Colts’ Chuck Pagano on job security: ‘We’re all on one-day contracts’
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Chuck Pagano answered the question by holding up his hand and forming his thumb and index finger in a circle.
As the Indianapolis Colts’ lost season meanders to its inevitable end – just the second double-digit loss season in the last 17 years, the first in Pagano’s six-year stint – how much concern does he have with his job security?
“What do you think?’’ Pagano asked Monday afternoon. “What do you think?
Pagano has two years remaining on the four-year deal owner Jim Irsay gave him in January 2016, but essentially has been on a one-year prove-it deal since Irsay fired general manager Ryan Grigson and replaced him with Chris Ballard in January. It would be up to the new GM, the owner insisted, to evaluate everything football-related throughout 2017.
And here we are, 11 months after the change at the top.
Sunday’s overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills at snow-blown New Era Field in Orchard Park, N.Y. assured the Colts their first 10-loss season since 2011 and officially extinguished their flickering playoff hopes.
After three consecutive 11-5 records and playoff appearances with Pagano, the Colts endured back-to-back 8-8 finished before bottoming out this season. They’ll miss the postseason in the three straight seasons for the first time in nearly a quarter century.
Injuries have contributed to the free-fall, most notably quarterback Andrew Luck missing the entire season with his right-shoulder issues.
But Pagano has remained in the crosshairs, and continually magnified the target on his back with questionable in-game decisions.
In the closing seconds of regulation against the Bills and with the game tied at 7-7, he took the blame for the offense not positioning the football on the right hash mark to give placekicker Adam Vinatieri a better opportunity to knock down what would have been a 43-yard field goal. A few minutes earlier, players had cleared a spot near the right hash to aid Vinatieri’s game-tying 43-yard PAT and Vinatieri had wanted a similar launching point for the field goal.
Vinatieri’s 43-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
“It’s not on Vinny,’’ Pagano said after the game. “It’s on me.’’
Monday, it was clear Pagano isn’t fretting over whatever is going to happen following the Dec. 31 season finale against Houston.
“Perspective,’’ he said. “As long as I’m on this side of the dirt . . . we’re not guaranteed anything, you guys know that. We’re all on one-day contracts, I’ve said that a million times. It is what it is.
“We’re not guaranteed anything. If we get today, we’re going to go after it today like no other day. If we get tomorrow, we’re going to do the same thing. Control what you can control and whatever happens, happens.’’
Pagano is a football lifer. He’s 57 and in his 33rd season as a grad assistant, assistant coach, coordinator or head coach.
“You know what you got into,’’ he said. “It’s all I’ve known forever.
“The shelf life for these jobs is not long. You embrace every single opportunity, every single day, every single game. It’s a blessing. You can’t sit there and pooh-pooh and worry about it. I’m good. I’ll always been good.’’
It was mentioned Pagano is one of the NFL’s longest-tenured coaches.
“Oh, grandfather of the (AFC) South,’’ he said with a laugh.
Houston’s Bill O’Brien is in his third season, and under fire. Mike Mularkey is in his second full season with the Tennessee Titans and Doug Marrone in his first with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
On a grander scale, Pagano’s stint with the Colts is tied for the eighth-longest in the NFL. His 55 career wins rank fifth in team history.
“You never lose perspective,’’ he said. “You never lose gratitude for how fortunate we all are. Compared to what? That game, record, the season?’’
Luck has been out of sight but hardly out of mind since the Colts placed their $140 million quarterback on the season-ending injured reserve list Nov. 2. His rehab from January surgery on his right shoulder hit a snag in October – swelling and pain in the shoulder – which ended any chance of him returning.
A few weeks later, it was reported Luck had traveled to Europe seeking alternative treatment. He’s still abroad.
“He’s doing fine,’’ Pagano said. “Communicating via email and text. Making progress.
“I think everybody knows he’s in Europe somewhere, getting some great treatment. Where that is exactly, you probably know more than I know. I don’t deal with that. I don’t get on social media and that stuff, so I don’t know.’’
Pagano stopped short of criticizing the officials for calling a penalty on wideout Kamar Aiken that negated a potential game-winning 2-point conversion with 1:16 remaining against the Bills.
But he made it clear the Colts saw nothing wrong with the play. Aiken was penalized for offensive pass interference when he blocked safety Micah Hyde and allowed tight end Jack Doyle to catch Jacoby Brissett’s pass that put the Colts in front 8-7.
Receivers are allowed to block within 1-yard of the line of scrimmage, and the ball was snapped at the 2. The replay shows Aiken clearly within the 1-yard area.
“I thought it was a well-designed play and properly executed,’’ Pagano said.
Did he believe Aiken was within the required 1-yard area?
“When you look at the tape, it’s obvious,’’ Pagano said.