The Colts’ Wednesday hire of Chuck Pagano from the Baltimore Ravens signals a dramatic change in direction for the franchise.
Owner Jim Irsay seems intent on building his team up from scratch. The changes began with the exit of legendary executive Bill Polian (and his less-than-legendary son) and the ascendence of new GM Ryan Grigson.
Shortly after Grigson’s arrival, incumbent head coach Jim Caldwell was kicked to the curb. Then Irsay announced the hiring of Pagano as the new coach after he flirted with Jim Tressel for a few interviews.
And of course, Irsay has a No. 1 draft pick with Andrew Luck’s name penciled in that is just sitting there in his back pocket. All of this throws into question Peyton Manning’s future with the team.
What will the Indianapolis Colts look like with Grigson at the helm and Pagano on the sidelines? Here are a few predictions.
- Peyton Manning will be with another team. In an exclusive interview with the Indianapolis Star, Manning expressed his displeasure and discomfort with the state of the Colts in the wake of their recent changes. Irsay responded by labeling Manning a "politician." This seeming schism between owner and star quarterback certainly doesn't bode well for their continued partnership.
- Manning’s continued neck problems throws into question his long-term utility to the Colts. Are Grigson and Pagano willing to wait for a high-paid veteran quarterback in his mid-30s to come back from what might be a career-altering injury? My guess is that they will want to move forward with a cleaner (and “Luck-ier”) slate at the most important position on the field.
Will Peyton Manning wear a Colts' uniform in 2012?
- The Colts defense will get bigger and tougher as they transition to a 3-4 defensive scheme. Pagano will want to implement what he had success with as a defensive coordinator in Baltimore. Look for the Colts to draft bigger defensive linemen and start to value strength and toughness over speed and ball-hawkishness.
-The Colts’ sideline will be more animated than it has been in many years. Not since the heady days of Jim Mora have the Colts had a head coach who emotes with more than subtle eyebrow raises and taciturn grimaces. Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell were the model of cool.
That approach has its merits, but Colts fans often wished for at least a little bluster and vim than what those two provided over the years. Pagano isn’t in the mold of a Ryan brother or Jim Schwartz, but he does have a fiery side. Look for more emotion on game day in 2012 and beyond.
Changes are coming to Indianapolis, and the Colts of tomorrow will be vastly different than the team that dominated the AFC for much of the 2000s.