Yesterday, when I was researching for a piece about Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck entering year six together (which isn’t a good sign), I came across this reality: Chuck Pagano is already the second-longest tenured head coach in Indianapolis Colts history.
That’s right; Pagano has coached the Colts for 80 games over his five seasons, making him second in games coached to only Tony Dungy during the team’s years in Indy. The Colts have played 33 seasons in Indy so far and have had eleven head coaches (who coached at least one game), and Pagano has been around longer than all but one of them - and that one is in the Hall of Fame.
Stretching it out further to include all of Colts history - both Baltimore and Indianapolis years - Pagano is fifth in games coached, behind Ted Marchibroda (who spent two stints with the team), Tony Dungy, Weeb Ewbank, and Don Shula. Dungy, Ewbank, and Shula are all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Here’s a look at the top five longest-tenured head coaches in Colts history:
Ted Marchibroda: 138 games coached (1975-79; 1992-95); 71-67 record (.514)
Tony Dungy: 112 games coached (2002-08); 85-27 record (.759)
Weeb Ewbank: 112 games coached (1954-62); 59-52-1 record (.527)
Don Shula: 98 games coached (1963-69); 71-23-4 record (.725)
Chuck Pagano: 80 games coached (2012-16); 49-31 record (.613)
Furthermore, Pagano is third in Colts history in career winning percentage (among all head coaches actually on record as the coach for a game), behind only Dungy and Shula.
It’s kind of crazy that Pagano is already so high up the record books for the franchise, but at the same time it also kind of makes sense when you consider that coaches seem to be getting less and less time, on average, to establish themselves before a move is made. The Colts’ decades of losing football in the years before Peyton Manning arrived contributes to their short-tenured head coaches, as losing coaches aren’t kept around.
It also speaks to the patience of Jim Irsay recently, however, as he’s held off on firing Pagano in recent years despite indications that he might. In saying all of this I’m not making a determination of whether that’s a good or bad thing (though you all know what my thoughts are on that) but rather highlighting that Irsay has displayed patience with his head coach after back-to-back 8-8 seasons, which is why Pagano has made it this far.
You’ll also see this used as the biggest argument for Pagano supporters, as his .613 win percentage is a very good one and his record reflects a seemingly good head coach. But there’s also this flip-side: since Pagano has gotten more time coaching the Indianapolis Colts than all but one other guy, why does Jim Irsay think that the coach will turn things around in year six? He’s already seen five years of Pagano, which in the NFL is quite a bit.
Whichever way you lean, I don’t think this stat is ultimately about whether Pagano is a good or a bad coach; I think it’s simply an interesting tidbit about his longevity as the team’s head coach. It’s not entirely that different from the historical coaching situations of other teams, but I find it somewhat surprising that Pagano already ranks that high in the record books. Unless he really steps up his coaching in year six, however, it might also be his final one.