To say that the job status of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is on shaky ground doesn't begin to highlight how uncertain Pagano's future in Indianapolis is. At this point, it's looking likely that he will need to win a Super Bowl to stick around as the team's head coach next year.
His relationship with general manager Ryan Grigson isn't good, according to a ton of reports. And the fact that owner Jim Irsay only offered Pagano a one-year extension at a minimal raise last offseason shows that Irsay isn't sold on Pagano as his team's coach, either. This year, the Colts have struggled and are just 4-5, even after a huge win over the Broncos last week. The Colts even fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton last week in an effort to get a spark, and there was talk that if the Colts had lost on Sunday, Pagano may have been fired during the bye week. That seemed unlikely after the firing of Hamilton, but either way: at this point, it would be a surprise if Pagano was coaching the Colts in 2016.
Because of that, there has been a lot of talk about who might possibly replace Pagano as the Colts' head coach, and a report from NFL Media's Albert Breer a few months ago suggested that Irsay would be looking to go "big-game hunting" with the next coaching search. One of the names that automatically came up among fans, then, is Nick Saban - who might be growing tired of Alabama and looking for a jump back to the NFL.
WTHR's Bob Kravitz recently joined Adam Schein on a podcast, and the two discussed the shaky relationship between Irsay, Grigson, and Pagano - and Kravitz said that, barring a Super Bowl, he expects Pagano to be gone. But then he was asked about whether Ryan Grigson would be fired too, and his comments were interesting.
"I think it's a 50/50 proposition," Kravitz said. "Early in the year, I was told that Grigson was Irsay's guy. But if you're Jim Irsay, you've got to look at all the money you've invested in free agents and how few of them have really panned out. Now the guys that have really panned out are the guys you didn't spend a lot of money on like Mike Adams and Dwight Lowery, people like that.
"But I think it comes down to this: Jim Irsay is going to make the next coaching hire. If he brings in a guy who demands full power - like, say, a Nick Saban, who I think he's going to go after - if he brings in a Nick Saban, he's going to have full power and that means that Ryan Grigson will either be kicked to the curb or he'll have a different role in the organization. If he brings in a Pagano-lite, another offensive or defensive coordinator, I think that Grigson stays. So I think it's really a 50/50 proposition at this point."
It doesn't sound like Kravitz is reporting this definitively as something he's heard, but keep this in mind: no matter whether you agree with his opinions or not, Kravitz knows Irsay and knows the Colts better than most people, so if he's speculating that Jim Irsay will make the next head coach hire and could go after Nick Saban, it's noteworthy. Kravitz then continued after being asked a follow-up question regarding Saban.
"Well I think that, you know, look: Jim Irsay is willing to pay the money," Kravitz said. "He's been willing to pay the money on players. I have no question in my mind that he's willing to spend mega-millions on a head coach. Look, if they could give Nick Saban full power - and I fully believe that they are willing to do that - I see no reason why Nick Saban wouldn't, because when you more or less fail at a job, you want so badly to get back in the game. He failed in Miami for various reasons, the biggest one being that he didn't have full power. He wanted Drew Brees and he was told he had to take Dante Culpepper. If he had taken Drew Brees, he might still be in the league. So I think if they could offer him full power, and I think that they would be willing to do that, I could see him coming back in a heartbeat."
Does this mean definitively that the Colts are going after Nick Saban? No, it doesn't, but it's worth noting and paying attention to. It sounds like Saban could be looking to leave Alabama, and he feels that his first entry into the NFL failed because he didn't have a franchise quarterback. The Colts have Andrew Luck, and that could be enough to draw Saban back to the NFL - as long as the Colts would be willing to pay and give him control. The Colts reportedly wanted Saban as their coach back in 1998 but were unwilling to give him control over personnel after having just hired Bill Polian.
As the Dolphins' head coach for two seasons (2005-2006), Saban compiled a 15-17 record before bolting to Alabama after only two years. As a college head coach (at Toledo, Michigan State, LSU, and now Alabama), Saban has had incredible success, going 185-60-1 (.752) and has won four BCS National Championships, along with numerous coach of the year awards. This year, Alabama is once again right in the mix for a championship run, being ranked number two in the country in the latest playoff poll after an impressive victory over LSU last week.
Saban to the Colts makes a lot of sense when considering it from both sides. Jim Irsay could be looking to make a splash for his next coaching hire, and if Nick Saban really would listen to offers, he would definitely seem like a guy that Jim Irsay would go after. On the other side, there's not much more Saban can achieve at Alabama, and the pressure of having a one or two-loss season be considered a failure by fans could be weighing on him. He has expressed that he failed at the NFL level because of a lack of a franchise quarterback, and the Colts would give him one. So if he's looking to get back in the NFL, the Colts would seem like an ideal place to do so. The pairing makes a lot of sense when considering things from both sides.
Of course, we've got a long way to go this year, and this doesn't sound like Bob Kravitz reporting anything as much as it's him speculating based on what he knows of both Jim Irsay and the Colts - which is still enough to make this a noteworthy interview and add some fuel to the fire that is the talk of Nick Saban possibly being the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.