Indianapolis Colts Name Chuck Pagano Head Coach and Questions Abound
Just a few short hours ago, after a long week of speculation and build up, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay announced former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano as their new head coach.
Pagano has nine years of NFL coaching experience, one as a defensive coordinator (2011 Baltimore Ravens).
He has a reputation for passion and fire and has been regarded as a "player's coach." His hiring has injected excitement into the the Colt's Nation. At first glance, his hiring seems to be a very good move.
However, his hiring solves one problem and potentially creates dozens more.
Bringing the Wood?
Pagano's Baltimore Ravens defense was a force to be reckoned with and was a critical factor in bringing them a dropped pass away from a trip to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI.
They were ranked No. 3 in total defense in 2011. A strong defense is something we haven't seen in Indianapolis, in well, quite frankly...arguably ever.
No doubt about it, Pagano has big plans for this defense. Also, make no mistake about it, it probably doesn't include over half of the current defensive roster.
Pagano utilized a 3-4 hybrid defensive scheme. What does that mean? Gone is that Tampa Cover 2 nonsense, I mean defense, that was barely effective enough to half-heartedly slow a mediocre offense down and left the Colt's defense floundering around in the bottom half of the league rankings for 10 years.
Is This the End of Freeney and Mathis?
Colt's fans for years have enjoyed watching one of the most ferocious tandems in pass-rushing history with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
They have consistently terrorized quarterbacks year after year, registering sack after sack.
The problem? They are undersized by NFL standards. That fit the Tampa 2 style that's more concerned with speed than size. The 3-4 defense typically heavily relies on two defensive ends who are 30-60 lbs heavier than Freeney and Mathis.
The only option would be to move these two to outside linebacker. (Hint: That isn't a real option). Odds are one or both may be traded.
The Linebackers and Secondary
I can't honestly spend a lot of time here. It doesn't warrant it.
Many of the players theoretically fit the mold, but honestly, don't stack up with talent. The few exceptions, in my opinion, are possibly linebacker Pat Angerer and safeties Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea.
Probably a few more will stay because of salary cap issues. One thing's for sure, big, big changes are in store.
Will the Colts Get Lucky?
"Suck for Luck." We heard it all year.
Many fans began hoping for more losses as the season wore on in hopes of getting the highly touted Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
I think Colt's fans are spoiled with Super Man-ning, and I think we've based our expectations for Luck on our experience with Manning. I went over this in a previous article. More first-round quarterbacks have proven to be a bust than not. I think it's a risky proposition to think he's the next Manning.
However, Irsay has said that he intends on drafting a quarterback with the No.1 pick. I would highly doubt there has been any serious consideration to draft Baylor's Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III.
So, unless he's trying to use smoke and mirrors and create some pre-draft drama in hopes to create some last-minute trades, Andrew Luck may be wearing blue next season.
Peyton Manning: Keep Him or Not Keep Him?
Keep him or not keep him? That is the question.
Many fans are in denial that Manning may have played his last game in a Colt's uniform. The reality is that each day that passes, it seems that the likelihood of Manning not returning grows. It's not personal, it's business. And the business signs point to no more Manning.
First, Manning is up for a hefty $28 million roster bonus if he isn't cut or traded by March 8. That's a steep payment for a quarterback who's medical future in the NFL is still uncertain. The fact is no one knows, or no one is saying, whether Manning will ever physically return to his old self.
Speculation is that Manning has seen his best years. Even if he returns to his former stature, odds are his time is short. It's a business gamble to pay that kind of money to a player who may not be healthy and may only have a few years left.
Interestingly enough, according to the Indianapolis Star, Manning stated that he was told by Grigson that Irsay would be making the decision on his future with the Colt's.
Earlier in the month Chris Mortensen reported that Irsay had said the he will not trade Manning. If there is a parting of ways with Manning he will most likely become a free agent.
Peyton Manning: To Go or Not to Go?
To go or not to go? That is Manning's question.
Again, business is business.
As I mentioned, he's uncertain about his health. More importantly, he's had a stellar career and is used to winning. How hard is it for a future Hall of Fame quarterback to be forced to help rebuild a team in the twilight of his career?
I said it before, and I'll say it again, it's not personal, it's business. Manning's loyalty to this city is through his paychecks and opportunity for rings.
Knowing that he can get both somewhere else, might be enough for him to take a risk and go. Not to mention that based on his affection for complete control of his offense in the past, it's unlikely he's ready to begin grooming his replacement.
Rumors are abound that many teams are interested. I'm sure they are. The question is, which teams is he interested in?
Where Could Peyton End Up?
I honestly don't see any of those a good fit. Arizona isn't a top contender, Denver has that whole Tebow quarterback phenomena going and who in their right mind would want to go play for Rex Ryan?
But here are two teams that I think would be very enticing...
Where Could Peyton End Up?
The draw back here is that Manning seriously may have had enough of Tom Brady, and playing in his division may be too much.
Where Could Peyton End Up?
This is the big one...the San Francisco 49ers.
Jim Harbaugh has injected life into the 49ers, bringing them also just a few steps away from the Super Bowl XLVI.
Now the 49ers have a quarterback—Alex Smith. Smith has come under much scrutiny for many years for not living up to his potential. However, this year, Smith seemed to mature into a leader of a top-tier team. It also appears he and Harbaugh have developed a bond.
But, this is not personal, it's business. Manning is one of the best of the best, literally, of all time.
A Hall of Famer, with some life left in him, walking into a fiery franchise on the rise, lending not only his superior ability and understanding of the game but bringing a Super Bowl Ring and leadership into the equation, may just push this contender over the hump to an impending dynasty.
That's a win/win for both the coach-friendly quarterback and the quarterback-friendly coach.
The Bottom Line?
This is what I do know, the future is uncertain. There are some really tough decisions to be made. Like it or not, it's time to face reality, as I predicted at the beginning of the 2011 season, the ride really is over.
The house of cards has come tumbling down. This isn't "fixable." It's a mess. It's a mess that needs a lot of passion and energy to rebuild. Yes I said, "rebuild." And to be honest, with the exception if Manning stays, almost everything needs overhauled.
I personally am excited about the direction we're headed. I think Irsay has made some smart moves. But make no mistake about it, we are in fact starting over.
Gone are 14-win seasons, at least for now. It may be a little painful at first, but hey, after last season, we literally have nowhere to go but up.
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