It's no secret that Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is entering the final year of his four-year contract, and it's also no secret that Pagano turned down a small one-year extension offered to him. But is Pagano, who is 33-15 as the Colts' head coach with three playoff appearances after a rebuilding period, really coaching for his job in 2015?
According to WTHR's Bob Kravitz, the answer seems to be yes. Kravitz reports that there are "internal problems" and "a growing disconnect" between Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson. Wrote Kravitz:
"But there are problems, internal problems, a growing disconnect between Grigson, who has a five-year deal, and Pagano, who is in the final year of his four-year deal.
"After poking around the last few weeks and talking to people who understand the dynamics of the situation, here's my read on things: As is so often the case in professional football, the head coach wants more say in personnel decisions. As Bill Parcells used to say, if he's going to cook the meal, he wants to pick out the groceries. I cannot list with any certainty specific examples where Grigson and Pagano have butted heads in personnel, but I can say they haven't always seen eye-to-eye."
Of course, as Kravitz acknowledges, this isn't really anything unusual in sports. There will always be disagreements. But, according to Kravitz, this situation is growing worse and might not have such a great resolution. "Neither owner Jim Irsay nor Grigson is completely convinced Pagano can take them the places they want to go," he wrote, while adding that he doesn't believe Irsay will be as patient this time around after only winning one Super Bowl during the Manning era. Kravitz elaborated on the questions that the team's decision-makers have about the head coach:
"From my conversations with people who know what's going on, Irsay and Grigson have questions as to whether Pagano, a players' coach, has the ability or the inclination to put a boot up somebody's backside. Even at this level, fear is still a healthy motivator. They also look at his record outside of the abysmal AFC South and the fact the Colts have gotten trounced in several games against elite opponents. Fair or not, and I think both men deserve the opportunity to remain and work toward a title, those are the facts. Again, there's a reason Pagano wasn't extended several years and offered a healthy raise. The decision-makers, Irsay and Grigson, have questions."
Ok, so to sum it all up, here's basically what Kravitz is reporting: there is a growing disconnect between Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson, and neither Grigson nor owner Jim Irsay are fully convinced Pagano is the guy to lead them to the promised land. That doesn't exactly sound like a great situation unfolding in Indianapolis.
I've been as critical of Chuck Pagano as anyone, but I'll defend him right now: I don't think there's any way he should lose his job. And, unless the team drastically underachieves and misses the playoffs in 2015, I don't think he should lose his job after this season either. He has his faults. He's not among the league's elite coaches, as he's somewhere closer to the middle of the pack. I have plenty of disagreements with some of Pagano's coaching. But a 33-15 record, two division titles, three playoff appearances, a 3-3 playoff record, and making it one step further in the playoffs each year speaks for itself, especially considering this is all after a league-worst 2-14 record the year before the new regime arrived. I'm not saying that Pagano's job status should be untouchable like Bill Belichick's with the Patriots, but I also think he's done enough to stick around. Absolutely.
If we're playing the blame game, I'd be pointing my fingers not at Pagano but at Ryan Grigson. I don't think the coaching has always been great, but the larger issue has been talent, not coaching. No first round pick in 2014 hurt them, and so did acquiring Trent Richardson. Signing LaRon Landry hurt the team. And even if drafting Phillip Dorsett in the first round of this year's draft turns out to be the right move, that's one less player to work with for Pagano on the defensive side of the football. The only pick in either the first or second rounds that has been on the defensive side of the football in Grigson's four drafts? Bjoern Werner, who hasn't produced. And, in fact, the only defensive players drafted before the fifth round by the team besides for Werner were taken this year, with D'Joun Smith (third round), Henry Anderson (third round), and Clayton Geathers (fourth round). And then the offensive line? Well, it's not like Pagano has a ton to work with.
Last year, when everyone was complaining about the team's defense, I actually thought that defensive coordinator Greg Manusky had his finest year with the Colts. The reason? He didn't have much talent to work with, but for the most part he got as much out of the unit as he could. And if we're playing the blame game, I'd take the same approach with Chuck Pagano - he hasn't been a great coach, but he hasn't had a ton to work with.
It doesn't sound like Jim Irsay or Ryan Grigson feel that way, however, and according to Kravitz's report, it sounds like there's a very real chance that Chuck Pagano could be gone after the 2015 season. Get ready for one heck of a ride this football season, that's for sure.