Last week I was asked in a Q&A with Battle Red Blog who was most to blame for the Colts’ issues so far this year, Chuck Pagano or Ryan Grigson? I said both, but that if I had to choose one it would be Pagano. And here’s why: with better coaching, the Colts wouldn’t have been entering week six with a 2-3 record, and they may in fact have been 4-1. In other words, coaching has been very much to blame for the Colts’ losses so far this year, and we can now throw another one into that category.
And Sunday’s 26-23 overtime loss to the Houston Texans represents the low point on-the-field of Pagano’s tenure as Colts head coach. That’s really saying something, when considering the blowout losses, the playoff defeats, and the fake punt fiasco against New England last year, but Sunday’s loss against the Texans was the worst and most demoralizing of them all.
The Colts held a 23-9 lead with just minutes left to play in the game, and then in the final 2:47 they proceeded to give up two scoring tosses to Brock Osweiler (!) as the Texans overcame a 14-point deficit in a matter of minutes. After that, I don’t think anyone was surprised to see the final outcome: the Texans won in overtime on a 33-yard field goal.
According to NFL Research, the Texans are the first team to win a game when trailing by 14+ points with less than three minutes remaining since 2011, which obviously means the Colts are also the first team to blow that kind of lead since 2011. According to the win probability graphs, the Colts had a 99% chance of winning the game at one point in the fourth quarter. And according to NBC, this snapped a streak of 41 straight wins for the Colts in which they led a regular season road game in the fourth quarter, something that dated back ten years. And making matters even worse, the game was played in front of a primetime national audience against a division opponent in a game that wound up dropping the Colts to last place in the last division in football through six weeks. Before, the Colts had at least been able to count on gaining several wins each year from the AFC South, but now the Colts are just as bad - if not worse - than the other teams in their division.
We’ve known about the issues with Chuck Pagano and his coaching staff for quite a while now. I’ve been calling for him to be fired for well over a year, and many fans have been doing so even longer than that. The issues have been there, and this is nothing new, except for we’re now seeing how bad it can get. But instead of moving on from Pagano at the end of last year like everyone was sure would happen, owner Jim Irsay instead brought Pagano back - though Pagano didn’t bring much of his own coaching staff back. It’s hard not to wonder whether Irsay is realizing now he made a mistake. And it’s hard not to wonder what Irsay was thinking last night in the owner’s box, sitting there as he watched his team absolutely collapse on a nationally televised game. It was embarrassing, and Irsay was surely upset.
At the rate this season is going, with the Colts 2-5 and in last place in the AFC South, the Colts will likely blow everything up at the end of the season. That means Pagano, Grigson, and others. How could they not? Grigson and Pagano are tied together, and neither are getting the job done. Of course, that’s what we thought last year too, but this year has somehow been worse. It won’t be easy for Irsay to admit after just one year that he made a mistake, but at this point it’s something he’s going to have to do. And unless that miracle turnaround happens - which will first take getting past the demoralizing loss on Sunday - we’ll likely be pointing to Sunday’s collapse against the Texans as the last straw for Chuck Pagano as the Colts’ head coach. The final nail in the coffin of his Colts career, so to speak. The beginning of the end.
That’s not to say I expect a move to be made mid-season, as I expect Pagano to finish out the year as the head coach of the Colts. But it is to say that I wouldn’t be surprised if this type of loss is the one that finally gets Jim Irsay’s attention and the one that finally prompts change in Indianapolis following the season. Not just for this loss alone but for a number of them, though none are more representative of the issues than Sunday’s game.
The Colts collapsed in embarrassing fashion against the Texans on Sunday. And now, just like last year, we’re left thinking that it’s just a matter of time before changes occur in Indianapolis.