PHOENIX – With the aroma of a buffet style breakfast filling a conference room at the Biltmore Hotel on Tuesday morning, Chuck Pagano was ready to talk some ball.
It was an hour-long session with all the AFC Coaches scattered at tables to meet the media.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will delve deeper into what Pagano shared in his time with the media.
For now, we will look at 10 takeaways from Pagano's Tuesday morning media session (a free agency specific look will come later this afternoon):
1. On the USO Tour trip earlier this month:
"It was awesome, it was a great experience. Again, you go through certain things. We've all been through our own circumstances and then when you go and have an opportunity to do something like that, (it) puts things back into perspective for you. I've always had a great appreciation for men and women who serve. We talk about serving, it's our big mantra in our locker room and in our organization, team first, self second. Great appreciation and even greater appreciation for the men and women who serve and give us the right and privileges every single day. It was tremendous and to be able to go and spend time with the troops. We traveled 25,401 miles in 6 days and 17 ½ hours and I think we were in 7 or 8 different countries. 52 of those hours were on a C-17 flying around the world. Very humbling. It was an unbelievable opportunity."
Bowen's Analysis: It's been quite the month already for Pagano. He started off March by traveling the world with the USO Tour. He was joined by Dwayne Allen and Andrew Luck on that tour and thought the experience was terrific for two of his young leaders. The busy March for Pagano has continued through an entertaining free agency period.
2. On his talks with Reggie Wayne this offseason:
"I know it was extremely difficult for everybody in our organization. Guy spends 14 years giving everything that he has day in day out. Those are very, very difficult decision that you have to make. Again, it's the harsh reality of the national football league and for every Ray Lewis ending there's a bunch that obviously don't end that way. You would like for them all to end it that way. It's just not going to happen. It was very difficult. Like Jim (Irsay) talked about, you can't put a price tag, you can't repay or talk enough about what Reggie meant to that organization, the locker room, the team, the community, the fans. He's a selfless guy. You just don't replace guys like that, and it's very difficult to say good bye."
Bowen's Analysis: Outside of Jim Irsay, Pagano is probably the closest member of the Colts to Wayne. From their days together at the University of Miami, the two have had a special bond that was a driving force in Wayne re-signing with the Colts in Pagano's first offseason back in 2012. Tuesday was the first time that Pagano has talked publically about Wayne since the team decided not to re-sign him.
3. On the possibility of a new PAT rule:
"I just think there's going to continue to be dialogue regarding the play, trying to make it as competitive a play as possible. So moving forward we'll continue to have discussions and dialogue and we'll see what happens."
Bowen's Analysis: The debate on what to do with the PAT is still being debated with the League Meetings extending through Wednesday. It's clear though that if they move it to the one-yard line, Pagano has a great resource if/when he chooses to go for it. At 6-4 and 230 pounds, Luck has the ideal build to get that three feet. If this rule does pass, I think you will see many coaches around the league decide to go for two almost all the time being just a yard away.
4. On the New England AFC Championship always being on his mind:
"You want to be the champ, you've got to beat the champs. And they're the champs. They've been a thorn in our side, but a great football team, a great owner, great coach. It's a big challenge for us."
Bowen's Analysis: Pagano was asked on Tuesday if the Patriots' losses in the offseason has impacted his thoughts on their 2015 outlook. The Colts head coach quickly pointed out how well New England has adapted to personnel losses in past years. I don't think you will find a regular season game on the schedule with more hype in 2015 than when the Colts host the Patriots next season.
5. On the search for another safety:
"We'll find somebody. Somebody will separate themselves from the pack. There's still a couple bodies out there in free agency you can look at. And then the draft. there's some guys who are coming out in the draft that are going to be starting for somebody."
Bowen's Analysis: The safety question remains an offseason need for the Colts with free agency now two weeks old. With Pagano and Ryan Grigson talking to the media on Tuesday, they reiterated that they have their eyes on a couple of safeties still on the open market. The team continues to speak highly on current safeties Dewey McDonald and Winston Guy.
6. On the defensive line depth:
"We have guys that are big athletic guys that can run, but they've got to develop and they have to come through. I don't think they have a choice. None of us have a choice. They have to be (ready)."
Bowen's Analysis: Pagano said on Tuesday that he expects Kendall Langford to fill the role of Cory Redding. So with a starting lineup of Langford, Josh Chapman and Arthur Jones, that leaves some important depth roles for guys without a ton of experience. From Montori Hughes, to Zach Kerr to Kelcy Quarles, the Colts feel confident in their abilities. But at the same time realize, those young trench guys have to be prepared to play significant roles in 2015. As Ryan Grigson followed up with later on Tuesday afternoon, 'It's time', when asked about the need for some of the younger defensive linemen to emerge.
7. On the need for a more consistent run defense:
"It's our Achilles heel right now."
Bowen's Analysis: A healthy Arthur Jones for 16 games in 2015 would be a nice start for a more consistent run defense. The unit was improved with Jones back in the lineup at the end of the regular season but could not keep that going through the AFC Title game. Pagano's quote might be concise, but it tells the story on where his focus lies heading into 2015.
8. On the center competition:
"I think we are going to have great competition going into the offseason. We've got guys in that room that are good football players so the competition will be heated. It will be good."
Bowen's Analysis: While Khaled Holmes will be the likely starter with the first unit when OTAs get underway, Jonotthan Harrison is in the mix as well. Pagano pointed to Holmes playing well down the stretch and being the communicator of a unit that allowed just one sack in 120 pass attempts during the postseason. Harrison started 10 games as an undrafted rookie and the staff remains high on him. It looks like Holmes will get the initial start in 2015 but this position is far from written in sharpie yet.
9. On balancing the age question versus production when looking at free agents:
"It's a great question. We just look at the tape and the tape kind of tells the tale if you will. We still saw, regardless of age, we saw guys that were still playing at a high level. Guys that can be productive, guys that in the right role can come in and help us take the next step."
Bowen's Analysis: The line of the morning from Pagano came when he joked that the Colts would be holding "Bingo Nights" on Thursday's this year due to a roster including a pair of 40 year olds and several guys in their 30s. The age number was asked to Pagano by virtually every national media member on Tuesday. One aspect of the free agent signings to keep in mind is that although these players have reached the vaunted age of 30, they bring durable bodies to Indianapolis. Guys like Trent Cole, Frank Gore and even Andre Johnson have rarely missed games in their NFL careers.
10. On the expectations for Duron Carter:
"We are getting a big athletic guy that has the bloodlines. He's going to have an opportunity to come in and compete and try to make our 53-man roster."
Bowen's Analysis: Carter was one of the first names Pagano mentioned when he addressed the offseason moves the Colts have made in 2015. The potential of Carter is well documented, however he still has yet to play a snap in the NFL. Pagano was quick to caution though just how inexperienced the former CFL star is still in the game of football. He will be an intriguing development project to watch this offseason.