Colts Possible GM Candidates [UPDATED: 01/10]

Kyle Rodriguez keeps an updated list of the key names in the Colts’ GM search.

Per requests, I’ll be updating this page as new information is available. I”ll keep the current candidates listed up here on top, with the details below for each candidate. New updates will be marked with an asterisk, and details of the update can be found under the candidate’s longer profile below

Favorites

  • Ryan Grigson*

Have Been Interviewed

  • Tom Telesco
  • Marc Ross
  • Tom Ciskowski
  • Les Snead
  • David Caldwell
  • Jim Popp

Fallen Off the Track

  • Doug Whaley
  • Jeff Foster

No Longer Options

  • Reggie McKenzie
  • Eric DeCosta

As the Colts season has now ended, earlier than at any point in the last 10 years, it is time to move forward. With the recent firings of Bill and Chris Polian, Jim Irsay has made it clear that the Colts are looking at a rebuilding stage. This will likely lead to multiple losing seasons in coming years, and unless Manning turns out to be healthy for a few more years, a very low chance at any playoff spots. While the Colts’ valleys are all but guaranteed at this point, the length of time in those valleys is not. The new general manager and team president (however Irsay decides to address the two positions) will have the biggest impact on how long the Colts rebuilding stage is, along with the 2012 first round pick.

While the Colts have until April before Luck is officially theirs (most likely scenario), the decision on the front office will come decidedly sooner. Already we have heard reports, tweets, and interview requests come through the media, although no substantial progress has occurred thus far. That being said, I think it is the perfect time to now look ahead from the Polian’s to their successor(s). And so, here are a few key names that could play a role in Jim Irsay’s decision.

The Not Gonna Happen

Reggie McKenzie- Director of Football Operations, Green Bay Packers

McKenzie is now in his fourth year as the director of football operations for the Packers, after obtaining a job as a pro personnel assistant and director of pro personnel prior to becoming director in 2008. He was a linebacker in the NFL for seven years, most notable for the Los Angeles Raiders from 1985-1988. He is one of the few former players in today’s NFL front office ranks, and is a sexy pick around the league to be a future star GM.

I know, I know, this is the name that everybody wants, but I don’t see it happening. McKenzie hasn’t been reported to have been contacted by the Colts, and seeing how they recently asked to interview McKenzie’s employee, director of college scouting John Dorsey (who declined), I doubt they go for McKenzie. Also, the Colts are looking for somebody who a great talent evaluator, and what they mean by that is college player evaluation. McKenzie has spent his career in the NFL doing pro personnel evaluation. Basically this is what it means:

“McKenzie oversees Green Bay’s scouting efforts of all professional football leagues, including the NFL, CFL and Arena Football League, as well as all other pro leagues and international players. He also plays an integral role in judging the Packers’ current players and evaluating potential free agents across the league.”

Basically, McKenzie’s main job has been evaluating free agents, not college players. Now, McKenzie is more involved with the draft recently, being the director of football operations, but I believe the Colts don’t see him as fitting the role they want (hence going after Dorsey instead).
McKenzie is interviewing with the Raiders for their general manager position, but my money is that he stays in Green Bay. But, having connections with the Raiders, it makes sense why he would choose to take the Oakland job if given the chance.

UPDATE: Adam Schefter reported Thursday night that the Raiders will be hiring McKenzie.

The Pipe Dream

Eric DeCosta- Director of Player Personnel, Baltimore Ravens

DeCosta was a scout for the Ravens from 1998-2002, then was named Director of College Scouting in 2003. He was promoted to Director of Player Personnel in 2009, and is rumored to be the heir apparent of Ozzie Newsome. DeCosta is 40 years old, notable simply because Polian and Bill Tobin, the Colts’ last two GMs (I don’t really count Chris Polian, he was overshadowed by Bill) were both in their 50′s when hired.

A lot of interest has opened up for DeCosta, most notably from the Chicago Bears and the Colts. According to Albert Breer, the Bears and Colts’ GM jobs are likely the leading two possibilities to uproot DeCosta from his home in Baltimore. In my opinion, DeCosta is the guy the Colts want the most, and would fit what they need a lot more than a guy like McKenzie (whose experience is mostly in free agent scouting). But, in order to get him, the Colts would need to give DeCosta a very good reason to come to Indianapolis. Of course, Andrew Luck would be one big advantage.

The Colts have requested permission to interview DeCosta, and have received permission from the Ravens.

UPDATE: Schefter reported Friday that the Ravens announced that DeCosta won’t be interviewing with other teams, but will be staying with Ravens. This refutes the earlier report from The Baltimore Sun.

The Internal Promotion

Tom Telesco- Director of Player Personnel, Indianapolis Colts

Telesco, like McKenzie, has had most of his background in pro scouting, but has also been an area scout for both the Colts and the Panthers. Telesco is a Polian-bred guy, interning for the Bills from ’91-’94, then working for the Panthers and Colts when Bill was with those respective clubs. Telesco is younger as well, having just turned 39.

Telesco would provide the consistency that the Colts love so much, but if Irsay really wants to star over, as it seems he does, he may want to bring in someone from the outside. It seems likely that Telesco will at least garner an interview, but beyond that is yet to be seen. Telesco had the respect of the Polians, and while Irsay may have been tired of their attitudes, he certainly respects their opinions in terms of talent evaluation. Telesco was rumored to be an option for the Buffalo Bills’ front office openings in 2009, and is currently in the mix for GM jobs in St. Louis and Chicago.

The-Come-Out-Of-Nowhere-Hometown-Hero

Ryan Grigson- Director of Player Personnel, Philadelphia Eagles

Grigson has been a scout in the NFL since 1999 (worked in CFL prio), working for the Rams until 2004. Since then, he’s been with the Eagles, as a regional scout, director of college scouting, and, for the last two years, director of player personnel. Grigson fits the mold of a DeCosta in terms of his college scouting background. He will be turning 40 in February, and is from Highland, Indiana.

Grigson hadn’t been mentioned by anybody that I can find, until Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Colts (and others) were interested on Thursday night. Soon after, the Philadelphia Inquirer confirmed that the Eagles had given Grigson permission to interview for both the Colts and Rams’ GM jobs. Grigson has been a scout for winning organizations for over ten years, and wouldn’t be a bad choice, as long as the “Dream Team” disaster in 2011 wasn’t his brain child. Being from Indiana may be a bonus though.

UPDATE: Schefter reported Tuesday that Grigson has returned for a second interview, and other sources say that Grigson may be the favorite. 

The Unique One

Jeff Foster- National Football Scouting President

Unlike any of the other candidates, Foster is not employed by any NFL teams. He was previously a scout, most notably under Kansas City Chiefs giant Carl Peterson. Currently, Foster is the president of National Football Scouting and runs the Combine in February every year. I was hard pressed to find any other information on him, he keeps a pretty low profile.

The word is that he’s expected to be in the mix, according to Adam Schefter. But, because he’s not affiliated with another team, we won’t see confirmations of interview requests or things like that, so don’t expect to see much on him. His background in talent evaluation is extremely extensive, which may give him an edge. On the other hand, his lack of experience in a front office changes things up a bit.

UPDATE: Foster seems to never have been considered, as Colts GM Jim Irsay verified that seven candidates would be interviewed by Monday. Since we have confirmation that seven other candidates are being interviewed, it looks like either Foster or the Colts declined to show interest.

The Sleeper

Doug Whaley- Assistant General Manager/Director of Player Personnel, Buffalo Bills

Although he’s been overlooked by many this year, Doug Whaley has been an up-and-comer among front office candidates for years. Starting as a scout, Whaley was brought up in the Steeler system, eventually becoming the Pro Personnel Coordinator. In 2010, Whaley accepted the Assistant GM position in Buffalo, and was expected to be the next in line for the GM spot.

Whaley was reported by Albert Breer to be a future GM star earlier this year, and he has been mentioned specifically in relation to the Bears and Colts in recent reports. Whaley is known as being brilliant, and I’m willing to bet that the Bills will do what it takes to keep him. But, don’t be surprised if the Colts request an interview, and are granted one. Whaley is also in his late 30s, and fits the mold of other potential targets.

UPDATE: Similar to Foster, Whaley has never been confirmed as an interviewee, and it seems he’s been left out of the circle. Rumors are that the Colts decided not to interview him. 

The Older One

Tom Ciskowski- Director of College and Pro Scouting, Dallas Cowboys

Ciskowski has moved up in the Cowboys organization, starting as a scout in 1992, and rising all the way up to his current position in 2008. Ciskowski, like DeCosta or Grigson, has spent most of his career evaluating college level talent. He also spent 15 years coaching, the majority of that in the college ranks.

I haven’t seen any news on Ciskowski being in the mix for any jobs around the league, but the Colts have requested permission to interview him. Ciscowski did interview for the VP of Player Personnel in St. Louis in 2006, but was beat out by Tony Softli. Other than that, not much is known on him. But, like Whaley, this is the type of pick I would not at all be surprised to see Jim Irsay make. He is even more low profile than Whaley, and someone with a TON of experience in talent evaluation. Ciskowski is 55, different from most of the other candidates we’ve seen.

The Other Long Shot

Marc Ross- Director of College Scouting, New York Giants

Ross has worked in scouting since 1997, when he started with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was promoted to College Scouting Director in 2000 (age 27, youngest CSD ever). He joined the Bills as a national college scout in 2004, then signed with the Giants as the Director of College Scouting in 2007.

Ross is a young (just 38), bright (Princeton grad and UMass master’s degree) guy with experience in college scouting. He’s known as one of the brilliant young minds, and would be a valuable asset. He was in the mix for the Seattle GM position in 2010, and could likely find a job this year, with the Bears and Colts both rumored to be interested in him. According to Sean Jensen, Ross interviews on Friday with the Colts.

The Falcon Duo

Les Snead- Director of Player Personnel, David Caldwell- Director of College Scouting, Atlanta Falcons

I threw these two in at the last minute because it was just reported this morning that they will be in the mix, with the Colts having permission to interview Snead.

Snead is in his 13th year with the Falcons (previously with Jacksonville for three years. His background is more in the pro scouting department, although he’s been more involved in day to day and GM type stuff for the last three years as Director of Player Personnel. He is 37 years old and is originally from Indiana.

Caldwell is an ex-Colt, having scouted for them from ’98 to ’07. He was a Polian transfer, starting in Carolina in ’96. Since leaving the Colts, Caldwell has been the Director of College Scouting for the Falcons, and pretty much all of his background is in college scouting. He is in his late 30s and hails from Buffalo, NY.

The Canadian Dark Horse

Jim Popp- General Manager, Montreal Alouettes (Canadian Football League)

Jim Irsay let us in on a little secret last night: Jim Popp is also a candidate for the job in Indy.

Popp is the general manager for the Montreal Alouettes, his 16th season. While Popp has no experience in the NFL, he has been extremely successful in the CFL in the front office. All of his teams have made the playoffs, and his record as GM is unmatched in the last 16 years. Popp also has been an assistant GM and director of personnel. Popp coached in the US at the college level for five years.

In Summary

Expect the Colts to get a younger, low profile signing here. An in-house promotion like Tom Telesco is a definite possibility, whereas a well-known guy like DeCosta is unlikely (now impossible). Irsay has said that he really wants to focus on someone with exceptional talent evaluation skills, which all of these guys have, and all of them coming from historically strong franchises is a factor as well.

No matter what the decision, they’re going to have some big decisions to make, and this offseason may make-or-break not only their career, but the next decade of Indianapolis football.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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