After weeks of speculation to the contrary, the Indianapolis Colts officially announced Monday that Chuck Pagano will return as their head coach in 2016. The extension is for four years, according to Colts owner Jim Irsay.
"Continuity plays a role... It wasn't fan pressure, player pressure. It was that Chuck's won 44 games in the last four years," said Irsay, per Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star.
Pagano made it clear how excited he is to remain with the franchise, per CBS Sports' Will Brinson, “I’ve had a lot of great days in my life but none better than today. This is absolutely the best day of my life.”
Despite going 11-5 in each of his first three seasons with the Colts and leading the team to the AFC Championship Game last season, Pagano entered 2015 in the final year of his contract and without an extension.
ESPN's Dianna Marie Russini reported in March that Pagano turned down a one-year extension, and it seemed that decision would lead to his departure after a disappointing 8-8 season. However, the organization had a change of heart.
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The writing looked to be on the wall regarding Pagano's situation ahead of the team's Week 17 game against the Tennessee Titans, but Pagano insisted at that time that he still had every intention of continuing to be the Colts' head coach, per Mike Chappell of CBS 4 in Indianapolis:
"I will fight my ass off to be the coach here," Pagano said. "I'm worried about Tennessee right now. But do I want to be the coach here? Yes."
Despite his desire to remain with the Colts, Pagano also insisted he had no regrets when it came to his decision to turn down the extension that was initially offered to him, according to Wells. As it turns out, Pagano's reluctance didn't ultimately cost him.
There is no question that 2015 was a major low point for the Colts as they were expected to run away with the AFC South, but it can be argued that Pagano still did a fairly impressive job considering he was without superstar quarterback Andrew Luck for nine games.
Even so, keeping Pagano is quite unexpected amid reports that the coach has a "toxic" relationship with Grigson to the point that they essentially stopped speaking, per Wells.
Grigson made some questionable calls in his own right, such as trading a first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for running back Trent Richardson, trading star pass-rusher Jerry Hughes to the Buffalo Bills and signing wide receiver Andre Johnson, which could be why Pagano was given the benefit of the doubt.
It would have been easy for the Colts to part ways with Pagano, considering his contract situation and the disappointment that was 2015, but such a move would have ignored the fact that he went 33-15 with three playoff appearances in his first three seasons.
The Colts' 2015 struggles likely had more to do with Luck's absence than anything else. Any coach looks much better with a player of Luck's caliber in the lineup, and Irsay is banking on the notion that that will be true of Pagano in 2016.
Indy's offense tanked from the league's best to fifth-worst in the span of a year, and while Luck struggled even before suffering what wound up to be a season-ending injury, the talent is still there to position the Colts for a resurgent season.
When healthy and within the right system, Luck and the Colts can thrive. With the hovering prospect of Pagano's departure now ridden and a full offseason for Luck to get healthy, the Colts should be able to regain playoff form next season.
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