This offseason the Indianapolis Colts parted ways with former head coach Chuck Pagano, who tallied a 53-32 record in six years, with most of the success coming in the first three seasons.
On Monday morning, Pagano interviewed with Fox Sports, and admitted to the media that Andrew Luck was likely a key factor in him being able to stay with the team for as long as he did:
“Everyone saw the picture of him on a bicycle from the Indy 500,” Pagano said of Luck. ”He’s strapped, he’s ripped. My wife, my three daughters, my granddaughter, they all thought he looked great. He’s in a great place mentally, he’s in a great place physically... I love Andrew Luck. He got me more years than I probably deserved. He’s a phenom.”
Pagano continued: “Him not being able to play killed him. When you can’t be there for your teammates and you’re recovering and rehabbing, it kills you. Last year, it killed him,” he said. ”The great competitors want to be out there. This cat, he’s dying to get back on the football field. He understands, ‘OK, I’ve got to do A, B, C and D to get get myself back and make sure I’m ready.’ It’s the mental part, the physical part, he’s got to build chemistry with all the new guys on that team, he’s got to start throwing the football and he’s going to have to start taking some licks sometime.”
Coach Pagano’s statement only furthers the notion that Luck held together a team that was not only badly constructed, but poorly coached. In 2016, Luck played 15 of 16 possible games, threw 31 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and 4,240 yards, and despite elite quarterback play, Indianapolis missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Fast forward to the offseason heading into 2017, Luck underwent shoulder surgery, ultimately causing him to miss the season, and the team finished with a 4-12 record, leaving Pagano without a job moments after the final whistle was blown after the season’s final game.
With this being said, Pagano who not only has a realistic look at the past - appears to be confident that Luck will return to form in 2018:
“I expect Andrew to be the old Andrew, to come back and play great football this season and beyond. Obviously he’s got a lot of work to do. He’s got to get back on the grass, he’s got to start throwing the football. He’s in a great place”
Chuck may not have the latest intel on Luck’s injured shoulder anymore, but was around the the star signal caller until late December. Meaning he likely does have more knowledge on the injury than most outside of the Colts organization, so for him to voice a positive outlook can only be taken as good news.
Pagano had his shortcomings as coach, but it’s undeniable that he lead the horseshoe with dignity, and continues to show the team respect, which can only make the fans of Indianapolis proud.