INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts of Chuck Pagano will gradually get bigger.
He spoke respectfully of the success the small and nimble Colts of Bill Polian, Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell had. But at the scouting combine he referred to an Al Davis mantra he picked up -- “It’s a big-man game” -- while emphasizing that doesn’t completely discount little, fast guys.
But part of getting big and part of being big in the NFL ties to an age-old football formula: To win, you’ve got to run and stop the run.
I asked him Thursday about his offensive philosophy, and here’s what he said:
“You watch the Steelers play, right? I’ve always said this and I learned this from my dad watching him coach growing up: You’ve got to run the football and have to stop the run to be successful at any level. So we’re going to be able to run the football, and like I said at my first press conference, you’ve got to be able to throw it also. So a good combination of the two. We want to be explosive, we want to be physical, we want to be tough, we want to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, most specifically up front with the offensive line.”
Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson will have a lot of work to do to shape an offensive line that can win like that, and they may not have the running backs who can be a key to that formula, either. (Incidentally, the 2011 Steelers threw the ball better than they ran it, and defended the pass better than they slowed the run.)
Plenty of teams win in today’s NFL with below-average run games and run defenses.
The Super Bowl champion New York Giants were the NFL’s worst rushing offense in the 2011 regular season and ranked 19th in run defense.
A year before, the Packers won the Lombardi trophy with the league’s 24th-best run game and 18th-ranked run defense.
And while the 2009 Steelers defended the run well, ranking third, they were hardly a dominant rushing offense, finishing No. 19.
Pagano seems like an old-school guy. I understand the stance and the talk. But hopefully he and his staff will see that winning football, at least for right now, has a lot more to do with having a top quarterback and being able to hit opposing quarterbacks.
The new coach came to Indianapolis from Baltimore, where the Ravens made a habit of playing good run defense and getting a pretty good share of their offense out of Ray Rice.
While they advanced to the AFC title game twice during Pagano’s four years on the staff, they failed to win the conference or the Super Bowl.
Ultimately, owner Jim Irsay wants to see his Colts do more than that.