Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was in over his head Monday night.
To say Pagano's coaching decisions in the Colts' 19-9 loss to the Chargers on Monday night were flawed is like saying the Titanic had a slight hull integrity problem.
Pagano was putrid Monday night. BAD. Really bad. Embarrassingly bad. Caldwellian, to say the least.
Yes, I know many of you will blast, berate, attack, and say naughty things at me for being the guy who calls out Indy's head coach, but I don't care. I agree that Chuck Pagano is a great guy who can motivate players and can coach the hell out of defensive backs.
As an in-game head coach, he's seems as clueless as it gets.
Monday's loss to the Chargers was, possibly, the worst coaching job I've seen since Jim Caldwell looked like a lost child on the sidelines during the final moments of the Colts' 17-16 playoff loss to the Jets in 2011.
Pagano Dumb Coaching Example One: Opting not to dress LB Kavell Conner
I don't know what Kavell Conner did to get so deep in Chuck Pagano's dog house, but it apparently was enough that the Colts head coach inexplicably put him on the inactive list for the game. Playing instead of Conner was Mario Harvey, and the decision (which belongs to Pagano) ended up being a costly one.
Conner is one of the better linebackers on the team, and when starting inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman sustained a concussion in the second quarter, it was Mario Harvey and Kelvin Sheppard who saw more snaps. The Chargers took full advantage of this, working to get their tight ends and backs matched-up on Harvey in coverage.
Just to make things clear, Conner was not listed on any injury report. He was healthy, and Pagano opted to sit him anyway. Dumb.
Pagano Dumb Coaching Example Two: Opting to punt from the Chargers' 40-yard line with 4:04 left in the third quarter
These kinds of decisions drive me nuts, and I'm not alone. Down 13-6 and driving on offense for 5 minutes and change after starting at their own 20-yard line, Indy faced 4th-and-3 from the Chargers' 40. Instead of going for it and possibly maintaining the offensive momentum that Andrew Luck and company had built up, Pagano called in the punt team.
This is Losing Football 101.
Prior to that punt, the Colts defense had done little-to-nothing to stop Philip Rivers and the San Diego offense. It makes no sense to simply give them the ball back. Even if Indy had pinned San Diego inside the 10, the odds are the offense would still convert 3rd downs and eat clock. The better option is to let the best player on the team (Luck) try and get three yards against one of the worst defenses in all of football.
Nope. Pagano punts, and the Chargers drive it all the way to the Colts' 16-yard line, eating 5:55 of clock before tacking on a 33-yard Nick Novak field goal to go up 16-6.
Pagano Dumb Coaching Example Three: Opting to punt down 16-9 with 3:29 left
This is the kind of stupidity that gets coaches lampooned on the back page of big market sports newspapers. Pagano should consider himself lucky he works in the soft Indianapolis media market.
There really is no defense of the decision. Down 16-9 and with all of their timeouts left, the Colts faced 4th-and-2 from their own 17. On the previous offensive series for Indy, Pagano opted to punt from the Chargers 40 only to see his defense allow SD to drive into Indy's redzone and tack on another FG. Nothing the Colts defense had done all night even remotely suggested they were capable of getting a stop or a turnover.
Must go for it. Must go for it. Must go for it.— Matt Grecco (@mgrex03) October 15, 2013
But, what does Pagano do? He punts!
Pat McAfee sent his kick to the Chargers 48-yard line. Not a great kick, but what difference did it really make? San Diego drove the ball to Indy's 33 in five plays, eating up 1:22. They tacked on another Novak FG, and that, my friends, was the ball game.
Yes, the dropped passes were terrible all game long, and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton didn't win over many fans or media with his questionable play-calling.
Congrats to Pep Hamilton for holding Andrew Luck without a touchdown— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) October 15, 2013
However, equally clownish was Pagano's in-game coaching decisions. For all the credit he rightly deserved for the wins over the 49ers and the Seahawks, the reality is Pagano seems in over his head when it comes to making the critical calls a truly good head coach must get right during a game.
The coaching staff better own this loss. Both in preparation and in-game. Truly awful performance.— Matt Grecco (@mgrex03) October 15, 2013
Pretty much, yeah.