INDIANAPOLIS -- Who is this Chuck Pagano that’s coaching the Indianapolis Colts, and what happened to one that was Mr. Positive for most of his first five seasons?
The old Chuck Pagano wouldn’t have called his team’s performance “pitiful,” say they need more grown men in the locker room or say some of their injured players need to be on the football field.
This clearly isn’t the same Chuck Pagano from before. This Chuck Pagano is frustrated, one who knows the clock is ticking on him to put a respectable team together because his job depends on it after missing the playoffs the past two seasons.
“That’s his job -- to call us out when we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing out there,” veteran running back Frank Gore said.
Pagano, who is essentially auditioning to keep his job under first-year general manager Chris Ballard, had been saying the right things, but his body language and how he said it made it seem like there was more to it during the first two weeks of training camp. But that changed late last week when Pagano hopped on his soap box and spent two minutes talking about missing key players due to injury.
"You would like to have them all out here," he said. "But you have to work and practice. My hat goes off to all the guys that are here and have practiced and pushed through. There are some guys out here who are practicing that are really hurt."
The coach didn’t mention any names specifically, but it wasn’t hard to figure out who he was being critical of. Receivers Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett and rookie safety Malik Hooker all have missed portions of training camp due to injuries.
That was just a sample of how things have been with Pagano.
Chester Rogers clearly had been ahead of Dorsett, the team’s first-round pick in 2015, for the third receiver spot until injuring his hamstring last week. Pagano started Nate Hairston, the team’s fifth-round pick, at cornerback over second-round pick Quincy Wilson in the preseason opener on Aug. 13. Le’Raven Clark, who started the final three games of last season at right tackle, lost his starting job to Jeremy Vujnovich against Dallas this past weekend, then was called out by Pagano, using just Vujnovich's number, for committing a “foolish holding penalty” that took away a nice gain by running back Marlon Mack on a screen play.
After the game, Pagano called his team’s play pitiful and said they needed more grown men like backup quarterback Stephen Morris, who is pressuring Scott Tolzien for the starting job while Andrew Luck (shoulder) is out.
“There are no pity parties in life,” Pagano said. “There are no pity parties in football. It comes down to ownership and accountability. I’ve got to hold myself accountable, and they’ve got to hold me accountable. And the standard is the standard. Mostly for young guys coming in here, we don’t have time, a long time, to wait for them to grow up.
“Some of them are going to be thrust into significant roles. We need them to accept that challenge and grow up in a hurry. Mature on the field, off the field. Learn their playbook. Know what to do. There are a lot of people counting on them.”
Pagano attempted to downplay the grown men comment by saying it "wasn’t that big of a deal." The reality is, though, it was a big deal because he's showing an angrier side that was rarely displayed in the past.