When the Indianapolis Colts decided to extend head coach Chuck Pagano rather than fire him following the 2015 regular season, it came to the shock of pretty much everyone who had followed the situation - media, fans, and, as it turns out, players as well.
Punter Pat McAfee appeared on PFT Live today with Mike Florioat the NFL Combine, and McAfee shared how shocked he and the other players were that their head coach is back - though they're very excited about it.
"Yeah. 100%," McAfee said when asked by Florio if he was shocked by the move. "Just in the specialists room alone for the Colts we have 31 years of NFL experience - now granted [Adam] Vinatieri has been around a long time - but this isn't our first rodeo. So whenever we saw Chuck come in on his final year, he's kind of rolling the dice, betting on himself, and once things didn't start going the right way, we all got kind of worried for him. You will never find a person who has played for Chuck Pagano that doesn't love him. So whenever he told us that he was going to fight like hell for the job with that meeting with Mr. Irsay, we all were pulling for him. But we knew we let him down, we disappointed him that year - we didn't let him down, but we couldn't have done more to keep him around. And then when they came into that press conference and all three of them were there, I think we were just excited for Chuck, excited for the whole group, and ready to just keep it moving."
Through his comments, McAfee also seemed to confirm that Pagano's contract situation had an effect on the team in 2015, something that had previously only been speculated. A mid-season report even said that the Colts held a players-only meeting as they tried to drown out the tension between Pagano and Ryan Grigson. We don't know how much of an affect it had or whether it impacted the play on the field, but McAfee's comments suggest that the players were very much aware of Pagano's status as a lame duck coach and, as they lost some games, they became concerned that their coach wouldn't be back.
McAfee's comments should also disprove anyone who claims they didn't think that Pagano would be fired, as the players thought that their coach would be gone and were just as shocked when their coach was extended as we all were. Furthermore, based on his actions in the final few weeks of the regular season and the reaction after the Colts' finale, it appeared Pagano knew what was coming as well. Owner Jim Irsay entered Black Monday not knowing how it would turn out, but in the end Pagano and Grigson talked out their differences and were both kept around. Pat McAfee and the Colts players were surprised at that, but they're excited to continue playing for Pagano and continue seeking the Lombardi Trophy together.