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Grigson, Pagano get started with Colts' QB decision looming

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Grigson is less than two months into his first run as an NFL general manager. Chuck Pagano is even newer as a head coach.

And two weeks from Thursday, they'll be in the throes of a franchise-altering decision.

So it's hard to blame either of the Colts' decision makers for dodging any question involving Peyton Manning, as each did here Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. Neither guy has seen him throw. Both seem to understand that the final call here will be made above their paygrade, a call that is expected to end Manning's 14-year run as a Colt.

But each has at least some insight into how owner Jim Irsay -- the man with the hammer in this process -- is handling things. That's why I asked Grigson point-blank, as he was being ushered through Lucas Oil Stadium, what exactly the team would need to see in the next 15 days to make a clear-headed call.

"We have to get clearance medically," said Grigson, who turned 40 on Thursday. "He has to be healthy for us to make any final decisions."

That answer was followed up with one inquiry on whether or not the Colts needed to see Manning throw before the March 8 deadline to pay a $28 million option bonus or cut bait. That one wasn't answered, as Grigson was ushered off to another interview.

The important part of this particular story is its illustration of the magnitude of the Manning situation.

This isn't about the GM. Or the coach. Both guys, surely, are trying to do their best in getting started building the team, and opening what almost certainly will be a clean slate, a new era of Colts football.

It's about how the franchise is likely saying goodbye to an icon, or how hard it's been for the club to actually do it. It's easy, of course, if you look at the thing coldly. The owner has put first-timers in charge of the football operation to rebuild a decaying roster, with 30-something free agents Robert Mathis, Jeff Saturday and Reggie Wayne potentially on their way out. The presumed "next Manning" is out there for Indy, in Andrew Luck, as is the chance to start anew and grow together like Peyton and the Colts once did.

Trouble is, this can't be a cold decision. Not when you consider what Manning's meant to the franchise, to the city, and to the owner.

Grigson wasn't willing to say flat out that the trigger will be pulled by Irsay. But when I asked him about that, it's easy to see -- as everyone I've talked to in this process has insisted the past couple days -- that this one is on the owner.

"We have been in concert the whole time, me and Jim," Grigson told me. "All the decisions, we talk about. Jim and Peyton have a very special relationship that goes a lot farther back than mine and his. It's a group thing, but Jim and Peyton are close and they talk quite frequently. And we'll know in time."

I could barely get the next question out -- on whether Grigson understands this certainly is not a simple player transaction that's coming -- before he answered.

"Of course, of course," Grigson said. "He's a Hall of Famer. He's done phenomenal things. We hope that things work out. And hopefully we'll know soon."

The sooner this happens, the better for everyone. Both sides know what's best. When this is done, Manning can start showing other teams where he is in his rehab, and trying to find an employer. And Grigson and Pagano can stop worrying about a quarterback they'll almost certainly never work with.

But until then, what we're seeing is that these decisions that often look so simple on paper are much more complicated when you're the one making them. Or even the ones caught in the middle of them.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer

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