Manning questions overshadow Colts' coaching hires
INDIANAPOLIS—The Indianapolis Colts just can't escape the Peyton Manning questions.
Even on a day the team hired four new assistant coaches for Chuck Pagano's staff, the Manning saga was still causing a stir. With a $28 million decision looming next month, new general manager Ryan Grigson acknowledged that the Colts couldn't afford to make a mistake based solely on sentimental reasons.
"You can't do things to where you are going to hurt the whole franchise with other decisions that you know might hurt at the moment, but in the end they help the sum of the parts," Grigson said. "It is a tough deal in this business, and it happens at every position, it happens with coaching, it happens with people in personnel and it is completely part of the process and the business."
The next twist came a few hours later when ESPN reported that Manning had been "cleared to play" by the doctor who performed Sept. 8 neck surgery on the quarterback. A team spokesman said the Colts' own doctors had not yet cleared Manning, though ESPN cited an unidentified source in reporting that Dr. Hank Feuer, one of the team's neurosurgeons, was one of those checked Manning.
Manning has been throwing since at least early December and told reporters Tuesday that he threw to several receivers that day.
Colts owner Jim Irsay and Manning are scheduled to meet again next week.
It's been a chaotic four weeks in Indy.
Last month, the Colts fired vice chairman Bill Polian, general manager Chris Polian, coach Jim Caldwell and most of Caldwell's assistants. They also hired the 39-year-old Grigson and first-time head coach Chuck Pagano.
Now they're trying to fill the remaining holes. Grigson announced Thursday that the Colts had hired Greg Manusky as defensive coordinator, Roy Anderson as the secondary coach in charge of safeties and Marwan Maalouf as special teams coach Thursday. About an hour later, Pagano told reporters that Brant Boyer will assist Maalouf with the special teams.
That's not all. Grigson said former Colts offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen would remain on the staff probably as the quarterbacks or receivers coach.
The latest moves came two days after the Colts hired offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and fired two more coaches from Caldwell's staff.
"I think at the same time it was important to get the coordinators settled," Pagano said. "It's all going to come together, and we're going to take our time. It's not something we're going to rush."
And all this comes during a week in which the city's first Super Bowl has been upstaged by its most recognizable celebrity.
With speculation swirling about Manning's future, his presumed successor -- Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, expected to be taken by the Colts with the No. 1 pick -- came to town and told reporters he wants to start immediately.
A few hours later, Grigson acknowledged that he met with Manning for 20 minutes last week, calling it a straightforward conversation between two regular guys. Pagano said he also spoke with Manning last week. Nobody provided details of the conversation, though.
Manning missed the entire 2011 season after having his third neck surgery in 19 months. The Colts must pay a $28 million roster bonus by March 8 or risk losing him as a free agent.
Grigson acknowledged that decision won't be made because of sentimentality.
"We're in a holding pattern in that respect," he said when asked about the Colts' quarterback debate. "Until it is (resolved), we're going to go about our business as usual."
Pagano said he had spoken briefly with Manning, too, though neither provided details of their chats.
Next up for the Colts: Filling the rest of the staff and figuring out which veterans to re-sign before free agency opens March 13.
Grigson was asked about three key starters -- receivers Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis -- and said he would like all three to return.
"I know there's tremendous affection for those guys and they are three great guys who have been so productive here," Grigson said. "There's such pride here. We would love to have them all back."
Wayne wants to come back, though he's heard nothing yet from the Colts.
"But that's understandable," the 34-year-old receiver said, referring to all the changes. "I'm sure when my opportunity comes, I'll hear from them, and if I don't that's understandable, too."
Where the Colts are headed is in a more aggressive direction on defense. Manusky was San Diego's defensive coordinator last year and the 49ers' defensive coordinator from 2007-10. It's not been determined yet whether the Colts will keep their 4-3 defense or switch to a 3-4.
"He'll bring a great passion and energy to our organization and the defensive side of the ball," Pagano said.
Anderson and Maalouf served in similar capacities with Baltimore, where Pagano was the defensive coordinator. Later Thursday, the Colts announced they had hired Roger Marandino as strength and conditioning coach and retained David Walker as running backs coach and Richard Howell.