Every week we inch closer and closer to the end of the NFL off-season, and we can begin to focus on our favorite NFL team actually playing football again.
This week, though, does mark the end of another Throwback Thursday series. I'll be concluding my look at all of the Colts coaches by decade (cue both the happiness and disappointment from our readers).
We'll pick up the Colts in 2010. The team was coming off of its second Super Bowl appearance in the 2000s and was coached by Jim Caldwell.
For all of us who watched the Colts 2010 season, it was painfully obvious that something was off about this team. The injury bug decimated the team, and the balls weren't bouncing the Colts' way as they had in 2009.
Still, Caldwell was able to coach the Colts to a 10-6 finish and another AFC South title. With his team, at times, struggling on the field, Caldwell did make some baffling coaching decisions in 2010. Chief among those (in the regular season) came in Week 4 against the Jaguars when Caldwell gave Jacksonville extra opportunities and time (via timeouts) to move the ball into field goal range and win the game.
The team reached the playoffs, and for the second straight year, would host the New York Jets in the playoff game, this time in the Wild Card round. In a game the Colts probably should have won, Caldwell gave the Jets an opportunity to move the ball further into field goal range in the waning seconds of the game. The Jets seized the opportunity and won the game in regulation.
This would be Peyton Manning's last game as a Colt.
Going into 2011, the big off-season story for the Colts was the health of Manning. Rumors began to circulate that Manning needed neck surgery with some media reporting he already had undergone the procedure, some reporting he needed more than one, some reported he would be ready for the season, and others said he might retire.
No one really knew until training camp started to end when it became apparent Manning would not be ready for the season opener.
Through most of training camp, it appeared that Caldwell would be left with either Curtis Painter or Dan Orlovsky. However, it seemed that Bill Polian rescued a bad situation by coaxing the veteran Kerry Collins out of retirement. It was a move met mostly with approval from the fan base. Collins had played well in Tennessee the last few years, and at the time we didn't know Manning would be out the whole year.
There was some optimism among the fan base. Or at least, a little hope. If Don Shula could reach a Super Bowl without the services of John Unitas, why couldn't Caldwell do the same? This was a team (key word) that had gone 14-2 just two years prior, and 10-6 the year before.
After the first game, that optimism was erased. After the second game a few things were clear: Caldwell was no Shula, Collins/Painter were no Earl Morrall, and these Colts were not a very good football team.
The Colts ended up finishing with a 2-14 record. It was the team's worst record since 1991. After the season, Caldwell was fired by the Colts. He finished his career in Indianapolis with a 26-22 record.
Much like when the Colts fired Jim Mora (an offensive coach, which Caldwell is too) their replacement came with a defensive background. In stepped former Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano.
Like many of the coaches in Colts history, Pagano played defensive back in college, spending his time as a 4-year starter at the University of Wyoming.
Right after graduation, Pagano jumped into coaching as a graduate assistant at USC. Pagano would bounce around to different schools, primarily as a defensive backs coach. His longest collegiate tenure is probably his most well-known, coaching at the University of Miami.
Pagano made his jump to NFL as a member of Butch Davis' staff when Davis was hired to coach the Browns. Pagano would spend three years in Cleveland and a couple in Oakland before returning to the collegiate ranks in 2007 as North Carolina's defensive coordinator.
After only a year in that position, Pagano jumped back to the NFL as the secondary coach in Baltimore. After Rex Ryan departed the Ravens to coach the Jets, Pagano was promoted to defensive coordinator.
Much like at UNC, Pagano only spent one year as a defensive coordinator. This time, after that year, he was hired by the Colts to be the next head coach.
The Colts had a new coach, and they had a new quarterback. There was hope again in Indianapolis, although almost no one expected the Colts to contend in 2012.
After the first three games, those thoughts were validated. The Colts were 1-2, and while they looked better than 2011, they didn't look like an 11-5 team. Heading into a Week 4 game against the Packers, Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia forcing the coach to take a leave of absence.
With one of the best teams in the league coming to town, and the news of Pagano being diagnosed, I know I thought there was absolutely no way the Colts beat the Packers. None.
Enter Bruce Arians.
It shouldn't surprise you that Arians played football in college, and was Virginia Tech's starting quarterback his senior year.
As a coach, Arians bounced around as a quarterbacks coach in the college ranks for years, including a stint under Bear Bryant at Alabama. Eventually, Arians found his way to the Colts in 1998 as the team's quarterbacks coach where he worked with a rookie number one overall pick.
His work with Manning helped Arians into becoming the offensive coordinator for the Browns, where Pagano was the secondary coach. After Cleveland, Arians was hired by the Steelers where he won two Super Bowl rings, and helped coach Pittsburgh to three Super Bowls. Bafflingly, in 2011 he "retired" as the Steelers offensive coordinator, in a situation much like when Tom Moore "retired" from the Colts.
Pagano reached out to Arians and hired him as his offensive coordinator for the Colts.
When Arians was called upon to be the head coach in Pagano's absence, Arians helped lift the team to heights most of us didn't think the Colts were capable of in 2012. They beat the Packers, in one of my favorite games in Colts history, but didn't stop there. Arians led the Colts to a 9-3 record and a playoff berth in Pagano's absence.
At the conclusion of the season, Arians was named Coach of the Year, becoming the first interim head coach to win the award.
The Colts were left with a decision. Keep their chosen coach who had missed most of the season due to illness, or keep the coach who won nine games and was named Coach of the Year.
The Colts kept Pagano and let Arians leave to become the head man in Arizona, the move has paid off. The Colts won the AFC South the next two years, and advanced to the AFC Title Game this past year. One would imagine Pagano will be the Colts coach for the foreseeable future, and the team's outlook is incredibly good.
That concludes our look at the history of the Colts coaches. By the numbers, the 1960s were the most stable decade with both the 1970s and 80s being the most unsettled.
But I would be remiss if I didn't end this series with a poll. Who do you think was the best coach in team history?