A month ago, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported that Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was entering the final season of his contract and the Colts did not plan on extending it before the season. Then came the report from Dianna Marie Russini of NBC4 in Washington D.C. that Pagano actually turned down a modest one-year extension, but regardless of what the situation is in Indianapolis, it has led to speculation about potential distractions and questions.
For his part, general manager Ryan Grigson doesn't see the contract status of Pagano being an issue at all. "Absolutely not," Grigson emphasized during Wednesday's pre-draft press conference. "I don't talk about player's contracts. Obviously I'm not going to talk about our head coach's. But no, business as usual around here. Business as usual. Everything's good and we're ready. Everyone's looking to do the same thing in this building. We're all trying to achieve the same goal. Everyone's on board. Everyone's all in."
And while Grigson not seeing Pagano's contract status as an issue is significant, it's not nearly as significant as what the owner thinks about it. And tonight, while talking with the Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder at Pagano's annual ChuckStrong gala, owner and CEO Jim Irsay strongly backed his head coach and didn't see the contract status as an issue at all.
"These things are ongoing a lot of times behind the scenes," Irsay told Holder. "We're working on contracts, whether it's management, coaches, players. We had discussions and it doesn't mean that they won't continue. It's not a Super Bowl-or-bust season or anything like that."
The owner sounded like he's planning on Pagano being the Colts' coach for a while, as he was confident that a contract would get done - whether this offseason or next.
"We were proud of our (2014) season and I really feel positive about Chuck and what he's done for us," Irsay added. "There's no question that he's accomplished a lot since he's been here. And we're here tonight for this gala because he had that illness (leukemia) in 2012. Really, it's only been two years, kind of, that he's been coaching. So, he's done a very good job and nothing rules out that we couldn't have an extension done before the season. And if not, we can still, I'm sure, work things out."
There are supporters on both sides of the issue. There are those who say that Pagano's 33-15 regular season record, three playoff appearances, two division titles, and a 3-3 playoff record in his first three years as a head coach (after taking over a 2-14 team) should make it a no-brainer for a long-term extension. Then there are also those who say that the success of the Colts is almost all due to Andrew Luck and not to Pagano and that there are still significant in-game and philosophical questions about the head coach. Both sides make fair points and in reality its somewhere in between, but it is strange to see a coach of Pagano's status entering the final season of his deal with no extension in sight. It's strange, especially as guys like Marvin Lewis (who has zero career playoff wins in twelve seasons) keep getting extensions (if only for one year) while Pagano doesn't. Again, perhaps it was Pagano who turned it down, but the whole situation is strange.
While it's strange, however, it's nothing to be concerned about - just simply something to keep an eye on. The Colts are pleased with what Pagano has done, they just want to see a bit more from him. And, in fact, according to Jim Irsay, there have already been talks between the Colts and Pagano, though they haven't gotten an extension worked out. But the owner didn't rule out it still possibly happening this offseason, and regardless, he sounds convinced that Pagano will be his head coach moving forward.
"We're real positive about Chuck Pagano and the things that he's done. It's not a sign of anything extremely negative. We just haven't gotten anything done in terms of a long-term contract." And so while it hasn't happened yet, it won't be a surprise when the Colts and Pagano do get a long-term deal in place.