Colts owner Jim Irsay was not surprised as the reaction that came when the Colts announced on January 4 that head coach Chuck Pagano had signed an extension with the team.
For months leading up to that point, it was almost a given that Pagano would be fired and that the Colts would move on from him. So, when the opposite happened, the reaction was one of shock and bewilderment from fans, media, and everyone else. Irsay isn't surprised at people's surprise, however, in part because no one - not even the owner himself - knew for sure how Black Monday was going to turn out.
"I think there could be a little surprise because, listen, when you go into this thing let me tell you something: on Monday (January 4), I did not - there was no one - that had the for sure answer how this was going to go," Irsay told RTV6's Dave Furst in a sit-down interview earlier this week. "It was an organic process that happened when we had all afternoon and early evening intense conversations with Ryan and I alone, Chuck and I alone, and then Ryan and Chuck together, and then Ryan and I alone, and Chuck and I alone, and then us together. I'm happy to report I think two things: that both men have learned to communicate even clearer, and then the other thing, happy to report, is that in professional football it's about winning. Period. And you have to be able to be mentally tough enough to be able to go out, and I wanted to make sure, that Chuck and Ryan, and again, particularly Chuck even, could make those tough decisions."
Irsay said during the team's press conference on that Monday night in January that he entered the day hoping that things would get worked out, and that's exactly what ended up happening. But Irsay admits that no one, including himself, really knew for sure how it was going to go. It doesn't seem to be a case of an undecided owner trying to be persuaded, but rather it sounds like what Irsay really wanted to do was keep Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano both around. He knew, however, that with all of the tension that existed between the two of them, it couldn't just be business as normal moving forward. Irsay told ESPN's Mike Wells earlier this week that he made Grigson and Pagano sit down and talk through things so that they would improve their communication and not keep things underneath the surface anymore. In other words, it seems that Irsay really wanted to keep both of them around but first needed to make sure they would be able to work out their differences and move forward together, and he was convinced enough of that during the long day of meetings that he opted to keep them around.
The Colts owner told Furst that, without a doubt, his team is in a better place now than they were before January 4.
"No question," Irsay said. "One thing I've always said, and I believe this and I've told Chuck and Ryan this, sometimes the good is the enemy of great. Because you can be satisfied. You can say, ‘oh, but we've done this and this is better than! Look at how many games we won!' and all that sort of thing. But we're into this thing to get a world championship."
Jim Irsay believes he has the leaders in place to win that championship, but he first needed to make sure that they could work together and be unified in their pursuit of that one goal. When January 4 - a.k.a. Black Monday - began, no one knew what the outcome was going to be, but in the end Irsay emerged confident that Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson can lead the Colts to the promised land. Hopefully, he's right.