On February 26th, the Cleveland Browns released veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson per his request, as he wanted to move to an organization with more stability. That is no surprise for Jackson, who had seven defensive coordinators in eight years in Cleveland and during that span also had twelve different quarterbacks. After the Browns fired head coach Rob Chudzinski after the 2013 season ended, it was clear that the Browns – even under new ownership – weren’t a stable organization and, as a result, Jackson realized that he finally needed to move to a team that was and a team that was a contender. Also, according to reports, he was one of the most vocal players speaking out against the move after the Browns fired Chudzinksi.
Fast forward a week and D’Qwell Jackson was making his rounds in his free agent tour, visiting teams that were interested in his services. He visited the Broncos, Dolphins, Titans, and Colts and had at least six teams interested in him, per various reports. When he finally got around to visiting the Colts this week, he went out to dinner with head coach Chuck Pagano. Here’s how Jackson himself described it:
"Having a sit-down dinner with him, I knew right away. He was a good guy. We barely talked football. We just spoke, had dinner and we just talked about random things. Any time you can do that, you know you’re dealing with a good guy. He’s been through a lot in his life, obviously. The guy is high on life and I want to be around people like that."
Jackson made it very clear in his conference call with Indianapolis media Thursday that having Andrew Luck at quarterback and Chuck Pagano at head coach played a major role in his decision to choose the Colts. While he didn’t say it directly, he never denied it and other media reports say that he could have gotten more elsewhere than the 4-year, $22 million deal with $11 million guaranteed that he got from the Colts. But again, stability was big for him and it seems that Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano are the major reasons that D’Qwell Jackson choose the Colts.
Earlier today, NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington mentioned a text exchange he had with Jackson:
Love this response from D’Qwell Jackson (@DQ52) during text exchange just now. Why the Colts? "Chuck Pagano. Great coach… Better person."— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) March 6, 2014
I know that there are varying opinions about Chuck Pagano, especially on this site, and I know that there are several people who don’t like him as a head coach. This isn’t a debate about that. But regardless of your opinion of Chuck Pagano as a coach, there is no doubt that players absolutely love playing for him, and a major reason why is because he cares about them as people and not just football players. As longtime NFL linebacker and former D’Qwell Jackson teammate Scott Fujita tweeted today,
There are a handful of HC's who are difference makers when it comes to landing Free Agents. I think Chuck Pagano is one of them.— Scott Fujita (@sfujita55) March 6, 2014
Clearly, players love Chuck Pagano. We already knew that. And this isn’t the first time that Pagano factored heavily into a player’s decision to sign with the Colts. You can say whatever you want about Pagano’s game management or his game plans or whatever, but you can’t say that his players don’t like playing for him. He is a great factor in getting players to come play for the Colts (of course, Andrew Luck helps a lot too!) and, as already mentioned, players respect him even more for who he is as a person.
Chuck Pagano might not be the best coach in the NFL. But he’s most definitely a coach that players love to play for and, as we’ve seen in the past few years and again today, he can help bring free agents to Indianapolis.