INDIANAPOLIS -- Chuck Pagano's battle was too much to overcome. Part of the problem was because Pagano turned down owner Jim Irsay's one-year contract extension.
You could understand why Pagano turned it down. The extension, I’m told, wasn’t much more than what he’s making now. The coach felt confident that his Indianapolis Colts would build off last season’s AFC Championship run so that he could gain the leverage he needed in contract talks. That likely won’t happen, as league sources say the Colts do not plan to retain Pagano at the end of the season.
An argument could be made that Pagano deserves at least one more year because he had to go through more than half the season without franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. And a victory Sunday over the Tennessee Titans will give the Colts an 8-8 record for the season.
“There’s no reason why coach Pagano doesn’t deserve to be brought back,” one player said. “Look at what he’s had to go through on the field and in this building.”
By “this building” the player was referring to Pagano’s soured relationship with general manager Ryan Grigson. The two currently communicate as little as possible. But the problems go beyond this season. Grigson’s micromanaging ways when it comes to which players should be on the field has rubbed Pagano the wrong way. Several players, according to sources, went to Pagano questioning why they made the switch from A.Q. Shipley to Jonotthan Harrison at center during the 2014 season. Sources said Grigson wanted to make the switch despite Shipley doing a serviceable job at the position.
Also, Pagano, according to sources, felt the Colts had more pressing needs than selecting receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the draft.
Pagano’s frustration with the inability to build an offensive line came into light after their Week 2 loss to the New York Jets.
“That’s been the case for three years now,” Pagano said after the game. “Has it not? [Luck] should be more than comfortable dealing with what he’s dealing with. We’ve got to get it fixed.”
Does Pagano have his faults? Of course.
He came to Indianapolis in 2012 with a reputation as a defensive expert, but the success hasn’t been there during his time with the Colts. In Pagano’s four seasons, the Colts have ranked in the 20s in overall defense three times and have never ranked higher than 11th.
Also, the number of blowouts the Colts have had under Pagano hasn't helped. Not counting the 12 games Pagano missed in 2012 while he battled cancer, the Colts have lost 10 games by at least 20 points, including five games by at least 30 points, under the coach. Two of those blowout losses have come in the playoffs, including a 38-point loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game last season. Irsay has a long memory and he doesn’t forget moments like that.
Don’t expect Pagano to suddenly fold. He said Wednesday that he plans to “fight my ass off to be the coach here.” That’s what he’ll do, and his players will be right there with him.