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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Arians proving he can handle the spotlight

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It is only natural to respect and support Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano as he continues his brave battle against leukemia. However, the business of professional sports painfully dictates that the show must go on. While many wondered how Pagano’s diagnosis would impact his players, few gave consideration to his interim successor.

Interestingly, the results have been more than surprising, as the guidance this team has benefited from can only be described as both stellar and amazing.

The Colts did not need to venture far when they tabbed veteran offensive coordinator Bruce Arians as Pagano’s replacement, but even they are no doubt pleasantly surprised with his performance which improved to 8-2 as the interim leader with a spirited come-from-behind win against Tennessee this past Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

One might expect such success to translate into something more than just confidence, but Arians continues to shine while displaying the lowest of profiles as he, in his words, “Keeps the seat warm” for his boss who has targeted Dec. 30 as a possible return to the sideline. While I am quite certain that no one wants to see Pagano return and coach more than Arians, the question that is natural at this point is what is next for the interim coach?

Sure, many will say that someone who is 60 years young will have a tough time getting an interview to be an NFL skipper, but Arians’ performance this season, along with his proven track record as an offensive coordinator will no doubt draw some attention from any owner looking to hire a new coach. While the Colts would certainly miss the man who has been instrumental in the accelerated growth of one Andrew Luck, they should be prepared for the inevitable as he will no doubt be a desirable property come this off season.

Arians has shown the type of grit that is needed to lead in the NFL, and his achievements go beyond the superb 8-2 record he has compiled since taking the reins in October.

He too could have easily packed it in when their head coach was hospitalized for treatment, but he chose to become hard nosed about the matter at hand and his spirit and drive has rubbed off on what is largely a collection of unwanted low round draft picks and free agents that have come together to fool all of us, along with their opponents.

Sure, you can point to a favorable schedule of sorts, courtesy of last year’s fiasco of a season, but the exception of a couple of stinker efforts, this team has been resilient and has bought into Arians’ team first philosophy. With a highly unlikely playoff berth appearing on the horizon, expectations have been shattered and efforts to bottle it for the future are currently ongoing.

That aside, the NFL is no place for smoke and mirrors, and in all likelihood, this train will probably derail itself when their quest for a playoff win begins on the road. No matter what happens, Arians has quietly and impressively guided a team that had no business in the playoff picture directly to the party and that has to make him the leader for coach of the year. Something tells me he would shun that award in the same fashion that he defers all accolades to his players. Note I said his players, as while this is still Pagano’s team the charge has been led by Arians and regardless of what transpires it would not have been possible without him.

The opportunity Arians has received was certainly not delivered in the manner he envisioned, but he has capitalized on it nonetheless. As controversial as it may seem, the Colts will have to make a decision soon regarding who truly leads this team in the post season.

Arians says he is more than content to rightfully turn the job back over to Pagano and return to simply calling plays. That may sound like an easy task but in the competitive world of coaching at the professional level it will be harder to do than anyone including Arians, could ever imagine. One thing is for certain, Arians has been the consummate professional regarding the hopefully imminent return of Pagano, and perhaps that too is simply indicative of the manner in which he has shown us that he is indeed ready for an opportunity to be a head coach somewhere else in the near future.

Notes: The surprising Colts continue the trek to clinch a playoff berth when they travel to Houston to play the AFC South division leading Texans on Dec. 16. The game can be seen on WISH-TV and it kicks off at 1 p.m.

Danny Bridges who thinks Bruce Arians deserves a shot to be a head coach in the NFL can be reached at: (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.

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