INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano helped create and continue winning heritages on the collegiate and professional levels over 28 years as an assistant coach before arriving in Indianapolis.
He grabbed the reins of the Colts in 2012 as a first-time head coach, and he was joining an organization that had had marvelous success for years.
Pagano embraced the past and welcomed everything that came with it while building his own program. After all, he had experienced the realities of his profession for years.
"The gold standard, all the wins, all those type of things, (I) never really put any pressure on myself, put any pressure on anybody else, our staff for that matter," said Pagano. "The expectations are what they are. I don't care where you're at.
"They're really high here and they'll continue to be. Our players have high expectations, our coaches do, our organization does, our owner does. We're here to win football games. We're here to build a championship-caliber football team, one that won a ton of games and will continue to win games and build a program for sustained success. That's what our goal is."
Pagano and Ryan Grigson helped Indianapolis rebound from 2-14 to 11-5 last year with a team that had an inordinate number of new faces.
As the Colts reached the Wild Card Playoffs, fewer than 20 players on the active roster that day had been with the team previously.
Naysayers had predicted the Colts to be among the league's bottom-feeders, yet Pagano and Grigson went to work building a program that helped Indianapolis jump nine games in the won-loss category.
The Colts never seized the AFC South lead last year, yet nailed down the conference's fifth playoff seed before week 17.
This year, Indianapolis has owned or shared the division lead for five-of-six weeks, and the Colts entertain another division leader, Denver, Sunday in a big mid-season battle.
Is the team ahead of schedule, or just following Pagano's schedule?
"I think if you just looked at the record last year and you look at where we're at now, you could certainly say yes," said Pagano on Wednesday. "But we just take it day-by-day. We take it one game at a time and we don't look back and we don't look ahead. The only thing we're interested in right now is having great meetings, a great walkthrough, a great practice."
Pagano, like many coaches, sells the idea of immediacy – focusing only on the imminent task at hand. Each day has its own components, each job has its importance. Achievements are expected, mistakes are corrected.
The Colts have beaten two playoff teams from last year – San Francisco and Seattle – and the task now is a Denver team boasting a 17-game winning streak under its third-year coach John Fox.
Indianapolis has been successful by being assignment specific under Pagano. Among his challenges this week is handling the atmosphere of the return of Peyton Manning.
He has his players focused appropriately in handling the outside elements, and he is prepping them for the 60-minute challenge of Manning.
"There's nothing that he hasn't seen and there's nothing that he can't recall," said Pagano. "He's got a volume (of knowledge) and can handle a volume of information. There's nothing that we will do or anything that anybody else has done that he has not seen.
"He's unbelievable at the line of scrimmage of previewing the defense. It's going to be difficult, but it's exciting. It's going to be a great challenge for our team and for our guys."