One of the most stunning moves of the NFL offseason was the Colts' decision to keep head coach Chuck Pagano and sign him to a four-year contract extension.
All season long, the signs had been growing increasingly clear that Pagano was almost certainly on the way out in Indianapolis, especially as the Colts finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. The topic of the Colts' decision to keep Pagano has been widely discussed, as owner Jim Irsay acknowledged that he made Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson sit down and work things out before their extensions. Irsay also admitted that he didn't even know for sure how Black Monday was going to turn out entering that day.
Though the topic has been frequently discussed, FOX Sports' Jay Glazer had some interesting comments and insights to add to the situation. Talking with Bill Simmons recently on a podcast, Glazer talked about a time he was wrong - which he pointed to as the Pagano situation. But though Glazer was wrong in thinking that Pagano would be fired (just like everyone else), he had some interesting comments to add to the discussion and to his reasoning for thinking what he did.
"Yeah, things changed," Glazer said of the Pagano situation. "Not only that, they were going to get rid of the guy the year before if he didn't beat the Broncos in that playoff game, they were going to get rid of him the year before. And then in the offseason, they gave him a one-year extension offer as the lowest-paid head coach in the league. So that's where this information was coming from, plus when you go there to camp it's easy - the GM is just all over him and Chuck is like, 'I can't believe you're doing this shit.' Every player in there is like, 'dude, this is ridiculous.' And then as the season went on, you heard more and more, and when the season ended, still he knew he was gone. You always try and help your friends out behind the scenes to see what could be avaialble and what not and where you could help guys out, and I try to somewhat be like a temp agency, if you will. And it was a foregone conclusion [that Pagano would be fired]. And then all of the sudden Irsay said, because the players are like, 'we want him,' and [Irsay] made them sit down and hash it out and gave him an extension like they should have, but I ended up being wrong."
There are two things in particular that stand out from Glazer's comments, and they both kind of go together to raise a bigger point. Firstly, Glazer reports that the Colts would have fired Chuck Pagano had the team lost to the Broncos in the playoffs last year. I'm never a fan of making a decision on a head coach based on the result of one playoff game, but that doesn't mean that Jim Irsay wouldn't have done it - or at least considered it. The game is undoubtedly the biggest win of the Chuck Pagano era so far, and if the team really would have fired him for a loss, it makes the win even bigger. Whether or not you believe the report that the Colts would have fired Pagano had he lost that game, however, the picture is very clear: the Colts weren't sold on Pagano at all entering the 2015 season. That becomes even clearer in light of the second thing that stands out in Glazer's report, that the Colts's one-year contract extension offered to Pagano last offseason would have made him the lowest-paid head coach in the league. There's no way you can blame Pagano for turning that extension down like he did if that's really the case, as he deserved more than becoming the lowest-paid coach in the NFL. He went 33-15 in his first three years with the Colts and made three playoff berths, and was coming off of an AFC Championship game appearance - meaning you can't just offer him a small deal to make him the lowest-paid coach and expect him to take it. Whether you think Pagano is a good coach or not, I think most would agree that he was right in not accepting that deal.
This report continues to paint the picture of a mess of a season in Indianapolis last year, but it also poses this question that we've been asking for a while: what changed? If Jim Irsay was going to fire Pagano had the team lost in the divisional round last year and if Jim Irsay offered Pagano only a one-year extension worth less than the salary of any coach in the league, they what changed to lead to him offering Pagano a four-year extension this offseason? The Colts' 8-8 season wasn't a good one, and while Pagano and his staff deserved credit for keeping the team competitive without Andrew Luck, that surely couldn't have swayed Irsay's opinion that much, right? Perhaps it did, or perhaps the players' outspoken and unwavering support for Pagano got Irsay's attention, but regardless, I think Glazer's recent comments really further add to the question of what changed for Irsay to go from being totally and completely unsold on Pagano to making a firm commitment to Pagano as his head coach. I'm not sure we'll get the answer to that, but this report does make it even clearer to see how much of a mess things were last year. Hopefully, with Irsay now having made that commitment to Pagano and with the coach now having some semblance of job security, things will go much better this season.