running back Donald Brown have shown game-winning promise and horrible inconsistencies. There are also some draft busts, like defensive end Jerry Hughes, and injury-prone players, like tight end Dallas Clark, and wide receivers Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez, who must be dealt with soon.

jcohn@jg.net

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