Following their 33-25 loss to the Oakland Raiders last weekend, the Indianapolis Colts were mathematically eliminated from AFC South contention. This is just the second time in coach Chuck Pagano’s 5-year tenure that the Colts will miss the playoffs.
Indianapolis plays Jacksonville this weekend, and they’re currently -4.5 on our GTBets line.
Despite being just two years removed from an AFC South Championship game appearance, Pagano’s job security remains a constant question. He signed a four-year extension this offseason, but as Jeff Fisher proves, this doesn’t always mean much.
That said, let’s look at whether or not Pagano will be fired along with Jim Harbaugh rumors that are surfacing.
Pagano: “I Take Full Responsibility for Everything”
Assuming they can win at home against Jacksonville, they’ll manage the same 8-8 mark — only this season they had Luck for all but one game.
Who’s to blame for a lackluster season in Indy, one where the AFC South was there for the taking? According to Pagano, we can lay the blame on him.
“I take full responsibility for everything,” said Pagano. “That’s what comes with this job.”
As reported by the Indy Star, Pagano also addressed the constant rumors about his job security.
“I don’t hear it, I don’t listen to it, I don’t pay attention to it,” he said, before explaining what his family had to deal with regarding the rumors.
“I hate it for them. I can deal with it. I hate it for my wife and kids who have to read it, watch it, whatever. Have to calm them down, tell them to keep their blinders and earmuffs on … they’re passionate, passionate, passionate about this football team, and they’re pissed. Not about that stuff. Because we’re not winning. That’s what they’re pissed at me about. They still love me, but they’re pissed.”
As for whether or not the Colts plan on tanking the final game to get a better draft pick, Pagano quickly squashed these thoughts.
“The name on the back of your jersey, the decal on the side of your helmet. Pride. Respect. Winning. It’s unacceptable where we’re at,” Pagano explained. “We all know that. Players and coaches. That’s not us. That’s not this culture. That’s not what was developed around here a long time ago. That — that is what’s at stake.”
What’s the Case for Pagano Keeping His Job?
In a league where coaches are often praised for maintaining a .500 record, Chuck Pagano has vastly exceeded expectations in his first five years. He’s 48-31, which is a 60.8% win rate. Assuming they win against Jacksonville, as many expect, he’ll add one more win to this record and have never finished below .500 in five seasons.
One stat that sticks out in Pagano’s 5-year tenure is that they’re 31-13 in games decided by one possession or less. Much of this can be attributed to Luck’s phenomenal play, but some credit also must be given to Pagano and the coaching staff.
As for 2016, Pagano can be given some leeway because the Colts had plenty of injuries, notably the three offensive linemen that went down towards the end of the season.
Friction between Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson
One big problem during Pagano’s tenure has been friction between he and Grigson over personnel moves. The two have found a way to work out their differences, but it didn’t prevent numerous offseason rumors that they’d both lose their jobs.
Owner Jim Irsay spoke on the matter this month, and he neither confirmed nor denied that he’d fire Pagano and Grigson. But if somebody has to go, perhaps Irsay should consider the general manager first.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell wrote a lengthy evaluation of Grigson, where he discusses the GM’s inability to put a strong team around Luck before he signed a five-year, $122 million deal. Barnwell also dives into some of Grigson’s notable failures, like when he signed an aging Trent Cole to a one-year, $5-million deal, or when he took middling receiver Phillip Dorsett with the 29th overall pick.
Jim Harbaugh to Coach the Colts?
Jim Harbaugh has made it pretty clear that he’s not leaving Michigan any time soon. But that hasn’t stopped media outlets from speculating on what NFL teams he would coach if he’s lured away.
The former San Francisco 49ers coach played for the Colts from 1994-97, throwing for 39 touchdowns and 26 interceptions during his stint there. He came within a nearly-caught Hail Mary of leading Indy to the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh did coach San Francisco to the Super Bowl, losing a close game to his brother John’s Baltimore Ravens. And what stands out about his stint with the Niners is how he quickly transformed a joke franchise into a championship-caliber team.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports that Indianapolis is a definite possibility if/when Harbaugh returns to the NFL:
“Some league insiders have speculated to PFT that Harbaugh could eventually coach the Colts, which would put him back in the organization he nearly took to the Super Bowl in 1995 — and reunite him with former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.”
But given that Harbaugh seems content with his $9-million-a-year Michigan job, odds are that this won’t be happening any time soon. And with few other dynamic coaching options available, Pagano will likely get another chance to lead the Colts in 2017.