In three years as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Chuck Pagano has led the team to three consecutive 11-5 seasons while reaching the playoffs each year. In the process, Pagano became only the second head coach in NFL history to earn 11 wins in each of his first three seasons with a team and became the third head coach in Colts history to reach the playoffs in each of his first three years (Ted Marchibroda, 1975-77 and Tony Dungy, 2002-04). For two consecutive seasons, Indianapolis has posted perfect 6-0 records against AFC South opponents en route to back-to-back division titles. The Colts enter the 2015 campaign with a 13-game winning streak against division foes, having recorded a 16-2 mark against the AFC South dating back to 2012.
Under Pagano, the Colts went 33 games without losing two in a row from September 9, 2012 – September 7, 2014, which is the longest such streak in franchise history to start a career. Dating back to 2012, Indianapolis has recorded a 14-1 record in regular season games immediately following a loss and is 19-4 in games decided by one possession or less, which leads the league over a three year span (2012-14).
From his initial season as head coach of the Colts, Pagano has established a winning culture as the team maintains their yearly goal of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Known as one of the league’s top motivators, he’s ingrained this vision within the locker room, which has led to three consecutive playoff appearances.
“Our goal and vision from day one has never changed and that was to build a program for sustained success,” said Pagano. “We want to win multiple championships.”
Pagano guided the Colts to 11 wins in 2014, which included an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, the team’s first since 2009. Indianapolis manufactured one of the best offensive seasons in franchise history, recording its highest single-season totals for net yards (6,506, 3rd in the NFL) and net passing yards (4,894, 1st in the NFL). The Colts scored 458 points, which was the second-highest yearly total in team history and the team’s 28.6 points per game average ranked sixth in the league. Andrew Luck set a single-season franchise record with 4,791 passing yards while setting career highs in completions (380), passing touchdowns (40, 1st in the NFL) and passer rating (96.5). Defensively, the Colts ranked seventh in the AFC against the pass (229.3 ypg.). Mike Adams tied for the NFL lead in takeaways (seven), while Vontae Davis ranked tied for third in the league in passes defensed (18) as the two earned their first career Pro Bowl selections. On special teams, Adam Vinatieri tallied 140 points, the second-highest total of his career while Pat McAfee set single-season franchise records for net punting average (42.8), punts inside the 20-yard line (30) and kickoff touchbacks (70). Vinatieri and McAfee became the fourth punter-kicker duo from the same team to both be named to The Associated Press NFL All-Pro team as each earned Pro Bowl honors.
The team’s resolve to stick to their vision was no more evident during the 2013 season. Pagano guided Indianapolis to a 6-1 record in games decided by one possession or less as the Colts registered four victories in games when trailing in the fourth quarter. In addition, Indianapolis became the first team to finish a season with the least amount of turnovers (14) and penalties (66) in the NFL since 2002. The club also finished with a franchise-low in turnovers and fumbles lost (four).
The year was highlighted by an AFC Wild Card Playoff victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on January 4, 2014. The Colts trailed by 28 points (38-10) with 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Following a 10-yard touchdown run by running back Donald Brown, quarterback Andrew Luck led the team to four touchdowns, including a three-yard pass to Brown, a 12-yard pass to tight end Coby Fleener, a five-yard fumble recovery for a score and the game-winning 64-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. The team embraced Pagano’s no-panic attitude as they inched their way to victory. The win marked the second-largest comeback in NFL postseason history, behind Buffalo’s 32-point comeback victory against the Houston Oilers on January 3, 1993. It was also the first time a team (regular season or postseason) won a game in regulation after trailing by as many as 28 points.
Pagano was named head coach of the Colts on January 25, 2012. His first season proved to be one of the most inspirational stories in NFL history. Pagano was forced to take a leave of absence just three games into the season after being diagnosed with a curable form of leukemia.
With a 1-2 record, the Colts were without their leader in the midst of a transition that had started taking shape in the offseason. Those who expected the Colts to falter didn’t understand the principles on which Pagano built his squad. Terms like trust, loyalty, respect and team resonate throughout the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center and are applied on game days.
Serving as the team’s interim head coach, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and the Colts defied the odds and rallied to a 9-3 record. During that time frame, Indianapolis secured a playoff berth and accomplished one of their primary goals – extending the season for Pagano. Some of the victories during Arians’ term included a comeback win against Green Bay (Week 5) after trailing by 18 points, an overtime victory on the road at Tennessee (Week 8) and a last-second victory in Detroit (Week 13). In all, the Colts posted a 9-1 record in one-possession games in 2012, including winning their last eight.
As the regular season came to an end, the culmination of Arians’ stretch as interim head coach concluded with the team’s playoff-clinching victory at Kansas City (Week 16). The stage was set for Pagano to return after missing 12 weeks of action.
Division rival Houston visited Lucas Oil Stadium in the regular season finale in hopes of clinching the AFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Colts were not deterred, however, as the team corralled the emotion in Pagano’s return and compiled a 28-16 win to finish the regular season with an 11-5 record. The real victory, however, was the return of a healthy Chuck Pagano. It was a day the Colts organization and fans will remember for generations.
In just eight months as a resident of Indiana, the Indianapolis community, the state, and the country showered Pagano and his family with an outpouring of support as he endured his battle with leukemia. It was this support along with the caregivers at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center that he credits for his current state of remission. In return, Pagano has formed the CHUCKSTRONG Foundation, which has raised nearly $2.5 million for continued cancer research. He also hosts an annual CHUCKSTRONG Tailgate Gala, which raises awareness and funds for cancer research. In June of 2014, Pagano released his book titled Sidelined: Overcoming Odds through Unity, Passion, and Perseverance. The book documents his battle with leukemia while giving readers insight into an inspiring 2012 Colts season. Proceeds from the book are donated to cancer research and other charities.
Indianapolis’ playoff run ended earlier than the team had wished after falling to the eventual Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens in an AFC Wild Card playoff contest. What was not lost were the numerous team and individual milestones that the Colts established in a season facing low expectations. Most notably, the 11-5 record was a nine-win improvement from the 2011 campaign, which tied for the third-largest one-year turnaround in NFL history. The Colts also registered their 12th 10-plus win season in the past 14 years, which is the most of any NFL team since 1999.
Pagano and Arians were honored together by the Maxwell Football Club as the recipients of the 24th Annual Earle “Greasy” Neale Award for Professional Coach of the Year. The two also garnered AFC Coach of the Year honors as winners of the annual NFL 101 Awards. Pagano was selected by the PFWA as the winner of the 2013 George Halas Award, given to the NFL player, coach or staff member who overcame the most adversity to succeed. Each year, the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation recognizes individuals who make a difference in diversity and inclusion at an annual awards banquet. In February of 2013, Pagano received the foundation’s Game Ball Award for the differences he has made to level the playing field in the NFL for minorities.
In three seasons with the Colts, Pagano has coached 10 Pro Bowl players, including S-Mike Adams, CB-Vontae Davis, WR-T.Y. Hilton, ILB-D’Qwell Jackson, QB-Andrew Luck (three times), OLB-Robert Mathis (twice), P-Pat McAfee, LS-Matt Overton, K-Adam Vinatieri and WR-Reggie Wayne. In 2013, Mathis led the NFL and set a career-high with 19.5 sacks, earning him the inaugural Deacon Jones Award. In the process, he set a new franchise record with 111.0 career sacks.
The 2015 season will mark Pagano’s 32nd year of coaching and 14th season in the NFL. Prior to joining the Colts, he spent four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and the last (2011) as the team’s defensive coordinator.
In 2011, Pagano’s defensive unit finished third in the NFL in total defense (288.9 ypg.), second against the run (92.6 ypg.) and fourth against the pass (196.3 ypg.) on their way to an appearance in the AFC Championship Game. The Ravens also led the league in forced fumbles (21) and had the third-most sacks in the NFL (48.0), including a franchise record-tying 9.0 sacks in Week 12 against San Francisco.
Pagano served as the Ravens secondary coach for three seasons (2008-2010) before taking the reins as defensive coordinator. As the team’s secondary coach, he led a defensive backfield that had to adjust to a number of injuries, including a significant loss of seven-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, who started the 2010 campaign on the PUP list. Even after missing the first six games, Reed still led the league with eight interceptions in only 10 games in 2010.
In Pagano’s first season with the Ravens (2008), the team led the NFL with 26 interceptions, including Reed’s NFL-high nine picks. Reed, the league’s only unanimous (50 votes) All-Pro in 2008, was also coached by Pagano at the University of Miami (Fla.). Pagano’s secondary ranked second against the pass (179.7 ypg.) as the defense ranked No. 2 overall in the league, a drastic improvement from a No. 20 overall finish in 2007.
In his four seasons in Baltimore, Pagano’s defenses allowed the second-fewest points per game (16.3) and the second-fewest net yards (292.3) in the NFL. The Ravens also ranked third in the NFL in scoring defense during that span.
Pagano posted a one-year stint as the defensive coordinator at the University of North Carolina in 2007, where he rejoined head coach Butch Davis from previous stops with the Cleveland Browns and Miami Hurricanes. Under Pagano, the defense improved from 92nd in the nation in 2006 to 35th in 2007.
Prior to UNC, Pagano spent two seasons (2005-06) as the defensive backs coach of the Oakland Raiders. In 2006, the Raiders led the NFL in pass defense, allowing just 150.8 yards per game, and ranked third in total defense, surrendering only 284.8 yards per contest. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha ranked third in the NFL with eight interceptions.
From 2001-04, Pagano coached the Cleveland secondary under then-head coach Butch Davis. In 2003, the defensive backs helped the Browns tie the franchise record for the fewest passing touchdowns allowed in a season with 13. Under Pagano’s guidance in 2001, Cleveland’s secondary accounted for 28 of the team’s NFL-leading and team-record 33 interceptions. That season, rookie cornerback Anthony Henry led the NFL with 10 picks.
Pagano returned to the University of Miami (Fla.) from 1995-2000 for his second stint at the school, coaching the Hurricanes secondary as well as serving as the special teams coordinator. He coached four NFL first-round defensive backs: Duane Starks (Ravens, 10th-1998), Phillip Buchanon (Raiders, 17th-2002), Reed (Ravens, 24th-2002) and Mike Rumph (49ers, 27th-2002). During Pagano’s second tenure in Miami, the Hurricanes blocked 39 kicks in 59 games. In 2000, the secondary was named the nation’s best by Football News. His special teams unit also set a school record in 1996 with 12 blocked kicks.
Pagano started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Southern California (1984-85) before taking the same role at Miami (Fla.) in 1986. In 1987, he started a two-year stint at Boise State University where he coached outside linebackers. Pagano then spent one season (1989) at East Carolina University coaching the secondary before moving to UNLV where he led the secondary (1990) and eventually was named defensive coordinator in 1991. In 1992, Pagano returned to East Carolina, coaching the secondary and outside linebackers for three seasons (1992-94).
Collegiately, Pagano was a four-year letterman and two-year starter at strong safety for the University of Wyoming and graduated with a degree in marketing in 1984.
Pagano was a four-year letterman and two-year starter at strong safety at Fairview (Boulder, Colo.) High School. His brother, John, is the Chargers defensive coordinator and former defensive assistant for the Colts from 1998-2001. Both Chuck and John played for their father, Sam, who was the head coach at Fairview. Sam was selected to the 25th Hall of Fame induction class for the Colorado High School Activities Association in 2013. Chuck and his wife, Tina, have three daughters, Tara, Taylor and Tori, and three granddaughters, Avery, Addison and Zoey.
1984-1985 Southern California Graduate Assistant
1986 University of Miami (Fla.) Graduate Assistant
1987-1988 Boise State Outside Linebackers
1989 East Carolina Secondary
1990 UNLV Secondary
1991 UNLV Defensive Coordinator/Secondary
1992-1994 East Carolina Secondary/Outside Linebackers
1995-2000 University of Miami (Fla.) Secondary/Special Teams
2001-2004 Cleveland Browns Secondary
2005-2006 Oakland Raiders Defensive Backs
2007 North Carolina Defensive Coordinator
2008-2010 Baltimore Ravens Secondary
2011 Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator
2012-2015 Indianapolis Colts Head Coach