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Chuck Pagano built his success on winning division games, but now he’s not even doing that

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The primary reason Colts head coach Chuck Pagano still has his job is because of the AFC South.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: Pagano went 20-4 against the AFC South in his first four years as coach of the Colts, accounting for nearly half of his wins (20 of 41). So if you were to even average it out and pretend Pagano went 12-12 against the division in those first four years, he would have had a 33-31 record and three straight non-winning seasons.

What I’m not suggesting is that somehow those wins shouldn’t be credited to him, because division games are some of the toughest to win in the NFL and the fact that the Colts won 16 division games in a row was not just an NFL record, it was an incredible accomplishment regardless of how good the division was. So I’m not trying to take anything away from Pagano; I’m just trying to paint the picture of the reality that if Pagano didn’t have such incredible success against the division he’d likely not be with the Colts anymore (though you never know what Jim Irsay would have done).

So what does it mean for Pagano that his biggest strength - winning division games - is no longer that? Since that 16-game win streak, the Colts have lost four of their last seven games against the AFC South. They haven’t beaten the Jaguars or the Texans in that stretch, notching all three wins over the Titans. Sure, you could say that three of those games came without Andrew Luck last year (they were 1-2 in those games during this seven-game stretch), but that doesn’t erase the fact that the Colts are just 2-3 versus the AFC South - the worst division in football - this year. They lost a stinker to the Jaguars in London, they blew a huge lead against the Texans in the final few minutes in Houston, and they couldn’t manage to win an ugly game with the division on the line in Indy this past weekend.

Here’s the crazy reality of this Colts season in which they’re 6-7: they’ve been worse, but the overall picture isn’t a ton different from the first four years under Pagano - except for the division games. The Colts were 21-19 against non-division opponents entering this season under Pagano, just above .500. This year, they’re 4-4, right at .500. So while the actual product on the field has been uglier than at times in the past, the overall outcome has been similar to the first four years, only this year it’s not being masked by the division wins. Pagano’s just 2-3 in the division this year as opposed to a 20-4 record in his first four years, and his team has lost four of the last seven against the AFC South.

So his biggest success has now become just as average as the rest of his resume, which should prompt more questions about his job security. If the Colts aren’t winning division games anymore, why is that? It seems that the Colts have fallen back to the pack a bit from their total domination, and it seems the rest of the division (well, at least the Texans and the Titans) have improved. The Colts are no longer the class of the AFC South, and that should concern Jim Irsay. Because now, the Colts aren’t even winning those games.