For his work as the Colts interim coach for 12 games in 2012, Arians earned a special place in the hearts of the team’s fans. The franchise bottomed out at 2-14 in 2011 as Peyton Manning missed the season with a neck problem.
Andrew Luck and the Colts went 9-3 with Bruce Arians, right, at the helm this season.
It jettisoned the guy who ran the team, Bill Polian, his head coach, Jim Caldwell, and Manning.
Owner Jim Irsay than hired Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano. Pagano hired his old friend, Arians, as his offensive coordinator and the organization drafted him an ultimate quarterback to groom in Luck.
When Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia and left the team for treatment, he tabbed Arians as his stand-in.
And Arians is expected to win coach-of-the-year honors, probably sharing them with Pagano.
The Colts went 11-5 this season, 9-3 under Arians, earning a playoff berth.
It was an incredible story, and one that got Arians in the pipeline for at least three of the open jobs despite the fact that most teams looked for a guy younger than him. He lost out in Chicago, where he was a finalist, and in San Diego. But now the 60-year-old Arians is an NFL head coach with a more challenging job because he's got to find a quarterback to develop.
The Colts will be thrilled for him, but sad to lose him.
And Pagano needs a new coordinator.
I’d hate to see the offense move far from the scheme it ran last year, as it was very effective, and as a vertical offense is a lot of fun to watch.
Can quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, who coordinated for Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay and for Caldwell in Indianapolis, take over and carry on? Or will Pagano be inclined to bring in someone new?
Among those available now who’ve done the job before are Cincinnati receivers coach Hue Jackson, former Browns coach Pat Shurmur, former Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, former Baltimore coordinator Cam Cameron and former Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey.
Former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt might have been a great fit, but he was introduced as the new offensive coordinator in San Diego on Thursday.
Arians is a tough loss, for sure.
Pagano isn’t going to wave a white flag over it. He’ll always be grateful to Arians. But it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been formulating a contingency plan.