INDIANAPOLIS --- Chuck Pagano's Colts pulled off their share of late comebacks in four seasons, but Monday night's was as dramatic as any, when a push notification from the Colts mobile app at 9:40 PM broke the news:
Coach Pagano has agreed to an extension...
Seven simple words that sent a fan base and locker room into celebration via social media. On Black Monday in the NFL, the only black in Indianapolis was the quickly drying ink on a new head coach contract.
Make no mistake about it though. Chuck Pagano, as he told reporters he would do Wednesday before the regular season finale, walked into Jim Irsay's office and fought to remain the head coach. The Owner and CEO of the franchise listened both to Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson together and separately "getting honest, getting everything right" with hours worth of conversations.
"I'm happy to announce we're moving forward with Chuck as our coach," were Owner and CEO Jim Irsay's first words of the evening, before revealing it's a 4-year contract for Pagano.
There were indications of uncertainty as to whether Pagano would return for a 5th season. A few smoking cigars outside Lucas Oil Stadium after a 30-24 win over the Titans Sunday, sharing memories of all the good times. A request for a DVD of Robert Mathis giving Chuck Pagano the game ball in the locker room after the game. Members of Pagano's staff preparing for the possibility of both sides moving on Monday, requesting boxes to pack up their offices.
The boxes won't be necessary.
"It's an organic process. It's a thoughtful process. It's a spiritual process," said Irsay. "Waking up this morning, I'm always hopeful for continuity. I could have walked someone in that door tonight or tomorrow night with an 8-figure (salary) and say I'm making a big splash. Look, if that was the best course, believe me. I would do it. This guy is a great coach."
Continuity was a word repeated multiple times by Irsay on this night, also pointing to the success both Pagano and Grigson have had in their first four seasons compared to the start of the Peyton Manning-Bill Polian era, a future Hall of Fame quarterback and Hall of Fame executive, respectively.
"When I look at the old regime, the old era, you look at those first four years," said Irsay. "You had two out of four seasons that were losing seasons. You had no playoff wins."
Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson? No losing seasons and 3 playoff wins in their first four years.
"That was with a Hall of Fame quarterback and a Hall of Fame general manager, and these guys have surpassed that in their first four years," said Irsay. "We're always competing against ourselves."
The Colts renew contract with Head Coach Chuck Pagano.
So Monday afternoon came. The meetings with Pagano, Grigson, then Pagano and Grigson continued into the night, well after reporters were sent home shortly after 5:00 PM. The announcement wouldn't come from the Colts mobile app for another 280 minutes, but shortly before it did, the owner of this franchise felt confident in his decision.
"It was always my hope this was the direction we would head, but I had to be sure. It was a long day of conversations," said Irsay. "I came out of it really excited and energized."
Pagano and Grigson expressed the same excitement, with Pagano calling it "absolutely the best day of my life".
And after the final question on this night was asked, Jim Irsay had two more messages he made loud and clear.
"Let me just add this too, guys, as we're wrapping up. Look, if you think I'm going to let someone bully my head coach, you're wrong. You don't know me," said Irsay. "If you think I'm going to have that in my organization, you're wrong. You don't know me. That's not going to happen."
Then Irsay ended with a bang.
"The other thing I'll just add is in closing is if my coach wants to celebrate a victory, we're going to celebrate a victory," Irsay said. "Sorry! It's tough to win in this league. Put on a head coaching hat some time and give it a try. So, we're going to celebrate a victory when my head coach wants to celebrate a victory."
For much of the fan base, this will certainly feel like one. As they walked off the press conference podium, Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson shook hands and embraced for a hug. As Pagano joked in his opening statement, no injuries to report.