Coach Chuck Pagano has led the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs in three of his five seasons, including an AFC Championship Game appearance in 2014. They’ve yet to have a losing record under Pagano.
But the questions about how much longer Pagano will remain Colts coach beyond next season started when Chris Ballard was named general manager in January.
Mike Wells: That’s usually the reaction when a new general manager is hired and the head coach isn’t "his" guy, meaning Ballard didn't hire Pagano, who is heading into Year 6 as coach of the Colts.
It also doesn’t help that owner Jim Irsay said back in January, “For 2017, Chuck is our coach.”
No guarantees beyond next season for Pagano.
But it would be a significant assumption if anybody said this is Pagano’s last season as coach of the Colts.
Pagano and Ballard’s relationship is completely different from that of Pagano and former general manager Ryan Grigson. The lines of communication have gone both ways between Pagano and Ballard so far. The same couldn’t be said about Pagano and Grigson, which is one of the reasons why the latter is no longer with the Colts.
The odds of Pagano not returning will likely increase if the Colts miss the playoffs for the third straight season while playing in what has been one of the weakest divisions in the NFL in recent years. Speculation will swirl even more about Pagano’s future if the Colts get off to another slow start. Don’t forget that they have started 0-2 each of the past three seasons.
The schedule lines up for an opportunity for the Colts to get off to a decent start. Here are their first eight games.
Week 1: at Rams
Week 2: vs. Arizona
Week 3: vs. Cleveland
Week 4: at Seattle
Week 5: vs. San Francisco
Week 6: at Tennessee
Week 7: vs. Jacksonville
Week 8: at Cincinnati
Seven of those first eight games are against teams that missed the playoffs last season.
A key for Pagano is the development of his players, especially on defense. The Colts are rebuilding their defense. Ballard had a vision of what a successful defense should look like when he was hired last winter.
As it has been noted many times this offseason, Ballard believes the team's defense should be young, fast, physical, aggressive and able to create turnovers so that quarterback Andrew Luck and the offense have a short field to work with.
Now it’s up to Pagano and the rest of the coaching staff to ensure that a unit that could have six or seven new starters on it next season develops and is prepared to play on a weekly basis.
What could help Pagano succeed in remaining coach beyond 2017?
Get the Colts back to winning games.