There's no sense in burying this lede: the Indianapolis Colts are a complete mess, and it should cost head coach Chuck Pagano his job. Whether that's Monday, the bye week, or after the season, I don't know. But after watching the performance today, I don't know how you conclude anything other than that Pagano shouldn't be the team's head coach moving forward.
It's no secret that I've long thought the Colts should fire both Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano after the season, and that is just becoming clearer and clearer as the season moves on. The type of performance that the Colts gave today was not good, and it sums up everything you need to know about the job status of Chuck Pagano and this coaching staff.
The Colts played undisciplined football and made a lot of stupid mistakes. They looked like a team that wasn't prepared and wasn't ready for the game. The run defense that has looked better this year didn't look great today. Andrew Luck and the passing game struggled against the NFL's worst defense. Sure, Luck threw for 333 yards and three scores - but he only completed 52.3% of his passes with a couple of interceptions and the passing game looked out of rhythm all day. Luck's first completion? It came with 9:08 left in the second quarter.
Speaking of Luck, it's clear to see this year that he has regressed. His first three years in the league were very good, and this year has been very bad. What happened to him? I'm not sure anyone really knows, because no one expected this. The season began with such high expectations for both the team and for Luck, but now Luck looks completely rattled. I'm not sure what the problem is. Maybe he's still dealing with injuries still, though Chuck Pagano adamantly denied it after the game. Maybe it's because of the constant pressure - both by opposing defenders and by a struggling team with questions about the management and coaching staff swirling. I have a hard time believing that this is just solely on Luck, considering how drastic of a dropoff that is. That's not to say that Luck isn't to blame here, but I wonder if there's something more going on. In other words, I wonder whether Luck is being developed as he needs to be. Remember, he's only in his fourth season, and he's not coming off of his first read often and making some really stupid decisions with the football. He looks hesitant and uncertain. I don't know how much of that (if any) is due to coaching, but I think that it's probably time to bring in a new staff to help develop him. This is the Colts' franchise quarterback that we're talking about, and they need to do whatever they can to help him improve from this slump. At this point, I think that means bringing in a new coaching staff.
This is a team that looks unprepared and flat. The Colts didn't come out with any fire at all, even though they lost to the Patriots last week at home. Perhaps the biggest problem, however, is that it wasn't just this game. Week one against the Bills. Week two against the Jets. For much of week three against the Titans. And at times last week against the Patriots. This game wasn't just an aberration for the Colts, rather it was a perfect example of everything that has gone wrong for the Colts this year. The Colts have been outscored 100-58 in the first half this year, including being shut out in three games (three of the five starts by Luck). On the flip side, the Colts have given up double-digit points in the first half of every game this year. The Colts have led at the half in three games - by an average of 2.7 points - and have trailed at the half in the other four by an average of 12.5 points. In three games, the Colts have entered halftime with a double-digit deficit. This has been an issue for the past few years under Chuck Pagano, but it's back again this year big-time, as the Colts are routinely entering the game unprepared and not looking good, only to make the game closer by a better second half (they're outscoring opponents 89-74 in the second half of games this year).
Right now, I don't think it's a question of whether or not Chuck Pagano will be back next year. Maybe we could have that conversation about Ryan Grigson (I think he should be gone, too), but not about Pagano. Perhaps the only question remaining is when he will be fired. I have a hard time seeing the Colts firing him on Monday, as some have asked, but the real time to watch is the bye week. With the undefeated Panthers on the road next week and the undefeated Broncos at home the week after, it's entirely possible the Colts could be 3-6 at the bye week, which is when teams typically make coaching changes in-season if they are going to. If they're 3-6 at that point, anything can happen, but even if a mid-season change is unlikely, I think that Chuck Pagano is, effectively, done as the Colts' head coach.
Why? It's really rather simple: this team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. They were supposed to have the best offense in the NFL. They were supposed to have their best record yet under Chuck Pagano. They were supposed to finally get past the Patriots. Chuck Pagano himself said that this is the best roster they've had since he arrived in Indianapolis. Owner Jim Irsay said before the season that he couldn't remember entering a season with more excitement. And the Colts have now fallen flat on their faces and have a 3-4 record, only getting those three wins thanks to playing in the worst division in football and one of the worst divisions in recent memory. The Colts against the AFC South? They're 3-0 and have outscored opponents 78-66. The Colts against everyone else? They're 0-4 and have been outscored 108-69. That might be fine for a team content to simply win their division and exit after their first playoff game. But for a Colts team expecting a Super Bowl this year? They're yet to beat anybody who's not in the worst division in football.
You could say it's the curse of expectations for Chuck Pagano, but either way, I don't think he should return as the Colts' head coach. I don't know when the move will officially happen, but I think the Colts need to fire Pagano and this coaching staff and move on (and, while we're at it, I think the same thing about Grigson). If any of the reports have been accurate about Jim Irsay not wanting to be as patient this time with the coach for his franchise quarterback, I can't see a way in which he lets Pagano continue as Luck's long-term head coach. He's a great guy. His players love him, and it's easy to see why. He's a smart guy. He can coach. But he's not cut out to be the head coach of this Colts team with massive expectations. The Colts need a coach who can lead them to wins, not a coach who's led to wins thanks to his quarterback. And that's not Chuck Pagano.
Right now, this much is clear: Chuck Pagano's time in Indianapolis should be drawing to a close. When will it happen? I don't know. I'm not a huge fan of in-season coach changes in the first place, and in this situation I'm not sure it would help much. So I'm not necessarily calling for the Colts to fire Chuck Pagano right now, before their next game. But should this be his last season with the Colts? It's hard to argue otherwise at this point.