It's game day. It's the season opener. There are 13 NFL games on today. And the Indianapolis Colts are beginning a season filled with Super Bowl hopes and expectations. That is the biggest storyline for the team, along with the exciting offense and one of the favorites for the MVP award in Andrew Luck. But there's another storyline that has developed that will be very interesting to watch as the season goes on: the status of head coach Chuck Pagano.
It's no secret that Pagano is on a contract year, having turned down a minuscule one-year extension this offseason. Jim Irsay, Ryan Grigson, and Chuck Pagano have all publicly denied it, and that has been enough for some to forget about it. But the issues remain and the talk is only ramping up about Pagano's future with the team.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora had some very interesting comments on CBS' pregame show today, including this tidbit: there are people close to Pagano who think he'll not be the coach of the Colts in 2016. Here's what La Canfora said on the broadcast:
"The situation with the Colts and coach Chuck Pagano is starting to resemble the inevitable divorce between the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh from a year ago. Pagano was shocked to receive just a one-year contract extension at virtually the same money he's already making. I'm told owner Jim Irsay equally is shocked that he turned that offer down and that situation has festered. There's growing tension between Ryan Grigson, the GM, and Pagano. It was Grigson who championed the hiring of Pep Hamilton as offensive coordinator, and many coaches on that staff were shocked the team took a wide receiver in the first round rather than address more pressing concerns. Irsay ramped up the pressure by putting the team publically in Super Bowl or bust mode, and those closest to Pagano believe it's inevitable that he'll be coaching elsewhere in 2016."
This isn't anything new, as we've heard for a while that there are issues within the Colts' organization. The most interesting part of La Canfora's statement is that last part: that those close to Pagano believe it's "inevitable" that he'll be coaching elsewhere next year. Assuming that's accurate, that would seem like a pretty big deal.
Many have already made the comparison between this situation and that situation in San Francisco last year with Jim Harbaugh - which, as we all know, was a pretty ugly departure. I'm not sure if it will ever get to that degree of ugliness because both sides at least have respect for each other, but it's certainly seeming more and more possible that the Colts will have a new head coach in 2016. And I don't particularly know how much of it has to do with it being "Super Bowl or bust" as much as it has to do with the internal issues. We'll see if the sides can work through the differences enough, but at the same time, they'll need to work together to try to win that Super Bowl this year - because, after all, that is the goal.
UPDATE: Jason La Canfora has turned some of his comments into an article on the CBS site, which is worth a read. Among the most notable points:
- "their ability to coexist long-term was greatly compromised by how Colts owner Jim Irsay handled contract talks during the offseason and there is little chance these two are working together beyond this season."
- Ryan Grigson was the one who hired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton (meaning that Grigson has ultimate control over the coaching staff, too) despite the fact that Pagano wanted Rob Chudzinski for the job (though, of course, Chud had taken the head coaching job with the Browns but after a year headed to Indy as an assistant to the head coach).
- "It's also nearly impossible for [those closest to Pagano] to imagine a scenario in which he and Grigson are still both there together even if the coach did opt to stay in Indianapolis on a lucrative new deal."
- "Irsay has allowed this to fester to a point which many believe there is no chance of keeping both parties."
- "perceived instability from Irsay would scare off some top candidates [for the head coaching job], sources said."