Since the Indianapolis Colts are 6-3 and seemingly on their way to the playoffs, one would think that their interim head coach Bruce Arians is the number one contender for the NFL's coach of the year.
Bleacher Report asked me to buy or sell Arians winning the award, but I'm selling this one hard, and if there's anyone that would agree with me on that, it's Coach Arians himself.
The NFL's coach of the year is Chuck Pagano.
I'm a Miami Dolphins fan and featured columnist, so one would think I'd vote Joe Philbin in for the award. While the improvement's Philbin and his staff have made to the Dolphins have been extraordinary, the challenges he faced in Miami were nowhere near what Pagano had to face when taking over the Colts.
The Colts were 2-14 in 2011, which I'm sure I don't have to remind anyone of. They had totally cleaned house in letting go of long-time general manager Bill Polian, future hall-of-fame quarterback Peyton Manning, and long-time member of the Colts' coaching staff either as an assistant or head coach Jim Caldwell.
This was a team in full rebuild mode that had to change the culture and everything surrounding the team. Pagano was hired by new Colts' general manager Ryan Grigson to do just that.
The change started during training camp, as it usually does. While there, Pagano implemented a culture of toughness and accountability in Indianapolis that seemed to drift away towards the end of the Manning-era (and I mean that in the sense that towards the end of said era, the attitude was Peyton could fix anything, there's nothing to worry about).
Being a defensive specialist, Pagano's schemes improved a Colts defense that had allowed an average of 370.9 yards per game and 26.9 points per game into one that is still allowing 350.5 yards per game, but holding teams to 18.7 points per game.
Arians is responsible for the development of Andrew Luck, which is progressing faster than anyone expected. And keep in mind, Luck came into the league pro-ready and was expected to develop quickly since his sophomore year at Stanford. The Colts' offense is gaining 387.3 yards per game while scoring 20.3 points per game. Those numbers may look low (as seen in Indianapolis' -15 points differential), but only have room to go up.
Remember, this is a 6-3 team.
Arinas has the reigns for now, but this team's transformation started in training camp with Pagano. He still has an impact on this team. While he continues to recover from leukemia, he stays in contact with the coaches on his staff throughout the week.
For all intents and purposes, Chuck Pagano is still the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, despite Bruce Arians' title as interim head coach. Arians has done a phenomenal job, but I don't see the results being any different if Pagano were on the sidelines week to week.
Get well soon Coach Pagano, my mid-season vote for 2012 NFL Coach of The Year.