Chuck Pagano discusses new coaches at Senior Bowl

Jan 3, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano on the sidelines against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano on the sidelines against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indianapolis Colts decided to keep Chuck Pagano at head coach, but that’s about the only position that stayed the same for 2016.

Team ownership preached continuity after the season ended, but the Colts made big changes with the coaching staff in the following weeks. Nearly every assistant coach was fired or left the team as Pagano made sweeping changes with his staff.

Pagano spoke with Stephen Holder at the Indy Star while watching the Senior Bowl in Alabama about the changes to the staff and what it means for the team going forward.

"“We get the opportunity to continue doing this job and keep grinding toward bringing home a championship,” Pagano said while watching draft prospects at Senior Bowl workouts. “We didn’t reach our ultimate goal, as you know, but now we’ve added some different pieces to the puzzle.”"

There was a lot of talk about continuity (it was the buzzword around the NFL after the season ended) but some changes had to be made with the Colts. Rob Chudzinski took over as offensive coordinator mid-season, and in the wake of a disappointing 8-8 season plenty of other top level coaches left the team too. Ted Monachino was brought in from Baltimore to take the reigns of defensive coordinator.

Pagano and Monachino have a history, and that will make the transition easier.

"“He’s a good football coach and he’s been around a lot of different (schemes),” Pagano said. “Obviously there’s familiarity from us being together and coaching together under the same system, but the game is changing. And we have to do the same thing. It won’t be a cookie-cutter kind of deal. We’ll look at everything.”"

Chudzinski wasn’t the only change with the offense as the Colts brought in former Miami head coach Joe Philbin to work on the offensive line. This unit has underperformed for four seasons now and is in serious need of change. Pagano spent a lot of time discussing Philbin.

"“We were fortunate enough to land some guys who have tons of experience at this level,” he said. “Philbin brings great coaching and knowledge. He’s been coaching the O-line for a long time at many, many levels. He’s got a great resume. He’s been a head coach, and there are so many great things that he is going to offer us. If you go back and watch what he’s done all the way back to Iowa, and what he did with that offensive line with coach (Kirk) Ferentz, he totally transformed it. And look at what he did in Green Bay with those guys. He is a football coach. The epitome of a football coach.”"

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The Colts desperately need the line to get better, not only to protect Andrew Luck, but also to become a more effective run blocking unit. Pagano has long wanted a power run team but has never had the ability to do so whether due to personnel, talent, or coaching (despite his best efforts to force it). While we don’t condone a run first team with the talent at QB and receiver, being able to run effectively will make the offense more dynamic and take away from the number of dropbacks Luck has to take.

Pagano seemed very enthusiastic in this interview about the new people joining his staff, but clearly didn’t like having to fire most of his old staff. There was clearly some internal battle about who to retain and who to fire when Pagano was fighting for his job.

"“We lost some really good men,” he said. “Some really good coaches and some really good men. Those guys gave blood, sweat and tears — everything they had — to the horseshoe. Selfless guys. I’m grateful to all of them.”"

Even with all the changes, the expectations for Pagano and even GM Ryan Grigson are high. Team owner Jim Irsay hasn’t lowered his goals for the next season or any season with Luck under center. He still wants a championship and it sounds like he’s expecting one this year.

"“This is the only job I wanted,” he said. “I think I’ve made that clear. Everybody knew that. I’m blessed and I’m very grateful to (Irsay). He really does believe in continuity. It’s not one of those things where you just change to change.“He gave me another opportunity and now it’s my responsibility to bring home that Lombardi.”"

Pagano may have job security for the next couple seasons, but Irsay won’t be patient forever. He’s once again putting the pressure on this team to bring home a title next season.