Ever since the Colts' season ended a few weeks ago, we've been taking a look at the 2014 edition of the Indianapolis Colts position-by-position. We've wrapped up the on-field positions, and now we will look at a few notable members of the coaching staff, starting today with head coach Chuck Pagano.
There's arguably no more debated member of the Colts than Chuck Pagano, as it seems like every fan has a slightly different opinion on the head coach. What we're going to attempt to do here is present an objective and rational overview and analysis of Chuck Pagano in 2014.
On the positive side, Chuck Pagano took noticeable strides forward from 2013 to 2014. The Colts stopped being a run-heavy team, and while credit for that goes to offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, it also goes to Pagano for being flexible enough to adapt. The Colts' defense became more consistent, and by that I mean they played well in the games they were supposed to play well in, which was improvement - and they did that without Robert Mathis. Give a lot of credit to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, but also to Pagano. A year ago, one of the biggest criticisms about Pagano was that the Colts started slow. And, while that issue did appear again late in the season, early on it was actually a strength of the Colts in starting fast early, and that was in large part thanks to Chuck Pagano. And that aggressiveness we wanted to see from him? He showed much more of that this season, from calling surprise onside kicks to going for it on some fourth downs that he might not have a year ago. I think that, if there is one huge positive to take away from Chuck Pagano's 2014 season in particular, it's this: he improved.
Furthermore, we continued to hear stories about how much players absolutely love to play for Chuck Pagano. Before the AFC Championship game, Cory Redding said once again that the reason he choose the Colts was because of Pagano. And a number of other players are not shy in their praise for their head coach, making it very clear that he is a popular head coach to play for. He's also a great man and influence in the community, and one of the more prominent examples of this in 2014 (among many others) was Pagano's letter to Colts fan Alex Kormoney after his father passed away. That letter received a great deal of media attention, but that was just one of the many things that Chuck Pagano does to make the community better and to use his influence in a great way. So, while Pagano also improved as a coach on the field in 2014, he also is a guy who his players love to play for and who is easy to like.
Those are the positives with Chuck Pagano. But despite an 11-5 record and an AFC Championship game appearance, there are still negatives and a lot of question marks about the Colts' head coach. His defense, three years into his tenure, has yet to become the monster that he has talked about so much. Heck, after the AFC Championship game team owner Jim Irsay publicly said that the Colts need to "be a tougher team." A monster? No way - not yet, with the owner talking about how the Colts need to get tougher and the fan base simultaneously nodding their heads in agreement. Pagano is still not that good at in-game decisions, and while the aggressiveness improved this year, there's still a lot of work to be done in that area as well. He's still a conservative coach who at times makes questionable in-game decisions. And, while the Colts have taken a step forward each season, the Colts have had three playoff failures, and in the past two seasons that has meant getting run out of the stadium in New England in an embarrassing loss to the Patriots.
The bottom line is that Chuck Pagano absolutely isn't going anywhere this offseason. He's the team's head coach and there's little doubt about his security, and it's hard not to overlook how much his players like him and the improvement that he made last season. But at the same time, the pressure will ramp up in 2015 as the Colts look once again to make the Super Bowl, and another playoff exit could mean a hot seat for Pagano. But that's not for another year, and hopefully not for much longer. What we're looking at today is his 2014 season, and I think I would come right in the middle of many fans. I don't think Pagano is a terrible coach nor do I think he should be fired, but I also don't think Pagano is a great coach who should be guaranteed of his job no matter what after next season. He's an average coach, and that's what he was in 2014, though taking some strides forward.
For more in-depth analysis of the Colts' 2014 season, check out Josh Wilson's other position reviews: