The Indianapolis Colts wasted no time Sunday making official what had become obvious: They will have a new coach next season.
Owner Jim Irsay announced the dismissal of Chuck Pagano as the team’s coach soon after the Colts completed a 4-12 season with a 22-13 triumph at home over the Houston Texans.
“Chuck Pagano provided Colts fans with many exciting wins and memories as head coach of the Colts,” Irsay said in a written statement. “Throughout his tenure in Indianapolis, he impacted the lives of the players he coached, those who he worked with in the organization and Colts fans across the globe.
“Chuck’s first season was one of the more inspirational stories in NFL history as he courageously battled and overcame leukemia. As a result, his CHUCKSTRONG Foundation has raised millions for cancer research. We are thankful for Chuck’s contributions to our franchise and community and we wish him, Tina and the entire Pagano family nothing but the best moving forward.”
There was little to no doubt this move was coming. Irsay stunned many in and around the league two years ago when he retained Pagano as his coach and Ryan Grigson as his general manager following an 8-8 season. Another 8-8 season followed, and Irsay changed GMs a year ago but kept Pagano. When there was no turnaround this season, practically everyone within the league knew that the Colts would be changing coaches.
It mattered little that Pagano had next to no chance to succeed this season. Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t play a single down. The Colts had no viable Plan B at quarterback until trading for Jacoby Brissett just before the season. By the time Brissett settled in sufficiently to have any chance to play reasonably well, it was too late. But Irsay was not going to pull another coaching surprise, whether it was Pagano’s fault or not.
General Manager Chris Ballard now gets to pick a coach of his choosing — with Irsay’s approval, of course. There probably will be talk about the Colts making a possible push to lure Jim Harbaugh back to the NFL from the college ranks and his dream job at Michigan. There has been speculation linking the Colts to Tom Cable, the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and now the offensive line coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
It won’t matter too much which coach the Colts choose if Luck’s surgically repaired shoulder does not come around. He must be healthy and back in the lineup next season for Pagano’s successor to have any chance at a quick turnaround.
With Luck, the Colts could make a rapid return to contender status. Without him, it undoubtedly would be more of the same, even with the coaching change.
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