Every year, Rotoworld's Patrick Daugherty undertakes the project of ranking all 32 NFL coaches. Number one is, of course, Bill Belichick, and then the list goes from there. One of the biggest criteria that Daugherty sets forth is this question: who would I want coaching my team right now?
In this year's rankings, Daugherty has Colts head coach Chuck Pagano at number 21. The ranking is especially low when considering Pagano is essentially ranked 21st out of 26 head coaches, since the six new head coaches are in their own category at the end of the list.
There were supposed to be seven coaching vacancies this offseason. Pagano's firing was expected to be formalized the day after the regular season ended. Instead, owner Jim Irsay announced he had signed his coach to a four-year extension, improbably also retaining GM Ryan Grigson, with whom Pagano was believed to have a blood feud. The about-face was just the latest unexpected development in the never-quite-normal Pagano era. In addition to fluctuating fortunes on both offense and defense, Pagano has been at the helm for Deflategate, the second largest comeback in playoff history, whatever this was and a coronation season that instead turned into a five-quarterback nightmare. Through it all, his players have seemed to love him, even if the Twitter small council hasn't. Pagano's potential 2016 outcomes range from Super Bowl promised land to mid-season firing.
Other notable names on the list for Colts fans include Bruce Arians, who is ranked third, and Jim Caldwell, who is 24th. Pagano's ranking is a drop from last season, when he was ranked 16th, but the same place he was ranked in 2014.
On the one hand, Pagano's record suggests that he should be ranked higher than he is. He is third among active NFL coaches in win percentage, as his winning percentage of .641 ranks behind only Bill Belichick and Mike McCarthy among active coaches who qualify. Furthermore, Pagano has plenty of success to his name as a head coach, as the Colts are 41-23 during his tenure with three playoff appearances, two division titles, and a 3-3 playoff record, including an AFC Championship game berth in 2014. Even in a year in which they played without Andrew Luck for nine games, the Colts managed to go 8-8. Pagano is loved by his players and is a great influence in the locker room.
Despite all of that, however, this ranking seems pretty fair for Pagano. It's commonly believed that the Colts have won in spite of Pagano, not because of him, and the coach has plenty of shortcomings on the field. Even general manager Ryan Grigson admitted at the NFL Combine that, "I think, obviously, the bulk of our winning has been from our superb quarterback play." He was talking about improving the offensive line, but it fits here too - the Colts have won because of Andrew Luck, not because of Chuck Pagano.
It was a shock when Pagano was given an extension after the season, and owner Jim Irsay is obviously trusting that Pagano's ability to lead and the fact that he's loved by his players will continue, while the team will improve on the field as well. If that happens, we could see Pagano creep up these rankings a bit, but for now this seems fair.