INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano has been a successful football coach wherever he has plied his trade.
He molded young men on the collegiate level for 18 of his 28 years in coaching, and he has directed older men to great heights in the NFL for three previous franchises – Cleveland, Oakland and Baltimore.
The new head coach in Indianapolis is embracing and attacking his new position. Pagano wants all Colts hands on deck, and his enthusiasm and approach should guarantee his aspirations.
"I understand what I just signed up for," said Pagano. "Mr. Irsay started (in) this (business) 40 years ago, I believe, when he was 12 years old and picking up jocks and socks. At about the same time, I was carrying water out to my dad's players and picking up (practice) dummies, because I grew up in a football family. This is all that I know. This is all I love, and this is my passion. This has always been a dream of mine."
Hard work, intelligence, an innate ability to inspire men and other traits have helped Pagano, 51, realize his dream in football. He progressed in a natural way from college to the NFL, from position coach to coordinator to head coach. In his biggest role now, he has defined his approach.
"What we've got to do here is that we have collectively got to come together," said Pagano. "It is going to be my responsibility, along with (General Manager) Ryan (Grigson) and Mr. Irsay, to re-energize, to spread this vision throughout this whole organization and carry the torch, if you will, and everybody to get on the same page. Every decision that we make as a team is for the team. Every decision that we make is because we want to win, and what is in the best interest for the team. Collectively we will put our heads together and we will do that."
Grigson is impressed with his new coach's abilities to direct men, whether it is rookies or multiple Pro Bowl players like he did with Baltimore. Pagano is a positive force who wants all people to join in for what is a difficult voyage in the most competitive league in sports.
"As an organization, I will ask everybody to make that commitment, be loyal, be trustworthy, be dedicated, just like you are to your jobs, and carry the same vision," said Pagano. "If we are not all on the same page, then we have no chance. If we are all headed in the same direction, which I know we will be and we are building each other up, because that is really what we are supposed to do.
"At the end of the day what we do is really, really hard and really demanding. It takes a lot of perseverance and a lot of dedication, commitment and all of the things that we are talking about. I would just ask that everybody buy in, and we say, 'OK, we understand what you are talking about coach. Let's go, let's move forward and let's take this thing.' "
Pagano's career has been marked by success, most recently with the Ravens. 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. 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.
He is joining a franchise that ended an NFL record tying nine-year playoff run with a 2-14 season in 2011. It was a tough year that Irsay said dictated to him that changes needed to be made. Pagano is excited, and he is aware of the past success of the organization.
"When I talked about being excited about being here, this is a storied franchise," said Pagano. "This is a franchise that has won and won big, and has got great players and had great players. A lot of people have walked through these doors and won a championship. That is ultimately what we strive and work for every day."
The NFL is a day-to-day business that demands that challenges be met head on. Game days are the measuring stick for 32 teams and the ones that thrive are ones that manage details and assignments consistently.
"What I am going to talk to the guys about is that the product is the Super Bowl," said Pagano. "The product is winning the Lombardi Trophy, but you have to go through the process, and the process is day-to-day. The process on game-day is 60 minutes, one play at a time with all you have, never too high, never too low. There are going to be ebbs and flows. There are 55-60 plays in a game where you are just swinging back and forth. Then there are going to be five or six critical plays that are going to determine the outcome of that game. You can't pick and choose, 'I might relax or take a play off here or there.' The process. Work the process. Don't worry about the scoreboard. Let's play hard for 60 minutes. Let's play with passion. Let's play with energy. Let's run, let's hit, let's block, let's tackle and let's get off blocks. Fundamental football and situational football, we will be well-versed and drilled in all of these areas.
"I would say to the great city of Indianapolis, its fine fans and the hard-working people that support this great organization, we are going to put a product out there that best represents them, and together we are going after that trophy. I don't know when. I'm not talking about just one, and I can't put a timetable on it. That's our goal. That's our vision and that's our mission. We will work the process on a daily basis. I haven't had a lot of time on the job, but I do understand this – the resources are in place. I know there is a lot of work to do. We're ready to roll up our sleeves. We're ready to go to work."