Eighteen years ago, quarterback Peyton Manning had a warning for former Colts G.M. Bill Polian: “If you draft me, I promise we’ll win a championship. And if you don’t, I promise I will come back and kick your ass.”
While it’s still not known what was said to get owner Jim Irsay to re-up with coach Chuck Pagano at a time when Irsay could have hired anyone else without a buyout, it would have been fitting for Pagano to pay homage to Manning’s quote to Polian when talking to Irsay. Keep me, and we’ll win a championship. If you don’t, I promise I will come back and kick your ass.
Irsay already has dealt with that dynamic regarding Manning, who was cut by the Colts four years ago and who has had more success in Denver than the Colts have had without him. While the Colts have gotten the better of Manning on the field, the Broncos have been the better overall team.
If Irsay had fired Pagano, who knows where he would have surfaced? Although the Titans are expected to keep Mike Mularkey, Pagano could have made a persuasive pitch to stay in the division, with an opportunity to kick Irsay’s ass twice per year. Or Pagano could have gone to Miami, competing with (and finally figuring out how to master) the Patriots.
Just as Manning’s career seems to be winding down, Irsay would have had to worry about Pagano doing so well elsewhere that it would have made Irsay look stupid for letting him go — especially if the Colts had struggled under a new, high-priced, big-name coach.
So Irsay opted to play it safe. No matter how it turns out with Pagano over the next four or more years, one thing is clear. There’s no way Pagano will be kicking Irsay’s ass.