If you know anything at all about Indianapolis Colts head coach Charles David Pagano, you know he exudes positive energy and is the ultimate optimist when it comes to his football team. He never looks at any glass as half empty and considers every day a bonus after his battle against leukemia. So it comes as no surprise that he is taking all the blame for the way the Colts have played to date. Every penalty, every missed tackle and every mental lapse on the field is his baby to rock. Don’t ask him what’s wrong with a certain player if you don’t want to hear all the positive attributes about him instead. Clearly, he’s a players’ coach and protects his troops from media at all times.
While it’s not uncommon for a professional sports coach to put a positive spin on things when in reality there are big problems, there comes a time when he has to be evaluated by not only his decision making capabilities, but also the level of talent he has at his disposal. Despite what many sports talking heads will tell you, it’s not just the multitude of injuries that have this team in a quagmire, but also a clear lack of talent that, for whatever reason, nobody in this area code cares to discuss. It’s actually not that complicated, and if I can figure it out, then I must assume that most people with even a modicum of knowledge about the game of football can do it easily as well.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume there are a few folks who can’t, allowing me to seize this opportunity to provide an analysis that some will undoubtedly find astute, while others may choose to ignore as they paint their faces Colts blue and head out the door for game-day tailgating. It’s rather simplistic. There is a glaring lack of talent and depth on this roster, and when you factor in the numerous injuries sustained since training camp, it leaves Pagano at a disadvantage that is quite difficult to describe. Before you say all that should have been taken care of in the off season after both he and general manager Ryan Grigson received contract extensions, here’s an update for all of you in Colts country still scratching your head: This team does not have the talent to compete for a championship.
While that statement speaks for itself, it does raise questions about what are truly reasonable expectations for this team and what the fallout will be if they aren’t met. Expecting Pagano to make filet mignon out of bologna seems a tad unrealistic to this old scribe, and it points back directly to Grigson and even Colts owner Jim Irsay in terms of accountability for a roster that, even when healthy, lacks depth and NFL-level talent. If you ask Pagano, he immediately talks about digging in and working harder, instead of the coaching grave that is being dug for him.
He remains upbeat and continually displays the aforementioned accountability for each and every thing that is lacking roster-wise. But it’s not the coach getting beat on a crossing pattern or jumping offside — it’s the players he so adamantly defends every time he gets behind the microphone to answer to what occurred and how it all went wrong.
Some will say this is a team that could easily have a better record with a few breaks here and there. I would counter that they could very easily be winless at this juncture, with the vultures hovering above their coach.
Regardless, Pagano continues to soldier on, looking for positive attributes he can concentrate on and share with the media. I’m not sure there has ever been a more accountable person in professional sports than him, and in the end, it will indeed cost him his job. While he wouldn’t be unemployed long, it’s both unrealistic and downright shameful for all this mess to be pinned on him. Trying to talk to Pagano about it is fruitless, as he simply looks at the storm he’s trapped in as a temporary delay in the arrival of a rainbow. While I must commend him for that, it’s time he took the situation in a different direction and spoke out about his players and their accountability, too. Lack of talent aside, the effort has to be there each and every time the ball is snapped, and that isn’t happening either; until he addresses that publicly, the players are getting a free pass they haven’t earned from a coach who deserves quite a bit more for his loyalty and his demeanor. Watching his troops fail him both on and off the field has to be agonizing for Pagano, but the sword cuts both ways, and allowing others to rightfully accept some of the blame would be categorized, in my opinion, as both strategic and long overdue.
Then again, I’m not Pagano, and the class and dignity he’s displaying are incredible, considering the lack of support he receives from those wearing a horseshoe on the side of their helmet. He’ll undoubtedly keep absorbing it on the chin without complaining and take the high road out the door when the wheels fall off. Then again, it’s not too late for him to speak up publicly regarding the inadequacies of this team. We’d all understand, right? He’s a better man than most for not doing that, and for that reason alone, I’m willing to bet he continues to take one for the team.
Danny Bridges, who thinks Chuck Pagano is a far better coach than he gets credit for, and an even greater man, can be reached at (317) 370-8447 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.