One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Indianapolis Colts is not about a certain aspect of their on-field play but rather is about the future of head coach Chuck Pagano. The rumors have been swirling for months now about Pagano's standing with the team, and it seems like every week we are getting a new report about the disconnect between the front office and Chuck Pagano. To many, it seems as if there is almost a "Super Bowl or bust" mentality with the team.
I don't think it's as simple as that, as way too much variable can go into that criteria, but I do think it's accurate to suggest that Chuck Pagano is probably coaching for his job and that he will need a successful season in order to keep it. What does a successful season look like? That's unclear, but it will probably need to be taking the next step - whether that's winning an AFC Championship game or simply looking better and coming closer (in other words, looking like they actually belong in the game).
Interestingly, former Colts head coach Tony Dungy had some thoughts about the situation and how it compares to one that he went through before coming to the Colts. Dungy, of course, took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise that was consistently among the worst in the league and had four winning seasons in six years (going .500 in another season), winning a division title and making four playoff appearances. The Bucs made an NFC Championship game appearance during the span, but overall they were 2-4 in the playoffs - something that cost Dungy his job after another playoff loss following the 2001 season.
Speaking with FOX Sports 975's Jake Query and Derek Schultz on Tuesday, Dungy talked about all things Colts vs. Patriots this weekend, but he also shared his thoughts on how Pagano's current situation is similar to his own in Tampa Bay.
"It's absolutely the same thing," Dungy said. "People want to win championships. And I was in Tampa, we're going to the playoffs, and we weren't finishing them off, we weren't going to the Super Bowl. We got close a couple of times and now it seems people are disappointed with an AFC Championship game or disappointed with a division title and 11 wins and making the playoffs. That's a good thing because it means you set the standard pretty high. But to have the speculation and what's going to happen next year and all that, that does hurt you. And I do see some parallels."
When Dungy was hired by the Colts in 2002, he took over a talented team but one that still needed work to be done to reach a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning at quarterback. Dungy's Colts made the playoffs in every single season in which he coached, but each of the first four seasons ended in playoff defeat. It was after his fourth playoff defeat in Tampa Bay that the Buccaneers fired Dungy, but Colts owner Jim Irsay kept his coach around - and the following season, Dungy and the Colts hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champs.
This is not so much to say that the Buccaneers were wrong to fire Dungy for those playoff losses (though they were) or that the Colts were right to keep him after several losses (though they were), but it's more to illustrate the interesting comparison between the end of Dungy's tenure in Tampa Bay and Chuck Pagano's current situation with the Colts. Both have teams that have had success and have come close, but both had a couple of playoff failures. The expectations were raised, and at some point those expectations become unreasonably high - so much so that a coach can be fired for simply making the playoffs but not making the Super Bowl.
Will that happen with Chuck Pagano and the Colts? Maybe, or maybe not - it's way too early to tell. But a coach who has lived through the situation recognizes the similarities between what happened to him and what's happening to Pagano now, and it's at the very least interesting to hear Tony Dungy share those thoughts.