It seems many in Indianapolis media, and a few in the national media circles, want to give Chuck Pagano praise for the Colts' 10-5 record following the dominating performance over the Chiefs last week.
The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz even wrote that he thinks Pagano is a Coach of the Year candidate. Yes, I laughed at this article. So did at least one other major team beat writer who shall remain nameless.
I'm guessing people like Kravitz have forgotten that, just three weeks ago, Pagano's defense surrendered 42 points and 430 yards of offense to the Bengals in a game where his team's offense never turned the ball over. I've also lost track of how many games this team has looked ill-prepared to play in 2013. Six? Maybe seven? After the Colts blowout loss to the Rams in Week 10 - which was the worst home loss in 20 years - Pagano apologized and admitted he didn't have the team ready to play.
Coach of the Year? Come on.
If people want to praise Chuck for two dominating wins in the row (one over the Chiefs in Arrowhead and another at home over the Texans), I won't argue against it. He's the head coach, and when the team does poorly, Pagano deserves blame. When the team succeeds, Pagano should receive laurels.
However, what about offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton? Shouldn't he get some praise too? Isn't it his offense that has finally turned a corner?
Even during the Cincy game, while Pagano's defense was saying 'OLE!' to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the Bengals offense, Hamilton had his crew scoring points and making plays. Luck threw 4 TDs in that game, and the offense put up 28 points in the second half. If Pagano's defense hadn't crapped the bed and given up 28 second half points themselves, Indy could have won that game and would be in better position today for a first round bye in the playoffs.
Since Week 14, Indy's offense has been clicking. Or, at the very least, they've been playing about as well as any time since Reggie Wayne went down in the second half of the Denver game. A big reason for their resurgence can be traced to Hamilton, who has mostly junked the ineffective "power running" formations. Instead of power sets, multiple tight ends, and extra linemen, Hamilton now runs his offense out of shotgun-spread formations about 80% of the time.
That's called an adjustment, kids. Yes, it's long overdue, but give Hamilton credit for not only making the adjustment, but coaching his players well enough to thrive within it.
Since Wayne's injury, Hamilton has incorporated rookie Da'Rick Rogers and second-year slot receiver Griff Whalen into the offense with strong early results. Donald Brown owes his entire 2013 season to Hamilton in many ways. Pep has schemed plays that utilize Brown's speed once he reaches the second level.
I guess my point in all this is that if you were someone who was calling for the first-year assistant coach's job all season long, I'm calling you out right now for not giving Hamilton his due today.
Unlike Pagano, whose hand-picked defense has struggled all season long despite staying reasonably healthy, Hamilton has had to endure injuries to Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, and a score of players along his battered offensive line. Sunday will be the seventh time Hamilton will need to reshuffle the interior of his line. Meanwhile, T.Y. Hilton has been hampered by a shoulder injury since Week 15, and Coby Fleener still can't figure out how to block anyone.
These are all tremendous obstacles to overcome for even a seasoned O.C. Yet, here we are in Week 17, and the Colts offense is actually looking pretty good. Hamilton deserves a ton of credit for that.
More credit than Pagano does.