It's difficult not to root for Chuck Pagano.
Let's just go ahead and take that one step further: It's almost inhuman not to root for Chuck Pagano. If Arian Foster can tap the #ChuckStrong sign and do his signature "Namaste" bow toward it, Houston Texans fans (and, by extension, fans everywhere) can appreciate the comeback story of the Indianapolis Colts head coach.
So, as the Colts charge into the playoffs, strengthened by the return of Pagano, it's worthwhile to look at how that return can help the Colts as they move into the postseason.
The Colts Are Just a Better Team With Pagano Around
First, the tangible: A team needs its head coach.
I am reminded of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season when the report came out that they had wanted to fire Raheem Morris, but they simply didn't have enough personnel to function without him. While the Colts have not put themselves behind that kind of eight ball, it's a useful anecdote when it comes to the domino effect that losing a member of the staff can have.
Forget the fact that Pagano is a fantastic defensive mind. Well, don't forget it; just set it aside for now. With Pagano out, that's one last set of eyes and ears around the defensive side of the ball. It gives Greg Manusky some guidance on the sideline. It restores a well-needed rudder within the coaches meetings and in the locker room.
Are the Colts a Legitimate Super Bowl Contender?
It also restores Bruce Arians to full-time offensive coordinator and Andrew Luck guru.
Let's not kid ourselves. As many plaudits as Arians rightfully deserves for leading this rookie-laden team to the playoffs against all odds, he wasn't perfect as a head coach.
It didn't take long while searching B/R Senior NFL Editor Collin McCollough's Twitter timeline to find plenty of quibbles with the job Arians did. Whether it was offensive scheme, game management or substitutions, Collin was right to point out inconsistencies, while others voted him Coach of the Year based on narrative.
Pagano will likely have some of that in his future as well. He's still a first-time head coach. But he was hired, and prepared, to be a head coach.
Getting Pagano back for the playoffs means that the Colts coaching staff is right where it was always supposed to be—at full strength on game day and during the week of planning.
Pagano's Return Proves To the Colts That Anything Is Possible
It sounds trite, doesn't it? Comparing leukemia to playing a football game is a serious exercise in false equivalency. The point is that's exactly how the Colts are going to feel about it.
The Colts don't just want to win for Pagano. They will know that their head coach has already won a victory this season far bigger than they could ever manage inside Lucas Oil Stadium (or even the New Orleans Superdome).
The Colts have been "ChuckStrong" all season, and now Chuck is with them. He's there to rally around. He's there to share anecdotes about how he got through the rough times based on the strength they helped provide him. He's back to return the favor as the Colts try to climb a mountain immeasurably smaller.
Don't discount, either, the effects of Pagano on the fanbase. If the "ChuckStrong" mantra has been that anything is possible, why not travel the extra miles or spend the extra money to support the team that was supposed to be down-and-out?
The bond between a head coach and his team is important in all of sports. In the NFL, it can make or break a career. Pagano was already a player's coach, but the team's tangible show of love toward Pagano and his clearly evident appreciation of them has made this team's bond even stronger.
One could say that it is...#ChuckStrong.
As the Colts head into the playoffs, it would be crazy to count them out as a young team or as a team that has no business being there. With both the tangible and intangible benefits of having Chuck Pagano back, the Colts are both a great story and a much better team.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.