Chuck Pagano was all but gone in Indianapolis. In spite of a 40-23 career record in Indianapolis, never having a losing season, and 3 playoff appearances (including an AFC title game berth just last season), Pagano appeared to be on the thinnest of ice in Indy. In fact, just a few days ago, ESPN.com reported that the Colts “did not plan to retain” Pagano past this season.
Given the internal strife throughout the season between Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson and the team’s struggles this year, it seemed to be written in stone. The team had even reportedly moved on to pie-in-the-sky targets like Nick Saban and Sean Payton.
Alas, at the 11th hour, the Colts stunned the football world by bringing Pagano back for next season and beyond. The team announced on Twitter Monday night that Pagano had signed a new contract to remain as Colts head coach.
Coach Pagano has agreed to an extension. Tune in live to watch the press conference at 10:30PM tonight
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) January 5, 2016
Grigson is also reportedly staying on board as owner Jim Irsay keeps his braintrust together. It’s amazing what can happen when grown men decide to come together and hug it out…
Everyone will return for the #Colts. That's coach Chuck Pagano AND GM Ryan Grigson.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 5, 2016
To summarize: I'm told Grigson & Pagano (and Irsay) talked it out, hugged it out & agreed to keep working together. Everybody is happy.
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) January 5, 2016
If there’s one thing Pagano had in his favor, it was the fact that his players have never lost faith and trust in him. Even though their playoff hopes were one in a million heading into the final week, he somehow led the Colts to a victory with Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley as his quarterbacks! (Yes, it was the Titans, but still!)
Pagano’s no stranger to inspiration as his battle with leukemia during the 2012 season was one of the biggest stories in football. Who could forget this moment when he addressed his team in the locker room?
Yes, it was a difficult year for the Colts in 2015, but in the end they clearly made the best decision for the franchise by keeping Pagano.
It’s the ultimate example of the bird in the hand. Finding people with experience as a winning head coach in the NFL isn’t as easy as you’d think. Just ask any Cleveland Browns fan. Or Nick Saban himself. Or any number of franchises that are still looking for that person and haven’t found them yet.
If you’re going to give up on a coach who has made the playoffs every year but one and has one of the highest active wining percentages in the league, you better have a darn good idea of who exactly will represent a step up.
The Colts realized in their search for the right guy to lead them into 2016, the right answer was already on their sidelines.