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Wednesday, January 25, 2012
First questions for Pagano: Scheme, staff

By Paul Kuharsky

The first reaction many Colts fans will have to the news that Chuck Pagano is the team’s new coach will undoubtedly be: “Who?”

But not knowing a guy doesn’t make him a bad choice.

Chuck Pagano
The Indianapolis Colts have hired Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano as head coach.
Owner Jim Irsay tabbed a young personnel executive, Ryan Grigson, as his new general manager. Now the two have selected Pagano, who just finished his first season as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, as their coach.

He’s been with the Ravens since 2008, with stints in Cleveland and Oakland before that.

Pagano and Grigson now set about contributing to a decision on Peyton Manning, who seems likely to be released before a $28 million bonus is due March 8, and deciding on how to use the No. 1 pick in the April draft, which is likely to be used on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

The two biggest questions I have for Pagano are about his schemes and his staff.

He’s not inheriting a defense with Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Ray Lewis, but that doesn’t mean he can’t set about shaping a unit that plays a far different style than the undersized-but-speedy Cover 2 the Colts have rolled out for years.

Will he want to transform the team into a 3-4 like the one he’s leaving, or will he look at the best players he will have, like Dwight Freeney, Antoine Bethea and Pat Angerer, and decide not to make a dramatic change? And on offense, will he want to go forward with the sort of smaller linemen, receiver-like tight end and three-wide sets popularized in the Manning era, or be a more balanced and more powerful offense?

As for his assistants, he’s surely made friends in his three NFL stops. He’ll have a chance to retain some Colts who have not been let go yet, like offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, assistant offensive line coach Ron Prince, quarterback coach Jim Bob Cooter, tight ends coach Ricky Thomas, running backs coach David Walker, and assistant strength and conditioning coach Richard Howell. Grigson parted with Jim Caldwell and most of the staff, and I’d expect Pagano to finish that job.

He will need to do a lot of hiring, and the quality of the people he is able to attract will be a big factor in how successful the Colts can be.

An offensive coordinator who will have a big say in the scheme, and a giant hand in developing Luck, is going to be a huge piece in the new regime.

We’ll start trying to connect some dots from him to people he might try to bring in. One guy he knows is former Raiders coach Hue Jackson, who has yet to land a job and could be viewed as a creative offensive mind who can develop a young quarterback.