Chuck Pagano: They can fire you, but they can’t eat you

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Chuck Pagano

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 15, 2015) – Lest anyone misconstrue Chuck Pagano’s message, it dealt with perspective.

Yes, the Indianapolis Colts coach feels the gravity of a December playoff push that could well determine the magnitude of an expected offseason overhaul by owner Jim Irsay. That includes his own fate: Pagano is in the final year of his four-year contract.

“We all know what we signed up for,’’ he said.

Sunday’s showdown with the Houston Texans in Lucas Oil Stadium probably determines whether the Colts are able to salvage a season replete with controversy and injuries, or will wilt under that weight.

No one – general manager Ryan Grigson is a close second – has faced more criticism than Pagano. Never mind his 42-25 overall record, albeit aided by the team’s residency in the AFC South, and three trips to the playoffs.

But when asked how he’s holding up personally as the Colts have meandered to a 6-7 record and are coming off consecutive 35-point losses for the first time in franchise history, Pagano provided perspective.

He recalled his 2012 bout with leukemia.

“You know, when I spent 26 days in the hospital in 2012, that was tough,’’ he said. “That was tough. This is nothing. I’m holding up great. My weight is a little bit up because you don’t get as much time to work out a little bit, so I got a few pounds on me. I know it doesn’t show, but that’s what big clothes do for you.

“My wife is taking great care of me. I’m doing great. We have a great opportunity.’’

Pagano responded to a question about whether he’s feeling the stress of the moment by mentioning his family and time away from the complex.

“I mean, there’s stress,’’ he said. “I go home and if things aren’t right, I’ve got stress at home. My wife has enough stuff. My daughters, I worry about them. That brings stress.’’

And the lack of job security? Pagano tackled it head on.

“They can’t eat you,’’ he said with a stern gaze. “They can fire you, but they can’t eat you.

“So if the worst thing is a year from now, let’s say I’m in Boise (Idaho) next year playing with my granddaughters, I’m going to be fine. That isn’t going to happen, but I’m going to be fine if I have to go down that road.

“I’ve never really taken anything for granted, even before the cancer so I’m grateful for every single day that I get. Again, if I get tomorrow, we’re going to attack it with everything we have and be grateful for that. All I’m worried about is today. I’m doing the very best job that I can today and then when tomorrow comes, we’ll deal with tomorrow.’’

That perspective, though, doesn’t mean Pagano doesn’t grasp the urgency of the moment. Falling to Houston Sunday not only would be the Texans’ first win in Indianapolis after 13 losses, but also seriously impair the Colts’ playoff push.

He remains optimistic while so many others have doubt.

“We have a great opportunity,’’ Pagano said. “As bad as it may seem – the record, the ups, the downs, the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows . . . we still have an opportunity to accomplish all our goals.

“There won’t be anybody other than the coaches and players and everybody inside these walls, inside this building, that will give us any chance of doing that.

“These guys will show up, I promise you. They will prepare, they will work and they will show up and they will play their butts off on Sunday.’’