INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck has only known one head coach during his NFL career: Chuck Pagano.
So when the Indianapolis Colts decided to part ways with Pagano after Sunday's 2017 season finale against the Houston Texans, Luck quickly realized that the more things change, the more they will stay the same.
That is especially true of his tight bond with Pagano.
"I'll be forever indebted to Coach Pagano,'' Luck told Colts.com's Caroline Cann on Monday. "He's been an incredible leader, an incredible friend. We've shared a lot of good memories — some not so good memories."
Pagano was hired as the 19th head coach in Colts franchise history in January 2012, and three months later, his team used the No. 1-overall pick to select Luck, who was believed to be one of the more complete quarterback prospects to to ever enter the NFL from the college ranks.
Over the next five years, the Colts would mostly thrive with Luck under center and with Pagano patrolling the sideline, as Indianapolis would go 43-27 (.614) in the 70 games in which Luck started at quarterback.
The first three years were particularly successful, as the Colts went 11-5 each year and continued to take one step forward each season in the playoffs. By 2014, Luck was a viable league Most Valuable Award candidate, and Pagano had led Indianapolis to the AFC Championship Game.
But then came the 2015 season.
Hampered by multiple injuries, Luck was only able to start seven games in 2015; the Colts would scratch and claw their way to finish at 8-8 that season and miss out on a playoff berth.
And even with Luck under center for 15 games the following season, the end result was the same for the team: an 8-8 record, and no postseason appearance.
Luck underwent surgery to his throwing shoulder following the 2016 season, and although the team was hopeful he'd be able to return by the start of the 2017 regular season, Luck would ultimately be placed on IR in early November to focus on an intense rehab regimen to get him to 100 percent for 2018.
It would be a tough year for Colts without Luck under center, as they ensured several second-half collapses in games — as well as injuries to many other key contributors — to finish with a 4-12 record. The team decided to part ways with Pagano after Sunday's 22-13 victory over the Houston Texans.
But though it all, Luck and Pagano's relationship has remained strong, and there's no indication the two won't continue to be close moving forward.
"I feel fortunate to count him as a friend and count him as someone in my life," Luck said of Pagano. "I know he's going to be successful whatever he is next. Very thankful, very fortunate to have spent these last six years with him.''
Moving forward, Luck remains optimistic as the Colts search for a new leader.
"Hope springs eternal,'' Luck said. "I'm excited for the new year, excited to be healthy, excited for the guys. There was so much fight this year from all the guys. … (I) was very proud to say I was still a Colt and watch those guys represent.''
Luck is also confident general manager Chris Ballard will bring in the perfect candidate to get the Colts back to where they belong: winning division titles, annual trips to the postseason and legit Super Bowl contenders year in and year out.
"Trust, loyalty and respect are the pillars of the horseshoe,'' he said. "I'm sure Chris Ballard will do a great job of getting the right guy here.''