The Indianapolis Colts have had a busy offseason, hiring a new GM, signing more than a dozen free agents, using eight draft picks, and signing a number of undrafted free agents, plus also getting rid of several players. So a lot of decisions have already been made, but plenty still remain too.
Some of those decisions will be about which players make the roster while other decisions will be about who earns starting spots, but there’s another looming decision that could be the biggest one of them all - and that’s the one that ESPN’s Field Yates listed for the Colts in his piece about each team’s biggest upcoming roster decision.
Yates wrote that the biggest upcoming decision for the Colts will be what to do with Chuck Pagano:
Is the wagon hitched to Pagano? The Colts orchestrated a masterstroke in hiring new general manager Chris Ballard, who has spoken positively about coach Chuck Pagano since being hired. But new general managers often bring along their own guys, so it's worth wondering whether Ballard will want to bring in a coach with whom he has a prior relationship. Pagano is a well-regarded coach who is 49-31 with three playoff appearances so far in Indy. If the team improves after back-to-back 8-8 seasons, there's little reason to suspect a move will be made next offseason.
While I wouldn’t call a decision on the head coach a “roster decision,” that’s mainly just semantics - if we’re talking about decisions a team is faced with period, I absolutely agree that this is by far the biggest one that Chris Ballard and company will face this year.
It seemed a bit awkward all along that Jim Irsay was intent on keeping Chuck Pagano even though he was making a change at GM, but Irsay appears convinced that Pagano will be better than ever this year. A new GM will almost always want his own guy, however, which means that as Chris Ballard and Jim Irsay are evaluating Pagano during the 2017 season the head coach will be under a lot of pressure to produce... or else. It will likely take a very impressive coaching job and clear improvement in areas that Ballard and Irsay have outlined in order for Pagano to keep his job.
Pagano’s job status has been a question for several years, and it once again will be in 2017. But while I wholeheartedly agree with Yates that it’s the biggest looming decision for the Colts, I disagree with his conclusions about Pagano. Yates writes that Pagano is “a well-regarded coach,” and unless people around the league think that Ryan Grigson REALLY sucked that bad, this is an indefensible claim. Fans and analysts alike have all come to realize that Pagano is just not a very good head coach, and he is the subject of far more jokes and ridicule than he is praise. Furthermore, Yates says that, “if the team improves after back-to-back 8-8 seasons, there's little reason to suspect a move will be made next offseason,” whereas I think it will take more than just improvement - in fact, Jim Irsay is on the record as saying that they’ll be looking for growth in Pagano as a coach in certain areas as they make the decision. Considering Pagano has just barely avoided being fired in recent seasons, plus the fact that he hasn’t really displayed reason for confidence in his coaching abilities, plus the fact that there’s a new GM in the building, it will probably take much more than simply improving upon back-to-back eight win seasons for Pagano to keep his job.
Regardless of what you think the Colts should do (and most Colts fans agree on that subject) and what you think the Colts will do (again, most fans agree here too), I think it’s clear that the future of their head coach is their biggest looming decision.