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Chuck Pagano, The Eternal Optimist, Is Finally Being Realistic

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Philadelphia Eagles v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There’s a famous line from Clint Eastwood’s 1976 film, The Outlaw Josey Wales: “Don’t p*ss down my back and tell me it’s raining”. Well, Colts fans, Head Coach Chuck Pagano has been p*ssing down your backs since he arrived to Indianapolis in 2012. It seems as though his coach-speak-cliche rhetoric of “chopping wood” and “grinding” isn’t working. He can try to spin the truth like a politician all day, but when his team continually looks unprepared and inferior, no one is buying what comes out of his mouth. The only thing fans are buying are full-priced preseason tickets with little to cheer for. Saturday’s 3rd preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles showed just how shoddy this team is.

I’ll try to summarize Saturday’s game as quickly as possible. Andrew Luck was sacked 3 times, and hit another 6. The offensive line was so bad that the team decided NOT to bring Luck back into the 3rd quarter, which was the original plan. The Colts’ best offensive lineman, guard Jack Mewhort, suffered a knee injury, and will miss the first month of the season. The man whose job is to protect Luck’s blindside, tackle Anthony Castonzo, got worked over. And, this year’s 1st round pick, center Ryan Kelly, struggled as well. The offense couldn’t score touchdowns once they reached the redzone. The running game was awful, even by Colts standards (18 carries for a 2.2 yards per carry average. Meanwhile, the Eagles averaged 5.4 yards per carry). And, the two guys on the roster that are usually reliable, were anything but. Adam Vinatieri missed a PAT (He missed a field goal on August 20th against the Baltimore Ravens), and Pat McAfee shanked a punt. Oh, yeah, and the only healthy cornerback with any experience, Darius Butler, left the game with an ankle injury. This game was the so-called “dress rehearsal” for the starters, before they host the Detroit Lions on September 11th...YIKES.

Back to Head Coach Chuck Pagano. Excluding his first season with the Colts (When Pagano missed 12 games fighting leukemia, with Bruce Arians filling in), his defenses have gotten worse statistically each year. In 2013, the Colts finished 20th in total defense. In 2014, the defense ranked 22nd. And, last year? 26th. For a coach who has exclusively worked with the defensive side of the ball since his first job as linebackers coach for Boise State back in 1987, it’s a major red flag that the Colts defense continues to regress.

Now, this “mess”, as Pagano called it himself, is not solely his fault. General Manager Ryan Grigson should be blamed just as much, if not more than Pagano, for not giving his head coach talent to work with. For Ryan Grigson’s first 3 draft classes (2012, 2013, and 2014) there are ZERO defensive players still on the Colts roster. In fact, there are only 6 players from Grigson’s first 3 draft classes who still hold roster spots with the team, one of those being Andrew Luck. It’s like giving a below average chef a Go-Gurt and a can of Spam, and asking him to whip up a 5-star meal. The GM’s free agent signings have been brutal, too. Attempts to solidify the offensive line have failed (Todd Herremans, Donald Thomas, Gosder Cherilus). So has bringing in veterans on defense (Greg Toler, LaRon Landry, Art Jones). The rare free agent “hits” for Grigson include Kendall Langford, and D’Qwell Jackson. Grigson’s best move is undoubtedly the trade for Vontae Davis.

Right now, it’s probably easier to name who isn’t hurt for the Colts than to name who’s healthy. And, it seems like it’s been a problem the franchise has been experiencing for years. Injuries are a part of the game, although it seems the Colts organization deals with them more than most, as Will Carroll points out:

Is it a medical staff issue? Is it the Lucas Oil Stadium turf? Is it the water at the team headquarters on West 56th Street? I was being facetious with the last one, but you get the point.

Who knows the season will play out, but right now, it’s not looking good. Does Pagano deserve much of the blame? Yes. It’s his job to get his team prepared, no matter who takes the field. Is it Grigson’s fault for constructing a team with zero depth? Yes. The talent on this team isn’t great if everyone was healthy.

So, Chuck Pagano, the eternal optimist, is finally being realistic about major issues surrounding his team. Is it refreshing to hear? Yes. Problem is, the Colts haven’t even played a game that matters yet. Hang on, Colts fans, it might be a frustrating year. Keep choppin’ wood, and try not to hurt yourself in the process.