INDIANAPOLIS** – When Chuck Pagano was tabbed by Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay and General Manager Ryan Grigson on January 25 to be the club's head coach, it meant that an 11th different individual would patrol the sidelines as the team enters its 29th season in Indianapolis.
For the past 10 years, Colts fans observed approaches by Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell that were understated, yet effective. Ted Marchibroda, too, was a graceful presence on the club's sidelines from 1992-95, yet, like Dungy and Caldwell, a competitive fire burned intensely beneath a calm exterior.
Long-tenured followers of the Colts remember different head coaching comportments almost as vividly as the external actions displayed by Frank Kush, Ron Meyer and Jim Mora. All were animated in their styles, and they employed their methods to get the most out of their players.
Pagano is a 28-year coaching veteran who is embarking on his first head coaching stint. Eighteen of his seasons have been spent in the collegiate ranks, while 10 of the past 11 have been in the NFL with Cleveland, Oakland and Baltimore. In 1986 at the University of Miami, Pagano, the son of a coach, worked under the leadership of Jimmy Johnson. Johnson, later a two-time Super Bowl winning head coach at Dallas, had a commanding and vocal sideline presence.
The last four years of Pagano's career were spent on the staff of John Harbaugh, also a coach's son. The tone in Baltimore was forceful and effective, and the Ravens played to one of the AFC's most competitive levels during that time.
Upon joining the Colts, Pagano was quizzed on how he might handle himself on the sidelines in the heat of battle. While the hard rain of competition will not fall until September, Pagano will employ a style that Colts fans will respect. It will mix aptitude with his outward demeanor.
"I think there is a fine line there. You will see some animation from time to time," said Pagano. "At the same time having spent time around some great coaches, some Hall-of-Fame coaches, Super Bowl-winning coaches like a Jimmy Johnson, you have to manage the game. You have to let your coaches coach and you have to let your players play, but you have to be one step ahead of everything."
An NFL head coach is one of the most mentally and physically demanding professions possible. If moving parts are in play in the off-season, the three hours of weekly competition provide an even more acute challenge. Pagano was reared on the sport under a father who won multiple state championships in Colorado, so he learned at a young age how a coach must be himself. He spoke of how he will be on the Indianapolis sideline.
"You have to anticipate things. There is a fine line there," said Pagano of his animation. "That's how I am. That's who I am. I think that's infectious. That's what I just came from. That's what we were (in Baltimore). That's what we will be here."
The Ravens were consistent winners and top-notch performers during his four-year tenure, the first three seasons as secondary coach and the final one as defensive coordinator. Baltimore is the only team to make the playoffs and to win a post-season game in each of the past four seasons. The Ravens earned post-season berths in five of the past six years and in eight of the past 12 seasons.
Baltimore had the NFL's third-rated defense in 2011, second against the rush and fourth against the pass. The Ravens finished third in the league in scoring defense (16.6) for the fourth straight season, setting the NFL mark for consecutive seasons ranking in the top three points allowed. The Ravens finished first in red zone defense (38.1 TD percent), opponent quarterback rating (68.8), fewest offensive touchdowns allowed (21) and fewest touchdown passes permitted (11). Additionally, Baltimore held nine of 16 regular season opponents to 17 or fewer points. Pagano had a hand in those accomplishments.
"I am going to be me," said Pagano. "They're going to get a face-full of Chuck Pagano. Whoever we play on Sunday is going to get a face-full of Colts, and on a weekly basis. We are going to have fun doing it."
Irsay sensed Pagano's ability and leadership style early in the search, and he knows his new coach can chart a solid direction as the franchise looks to re-gain the winning tradition it has sported for many years.
"He has true leadership. He's a leader of men," said Irsay. "His style transcends age in this league, from 12-year veterans to rookies. That is something that is special. The way he communicates and motivates are things that you can't fake or teach. There are things that are innate and there are things that are part of your core and your being.
"He has played an impressive, physical brand of football and been very successful dating far back into the early parts of his career at the (University of Miami). He has a great football background. It is in his family. It is in his blood and like all of us, he loves the game."