Black Monday has come and gone and the Indianapolis Colts have yet to make any changes after their second straight 8-8 season. In a comedy of dysfunction, Chuck Pagano met with the media yesterday and said that he expects to be back, but added that he hadn’t even met with Jim Irsay yet. He said that he had no reason to doubt that he’d be back, but it basically told us nothing more than we already knew.
So currently, the Colts haven’t made any moves - which might very well mean that Irsay isn’t going to make any. It’s still a wait-and-see process as we still don’t know what Irsay is going to do, but it’s certainly possible that he will keep Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano around for another season
Unlike last year, I haven’t really heard any Colts fans or folks in the media who have actually shared an opinion reasoning that it’s a good idea to keep them around, but I have heard one big concern about firing Grigson and Pagano, as fans attempt to reason why the owner would not do such a thing. That concern is justified: that there’s no candidate out there who’s a clear and obvious upgrade.
While much of that probably depends on what you think of Grigson and Pagano (since I think there are several candidates out there who could do better than a below-average job), it’s a valid concern. And it’s one that, like it or not, surely played a role in Irsay’s decision to keep the two around last year (in a year that this year’s potential Coach of the Year, Adam Gase, was hired). Remember, Irsay mentioned last year that he could have brought a big-name or big-money head coach through the door if he thought it was best for the team - meaning that he didn’t consider the options out there better than Pagano. So here we are again this year, and there isn’t the obvious candidate that would be a “can’t miss” guy. There are some terrific coordinators, like Kyle Shannahan, but how would they do as head coaches?
It’s a valid concern. Anybody Jim Irsay hires to replace Grigson or Pagano will be, at some level, a risk. But here’s the thing: keeping Grigson and Pagano around may be the biggest risk of them all for the Colts’ owner.
They’ve been given five years, and right from the start they got their franchise quarterback in place. After three playoff appearances to start their tenure (based largely on their success against the AFC South), things have fallen apart in the last two years. In fact, since the high point of the current regime (the divisional round win on the road against the Broncos in 2014), the Colts are 16-17. That span includes a blowout at the hands of the Patriots in the 2014 AFC Championship game, several other bad losses, a 6-5 record against the division, and back-to-back 8-8 seasons in which they missed the playoffs. It was the first time the Colts have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1997-1998, and it was the first time a single head coach did it with the franchise in over 20 years. Meanwhile, the Colts have shown no signs that it was a fluke. Their defense this year was the worst I’ve ever witnessed in my years watching the Colts. Their pieces to build around on that side of the ball are few. Pagano has made plenty of errors as the coach of this team, and Grigson hasn’t done a good enough job of building a team that’s capable of winning consistently.
So if Irsay brings the two back after two mediocre seasons, he’s counting on these guys magically fixing things in year six. Irsay would be keeping things the same, yet expecting the results to be different. That’s a massive risk.
It’s even more of a risk when you consider that Colts fans are completely fed up with the current regime. At first it started with disappointment, then it turned into fans just being pissed off, and now it’s turned into fans simply not caring. They’ve checked out. I can’t tell you how many fans I’ve heard from say that they’re done with the team if the current regime is kept. Right or wrong, Irsay has to understand that the current fanbase would be furious if Grigson and Pagano are kept. Irsay’s smart enough to realize it: the boos that reigned down over the team at Lucas Oil Stadium during the second half of the season weren’t just there by accident. Those empty seats in week 17 were because fans have become disinterested - why pay good money for a bad product when the owner doesn’t care what fans think? The bottom line is that Irsay needs to make the decision he thinks is best for the franchise, but he absolutely must realize that if he settles for mediocrity, fans will hate it. Some will start checking out, and the boos will continue at Lucas Oil.
So in all of this, it’s clear that Irsay must get this decision right. The fans are already fed up, and the results on the field the last two years give them ample reason to be. Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano haven’t gotten it done, so for Irsay to show complete disregard for the fans and expect the current regime to figure things out magically in year six is perhaps the biggest risk he can take. Maybe it would work out... but it’s the biggest risk he could take with his management decision nonetheless.