Like Black Friday, Black Monday now starts a day early.
The Colts have fired coach Chuck Pagano, after six years on the job and three in a row with no playoff appearances.
“Chuck Pagano provided Colts fans with many exciting wins and memories as head coach of the Colts,” owner Jim Irsay said in a press release. “Throughout his tenure in Indianapolis, he impacted the lives of the players he coached, those who he worked with in the organization and Colts fans across the globe. Chuck’s first season was one of the more inspirational stories in NFL history as he courageously battled and overcame leukemia. As a result, his Chuckstrong Foundation has raised millions for cancer research. We are thankful for Chuck’s contributions to our franchise and community and we wish him, Tina and the entire Pagano family nothing but the best moving forward.”
Hired in 2012, Pagano’s leukemia diagnosis vaulted offensive coordinator Bruce Arians into the interim job and, ultimately, to the NFL’s coach of the year award. Pagano returned at the end of 2012, coaching a playoff game, leading the team to the playoffs in 2013, presiding over a comeback-for-the-ages against the Chiefs in the wild-card round, and ultimately taking Indy to the AFC title game in 2014.
Things fell apart the next year, due to a dearth of talent and a long list of injuries to franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. Pagano finished out his four-year deal in 2015, and owner Jim Irsay surprised everyone by bringing Pagano back and extending the contract of G.M. Ryan Grigson, amid rampant reports of dysfunction among them. Last year, after scouting possible coaching replacements, Irsay kept Pagano and fired Grigson.
With an arranged marriage, it was clear in early 2017 that new G.M. Chris Ballard would move on from Pagano unless Pagano accomplished enough to make it impossible. Instead, the performance of Pagano’s team, which didn’t have Luck at all, made it inevitable.
Pagano has two years left under contract, and he has said that the Indy job will be his last in coaching. He may feel differently if/when other offers to run someone’s defense emerge.