In the heart of Indianapolis, there is a deep love for Chuck Pagano, the man. We watched as the coach took the reins of our beloved Colts during the dawning of a new era. We cried and prayed when we learned of his cancer diagnosis. We reveled in our team’s victories and rallies that season, as if they were doing it for Pagano. And we shared the moment of his triumphant return in that December 30, 2012 victory against the Texans.
In the heart of Indianapolis, there is a deep love for Chuck Pagano, the man.
But now it must be asked: how good is Chuck Pagano, the head football coach?
Pagano is 15-11 in his 26 games coached, not counting the 12 games Bruce Arians, who is currently considered the early 2014 Coach of the Year,served as interim head coach (9-3) during Pagano’s cancer treatment in 2012. The defensive coordinator behind Baltimore’s dominant defense in 2011 following three years as the Ravens’ secondary coach, Pagano was brought in with high hopes of doing something the previous regime never did; supply an all-pro quarterback with a stout defense.
Thus far, the “Pagano experiment” has failed. Heading into Pagano’s second full year as coach, the Colts have finished in the high-to-mid 20’s in points allowed in two of the three years. Creating turnovers? The team has not finished inside the top 15.
The failures on defense, however, cannot be completely attributed to Pagano. It must be factored in that the team’s leading pass rusher and proven veteran, Robert Mathis, was not only suspended for the first four games, but will now miss the season with an Achilles tear.
It also must be factored in that Pagano, who had the likes of Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs in Baltimore, is being handcuffed to this roster by general manager Ryan Grigson, who has continually failed to address several key issues.
The failures on offense, however, are the continual failures that are dumbfounding Colts fans everywhere. Despite having one of the best young quarterbacks, and really one of the best quarterbacks in the game overall, Pagano and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton still insist on running the offense through a power-run heavy set. Despite having arguably the deepest wide receiving corps in the nation, Pagano and Hamilton emphasize utilizing Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw over Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks.
It’s like owning a Ferrari, and refusing to drive faster than 35 miles per hour.
In week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, facing one of the worst defenses in the league, we got a glimpse of what the offense could be if Pagano and Hamilton opened it up. Andrew Luck had a near-career day, completing 31 of his 39 passes for 370 yards and four touchdowns, all while sitting out the majority of the fourth quarter of a 44-17 rout of the Jags. Six different Colts had four receptions or more, with touchdown catches by Hakeem Nicks, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Ahmad Bradshaw.
Early in the first quarter, the Colts came out firing, throwing the ball on seven of their first 12 plays, driving 50 yards for a field goal. On their second drive, Luck threw the ball on six of their nine plays, going 74 yards and resulting in a touchdown.
The third drive? Four of the seven plays in the 76-yard drive were passes. The result? Seven points. Colts lead 17-0 after three drives, with 61% of the plays called being passes.
See a trend here?
Looking toward week 4 against the Tennessee Titans, who rank second in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (170.0), it remains to be seen whether the Jacksonville game was a turning point in play-calling and personnel use, or just an uncommon variation from the “process” Pagano and Hamilton like to stick to. If the latter is the case, Indianapolis fans will become restless.
The front office and the coaching staff are threatening the waste of a talented quarterback by neglecting to surround him with an ample amount of talent, and are drowning him with their play-calling.
Just remember; as great as Peyton Manning‘s career was in Indianapolis, the final result is still poor–one Super Bowl victory and only two AFC Championships in 13 years isn’t exactly preferable. With the current people in place, owner Jim Irsay, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano is at risk of letting it happen again.