The hot seat for Chuck Pagano has reached scorching levels after the Colts’ abysmal display against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. But is getting rid of Pagano the answer?
Out of seven head coaches hired in 2012, Chuck Pagano is the lone head coach who is still employed by the same team.
Pagano was hired as the Indianapolis head coach after Jim Caldwell was fired following a 2-14 season. Entering the 2017 season, Pagano was 49-31 (.613 winning percentage) as the head man in Indy. This season has provided more questions than answers regarding Pagano’s leadership as the Colts sit in the basement of the AFC South with a record of 2-5.
With the absence of Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck hindering the Colts’ offense, one would think that the offensive struggles are what’s holding this team back. While the team is certainly missing their star quarterback, the Colts appear to have much bigger problems on defense.
Being a former defensive coordinator in Baltimore, Pagano is known for his team’s defensive mindset. Yet, aside from the team’s march to the AFC Championship game in 2014 (11th), Pagano has failed to have his team rank higher than 20th in total defense during his tenure.
This year is no exception, as the Colts rank ahead of only the New England Patriots in total yards allowed through Week 7 of the 2017 season. If defense is supposed to be Pagano’s calling card, he’s not playing with a full deck.
What cannot be laid at the feet of the head coach are the draft decisions of the previous general manager. Former GM Ryan Grigson did Pagano no favors with his inability to draft top-level defensive talent.
In 2013 the Colts drafted Bjoern Werner while cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Darius Slay were still on the board. Indianapolis traded away it’s first-round selection in 2014 in exchange for running back and NFL bust, Trent Richardson. The Colts also passed on defensive lineman Malcolm Brown and safety Landon Collins in 2015 in favor of wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who is now on the New England Patriots roster after being traded earlier this season.
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For those looking to fire Pagano during the season, I would question what that would accomplish. There is no one currently on staff who would be a plausible replacement capable of rallying the troops. Neither offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinkski nor defensive coordinator Ted Monachino really have that “up and coming” factor you would look for from an interim replacement. Firing Pagano before the season ends would likely create more problems than it solves
While I understand the frustration that Colts’ fans are feeling, I think firing the head coach is always the easiest answer, but not always the right answer. The most successful franchises of late have maintained consistency in their coaching ranks.
The Green Bay Packers with Mike McCarthy, the Cincinnati Bengals with Marvin Lewis, the Pittsburgh Steelers with Mike Tomlin, the New England Patriots with Bill Belichick and the Seattle Seahawks with Pete Carroll, have made the postseason at least three times in the past five years. All five of those head coaches have led their respective teams since at least 2010.
Under Pagano’s watch, the Colts won 5 of their last 8 games in 2015 and 2016 after a 3-5 start to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs. A better finish is likely necessary this season for Pagano to remain the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and for the organization to maintain continuity in the coaching staff.