The Indianapolis Colts returned to the practice field today for the first time since firing offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton last evening, and head coach Chuck Pagano met with the media today for his normal Wednesday press conference - one that was, as expected, dominated by talking about the decision to fire Hamilton - something that Pagano insisted was not a knee-jerk reaction but rather something that had been in consideration and something that he felt just needed to happen.
"This was not a knee-jerk reaction," Pagano said today. "This was not anything other than that I felt we needed a change. Pep is a good football coach. Pep is a great man. And Pep has all of our respect for what he's done and his service to the horseshoe. He did a good job for us, and I'm grateful for everything that Pep did.
"I feel like Chud brings fresh perspective, Chud knows this offense, he knows our strengths, he knows our weaknesses, he understands talent. He, along with the rest of the coaches, will do a great job for us. I think we've all seen this team make some incredible comebacks since we've been here in 2012. I think we saw on Monday Night Football a football team, because of its' grit and its' perseverance and its' character, down 17 points with less than a quarter to play, against a football team on the road, undefeated and playing as good as anybody in the National Football League, comeback and force overtime and take the lead in overtime. That just doesn't happen unless you've got the right people. We've got the talent, we've got the grit, we've got the character. And this was just something that I felt we needed to do."
While there have been recent reports about general manager Ryan Grigson still meddling in coaching decisions and while owner Jim Irsay is still in charge, Pagano said that it was his call, in agreement with Irsay and Grigson.
"At the end of the day, as the head football coach, it's my responsibility to make these calls, and mine alone," Pagano said. "Mr. Irsay and Ryan Grigson and myself, we're all on the same page. So when I say alone, I'm talking the organization. Myself. I know I'm responsible for what we do and the calls and decisions that are made. And I accept that responsibility 100%. Again, this is a very talented team. We've got great character, we've got great resolve, again, we just need to start like we finish."
That was a constant theme throughout Pagano's press conference: the Colts need to start faster. They need to start like they finish. It's clear that the slow starts are a huge emphasis right now, and with the focus placed on it today, it sounds like that could have been a factor in the decision to fire Hamilton. The Colts continually dug themselves into a hole and were forced to climb out of it, so the focus is on avoiding digging that hole.
While Hamilton was fired on Tuesday after another failed comeback (this one closer than all the others), Pagano couldn't pinpoint when he started considering whether to move on from Hamilton as his offensive coordinator. Asked by the Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer that very question, Pagano gave a long pause before finally composing an answer.
"That's a great question," he said. "That's a great question, Zak, you always seem to come up with great questions. Again, this is something that wasn't an easy decision, obviously, and I said before it wasn't a knee-jerk reaction, but I think when you keep seeing the same thing over and over and over again through the course of time, we needed a change. To pinpoint and put a finger on when, I don't have a date, I don't have a time, I don't have a date on the calendar circled."
That sounds a lot like it was in the works longer than simply this week, especially since Pagano insisted that it was not a knee-jerk reaction. In other words, this move could have happened much earlier in the season, perhaps if the Colts had lost against the Titans in week three. Pagano wouldn't put a date on it, but it sure sounded like it was nothing new that Pagano just started considering. Rather, it was the repetition of seeing the same issues (perhaps one of them being the slow starts) that led to him realizing a change was needed.
He cautioned that we won't see a totally different offense from Rob Chudzinski because there's not the time to implement it, but he has faith in Chudzinski to handle the transition well mid-season.
"The timing is very, very difficult," Pagano acknowledged. "I'm very grateful that Chud would take over and do this, because I don't think, not everybody would accept the responsibility and do that considering the timing. So as far as coming in and putting in a whole new offense and things like that, that would be ludicrous, to say the least, and not fair to our players, and our coaches for that matter. So it's a credit to Chud and the rest of the guys for taking this on, taking this responsibility on. Again, we;re just going to try to clean things up that need to be cleaned up, fine tune some things, simplify, and give these guys a chance to go out there and execute at a high level, and not think but just play."
The Colts will take the field this Sunday against the Denver Broncos and their number one defense (which Pagano said is like a "scary movie"), and Rob Chudzinski will be their new offensive coordinator. Pagano felt that it was time to change coordinators, and one of the biggest things to be looking for this weekend is whether the Colts start out any better on the offensive side of the football.