Justin recently recapped the big news that Colts Nation and most of the 24 hour sports news cycle have been talking about; Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson walked out of the office on Black Monday with 4 year contracts instead of pink slips as just about everyone expected. The only problem in trying to predict the action of Jim Irsay is often like trying to predict the weather in Indiana. Various reports seem to indicate that Irsay may have been talking with Sean Payton about coming to Indy to coach while meeting with Pagano, but Payton has denied such rumors. In a long, often circling open statement on Monday Night, the owner stressed that both Pagano and Grigson would continue on their mandate to hoist the Lombardi trophy in Indianapolis. He further added that fans had no impact on his decision to keep him or whatever the outcome was.
Some fans seemed happy about the news while others hated it and wished the team had cleaned house. Maybe that should have happened, but the more I thought about it the more I began to feel that this the right decision for this team. I’ve been critical of some Coach Pagano’s game management skills, but also know that he has an ability to connect with his players and that is something that shouldn’t be discounted. Similarly, Grigson has been criticized for several drafts, trades, and free agent signings while also finding hidden gems in non-traditional manners. Both guys are flawed, but they also have shown glimpses of talent. If fans can look past all the issues this might be exactly what is needed. The year started with rumors of discord between Pagano and Grigson and in my opinion it worked its way onto the field coming to a head after Pagano seemed to validate some of the claims about Luck being used to playing behind a bad offensive line. Add in the stagnant offense led to Pep Hamilton being relived of his duties. Word came out Tuesday that Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky was fired along with more positional defensive coaches. Basically the team will have a season with new defensive staff along with Rob Chudzinski who took over O.C. duties after the Hamilton release.
I think we can also assume that Grigson and Pagano by next season will have to get past their past and will have to adjust to the problems each has taken heat for. Irsay most likely gave them the option to continue together or leave. This team needs to improve in these areas in no particular order: offensive line, cornerback, defensive line, and linebacker. Of these it’s a toss up between offensive line and cornerback (opposite of Vontae Davis). We all know the line is horrible but finding someone to compliment Vontae is a necessity after watching opposing players constantly torch Greg Toler. Simply, he must go. He just isn’t good enough to be even serviceable and if they have any chance to improve the team they must find a compliment to Davis. Many more choices will have to be made concerning who to keep, but now that the coaching staff is in place with the signings of Chudzinski and new Defensive Coordinator Ted Monachino, that process can begin.
Finally, the last piece to this puzzle is Irsay himself. Just a few a days ago it seemed he hade made up his mind to move on from Pagano which would have started the cycle over again. Teams like Cleveland, Oakland, and Tampa Bay change coaches more than just about anyone else in the NFL. What is the common trait among these teams? A state of perpetual losing and rebuilding. I think it was evident to Irsay that blowing things up wasn’t the desired outcome for this team which need minor changes. Again, I know some were disappointed that change at the top didn’t occur and I wasn’t exactly happy to see Grigson retained, but I’m willing to give it a chance to work out if both have realized that change needs to occur. Grigson has to nail this draft or I’m afraid that not much will change for the remainder of his freshly signed contract. Likewise, Pagano will have to improve those game management decisions that fans have questioned over his tenure. He also now has his desired coaches on staff with the blame now falling squarely on him. The saying goes, “The more things change the more they stay the same” can be said here, however, let’s hope that something was learned from the past season. Otherwise, another saying will apply, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”