This is the third time I’ve written about the Colts firing Chuck Pagano and hopefully it’s the last time.
The Colts have been abysmal at closing out games in 2017. The Colts have been outscored 171-61 in the 2nd half of games this season, including 110-28 in the 4th quarter. They have only outscored one team in the 2nd half and that was the Houston Texans (10-7) without Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt. To say that there are issues with 2nd half adjustments is an understatement.
In theory, if the Colts want to win a game, they need to have at least a 17-point 1st half lead. This embarrassing stat reflects poorly on the coaching staff. A stat like this should be all the ammunition an owner and general manager needs to fire a head coach but this isn’t the only reason to make the change.
The Colts have held the halftime lead in 8 games this season and in the two games they did not hold the lead, they lost by a combined 64 points. The Colts are 3-5 when holding the halftime lead, which means that the Colts are more likely to lose when leading at the half.
The Colts have lost in overtime, off last-second field goals, and have essentially handed games to teams late in the 4th quarter. They are not closers and if you expect to win in the NFL and have a shot at a Lombardi trophy, you need to close out football games.
The Colts were 24-2 from 2012 to 2014 when leading at the half. From 2015 to the first 10 games of the 2017 season, the Colts are 13-10. The Colts have a -43 point differential in the Pagano era.
I can keep going on and with ammunition that just screams “Fire Pagano.”
Why now? Why not just wait until the end of the season?
Pagano and the coaches have lost the locker room. T.Y. Hilton had a public fight with the offensive line and players were pointing fingers at each other. The effort level has dipped in a lot of games this season, particularly in the second half. An NFL franchise owner cannot allow his locker room to become divided. If the culture of the locker room breaks, current players who are in their contract years will look to head to other teams.
The Vontae Davis situation was peculiar and I question Pagano's role in the entire situation. How can a veteran with playoff experience and started for the Colts for years get suddenly cut by the team? Davis, last week in an article from the Indy Star, said that Pagano gave him "no respect", which is a fascinating comment by a veteran player about a coach who is often called a “players coach.” This might be all you need to know about Pagano. His best potential attribute is starting to crack.
He has lost the respect of some of the veteran players and needs to be shown the door as soon as possible so that other quality players don't depart in ugly situations after the season.
Who should be the next head coach?
I’ve always believed in the philosophy that the offensive and defensive coordinators should remain in their posts, as adding on the task of head coach can have a negative overall impact. If we look at all the coaches besides Rob Chudzinski and Ted Monachino, we see that there are a few decent candidates.
Joe Philbin and Brian Schottenheimer are the two obvious candidates, but Tom McMahon must also be considered. According to Football Outsiders, the Colts are ranked 10th in the NFL as a special teams unit. McMahon has quietly done a good job with the Colts special teams unit over the past few years. The two extremely bizarre special teams plays (in the Pats game and earlier this year against the 49ers) that we’ve seen over the past few years should not be blamed on McMahon. Trick plays like that are usually called by the head coach or at the very least they are approved by the head coach. The blame for those plays should fall on the shoulders of Pagano.
The Colts are a mess and need to start fresh. Dump the coach, call it quits for the season and move on to 2018 with a clean slate and a (hopefully) healthy quarterback.