INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians share the same stadium this weekend that they did last season.
They are wearing different colors this time, with Arians sporting Cardinal red. The wardrobe change comes because of the approach Pagano instilled in his players and coaches last year.
We said, ‘You check your ego at the door. You put that aside. You come in, do your job and understand your role and when you have success, good things are going to happen to a lot of people,’ ” said Pagano of the message he delivered last year. “That’s a by-product of where Bruce is now and having the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. It’s a long time coming, well-deserved. It’s just a by-product of success.”
Arians directed the Colts to a 9-3 record in Pagano’s absence last year, constantly preaching the gospel of Chuck.
It helped get Indianapolis to 11-5 and into the playoffs. It got Arians coach-of-the-year notice and into the Arizona desert.
Arians was the first person Pagano called to recruit when he took the Colts’ reins. Now he sees Arians on another mission at the combine.
“It’s hard (to lose him) because we have a strong relationship. He’s a great friend and confidant,” said Pagano. “You’re expecting him to walk into your suite at night and do interviews with you. He’s going to walk down to another suite and handle his own interviews.”
Ryan Grigson worked closely with Arians and knows Arizona has a unique leader.
“I can’t say enough good things about Bruce. We were in a complete whirlwind (in 2012), but yet we were in a vacuum,” said Grigson. “His strengths are his directness, yet he could still do it in a way that’s not demeaning. He could still get a chuckle out of someone, but at the same time they knew, ‘I’d better get this cleaned up or things aren’t going to be good for me around here.’
“Bruce goes for the throat. He was a big part of us winning. He took chances, but it wasn’t like he didn’t have a reference point for what he was doing. He took calculated risks.”
Pagano sees Arians having the same impact in a new environment.
“He’s got a great way with players. He always has,” said Pagano. “Not only is he a great football coach and has a great football mind and has been successful everywhere he’s been, he’s a better person and a better man. We were able to accomplish what we accomplished because of those skills he has. He’ll do the same thing in Arizona.”
For all the highs 2012 provided to Arians, he felt one particular victory.
“The biggest thing from last year was I watched a dear friend get healthy,” said Arians. “Football was a backseat the whole time to watching Chuck fight that fight and win. It just so happened, everyone in the country joined the fight.
“It was heartwarming to watch the cheerleaders shave their heads, players shave their heads, fans, truck drivers doing it. I already was (bald). I was a natural. I jumped in the picture, though. The easy part was, if Chuck was fighting that fight, why couldn't we win games? That was the only message we had the entire season. It was an amazing, emotional ride the entire time.”
As Pagano sees Arians head into another interview room, he knows it is a by-product of the Indianapolis program he and Grigson built.
“You hate to lose anybody. We certainly didn’t want to lose Bruce,” said Pagano. “He was an integral part. You can’t put a pricetag on what he did and what he meant to this organization, what he meant to this city, what he meant to our team.
“At the same time, we’re really excited for Bruce, Kris and his entire family for the opportunity he has in front of him.”