"15) Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis ColtsSome might be surprised at Pagano placing this high, especially with all the speculation that he could be fired following the most recent season finale. That said, Pagano’s “awful” season was 8-8. His other three seasons in Indy? 11-5 with postseason football each time out. Sure, Bruce Arians took over when Pagano’s health was of primary concern in 2012 … But who do you think hired Arians? Give the man credit, for crying out loud."
Looking at who’s both ahead and behind of him respectively, it’s hard to disagree with the ranking for the most part.
There’s no question that the Colts had a disappointing season last year, as the team finished 8-8 despite starting the season with Super Bowl aspirations.
However, Andrew Luck missed 9 games because of injuries, and any NFL team is oftentimes only as good as their starting quarterback play–if there’s no dominant defense behind them.
Pagano doesn’t “buy the groceries”, and it wasn’t his fault that the Colts offensive line once again struggled. He can’t bake an award-winning cake out of inferior ingredients after all.
No one can argue that he’s made the playoffs in 3 of his 4 seasons with the Colts and has never endured a losing season. He’s just one year removed from coaching his team to the AFC Championship game after all.
That being said, the Colts head coach hasn’t been infallible.
Specifically, in his first 4 seasons as Colts head coach, Pagano has been dominant against the AFC South with a 20-4 record (.833) and just barely over .500 at 21-19 (.525) against everyone else.
Despite being a defensive-minded head coach, the Colts defense has given up 25.5 ppg (25th), 23.1 ppg (19th), 21.0 ppg (9th), and 24.2 ppg (21st) from 2015 to 2012 respectively.
While some of that is the lack of young talent Pagano has been provided with on defense, as the Colts have used predominantly their draft picks on offense, his secondary has routinely struggled against the NFL’s better quarterbacks.
As a former safety at Wyoming and having been the Baltimore Ravens secondary coach, the backend of the defense should be Pagano’s specialty.
Nevertheless, his players love playing for Pagano and would go through a brick wall for their head coach.
It’s one of the big reasons why Pagano was given a multi-year extension as team owner Jim Irsay saw the outpouring of support from his players, as he deliberated with the decision to potentially dismiss Pagano at season’s end.
Pagano is back, but the Colts will have to take the next step if he wants to be considered anything more than a middle-of-the-pack head coach. Right now, the Colts could realistically do a bit better, but the team could also do a lot worse.
However, shoring up the defense and helping Andrew Luck return to his prior form–while returning to the playoffs would go a long way toward Pagano climbing up the coaching rankings.