INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano is in his first day as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Pagano is less than one week removed from his last game with Baltimore, where he served as defensive coordinator for a Ravens team that came within seconds of forcing overtime at New England for a spot in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
Pagano assumes the sideline leadership role for an organization that has changed dramatically since its last game on January 1.
After completing a 2-14 season, Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay named a new general manager in Ryan Grigson on January 11. Irsay and Grigson named Pagano, 51, to the post on Wednesday, and the 28-year coaching veteran brings an outstanding resume to Indianapolis.
"He brings leadership," said Grigson. "First and foremost, he brings people skills. He's known for reaching players, no matter veteran or rookie. He has that gift, which I think is very instrumental and imperative in a defense and a team in general. The allure of him was the fact that he doesn't have to try to be a leader. He is a leader. Players respond to him, and I see him in that same light as a head coach as he was when he was a defensive coordinator and a position coach.
"He does those things you can't teach. He's a leader of men. He has great football mind, and a versatile football mind. I'm looking forward to working with him because he's a great guy as well, and it's well-documented."
Pagano has served 10 years in the NFL with Cleveland, Oakland and Baltimore. His 2001-04 tenure with Cleveland and 2005-06 time with Oakland came as defensive backs coach, the same role he held with Baltimore until this past season.
Pagano became the fifth defensive coordinator in Baltimore history in 2011, a season where the Ravens went 12-4, undefeated at home and in the division. Baltimore also posted an 11-3 mark against AFC teams, including a 24-10 victory over Indianapolis on December 11.
As Pagano moved through league circles, so did Grigson, first with St. Louis and then with Philadelphia. Adept at scouting player talent, he kept his eyes peeled as well for others in the game. Grigson did not have a specific connection with Pagano, but that did not matter. What mattered was results, and Pagano was around a program that produced.
"No real connections, just from mutual close friends and colleagues, people in the football world," said Grigson of having no specific relationship. "We (Philadelphia) had a strong interest in him last year. I have admired the Ravens for a long time now, from Ozzie (Newsome), to their great defenses, to John Harbaugh, they've been so good at everything they do across the board. I really wanted to get him last year as (Philadelphia) defensive coordinator. He was a guy we had strong interest in getting in Philadelphia for our defensive coordinator's position. They made him defensive coordinator in Baltimore, and it didn't work out. Now, it did."
Pagano's 2008-11 years with Baltimore have been seasons of extreme defensive success. He assisted in helping the Ravens continue a nine-year streak with a top 10 total defense in the NFL. The current nine-year streak ties the third-longest in the league since the 1970 Merger. Over the last four seasons, Baltimore permitted 13.3 points per game at home, second-best in the NFL. The Ravens posted a 27-5 home mark during that span with an average victory margin of 14.5 points. Baltimore held 27 of 32 opponents to 17 or fewer points at home. In overall games since 2008, Baltimore surrendered 16.3 points per outing, the second-stingiest league total, intercepted 82 passes and held opposing quarterbacks to a league-low 69.6 rating. Baltimore has been just as solid on the ground, owning a league-record 16-year streak of not allowing opponents to post a 4.0 seasonal rushing average.
Irsay and Grigson have been paired in the organization for a bit more than two weeks. The search for a head coach was attacked in an appropriate fashion, and Grigson is pleased with the end result of the process.
"He was everything I thought he would be and (Owner and CEO) Jim (Irsay) thought he would be in the interview," said Grigson. "It just solidified everything we knew, researched, heard and actually viewed from watching him coach and the defense he ran and the success he had. You can't fake the things he has."
Pagano comes from a football family. His father, Sam, was a distinguished coach at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado, where he had a 26-year career. Sam Pagano was a two-time Colorado Coach-of-the-Year, and he won three 4A state titles. He then coached many seasons abroad. John Pagano, Chuck's brother, has served with San Diego since leaving the Colts after the 2001 season. A defensive assistant with Indianapolis for four seasons under Head Coach Jim Mora, Pagano served as linebackers coach with the Chargers since 2005, and was named to his current post recently.