INDIANAPOLIS — It's a topic Chuck Pagano doesn't like discussing much: himself.
So Adam Schein is doing the talking for him.
Schein, a columnist with NFL Media, this week released his list of “sleeper” candidates for most of the major league awards for the 2016 season. His pick for NFL Coach of the Year is none other than Pagano, who this year is in his fifth season at the helm of the Indianapolis Colts' franchise.
Here's what Schein had to write about Pagano's chances:*
"Throughout a tough 2015 campaign, rumors swirled that Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson could be in their last days with the Colts. Shortly after the season ended, though, Jim Irsay shocked many -- including this guy -- by extending both men. And you know what? It was the right decision.
In four NFL campaigns, Chuck Pagano is 41-23 in the regular season with two division titles, three playoff appearances and a 3-3 postseason mark. Not too shabby, eh? And let's take a closer look at the "disappointing" 2015 season. Pagano's Colts won eight games despite playing five different quarterbacks. That says something about the coaching.
In 2016, I think Pagano will prove his worth by guiding the Colts back to the playoffs. Andrew Luck is great, but Indy needs Pagano to coach up and maximize the defense. If he does, well, Pagano could earn some notable hardware."*
Pagano has been described as a players' coach because he's tough, but fair; he's serious, but knows when to dial it back a notch; and the players see in him a tremendous role model who has stared a potentially deadly disease in the face and courageously fought it — victoriously, of course.
Those approaches to his everyday tasks add stability to the organization in times of great triumph, like the 2014 season, when the team advanced to the AFC Championship game, and the more challenging times, like last year, when things just didn't go the Colts' way, but despite all the issues, they still managed to finish 8-8 and narrowly miss out on a playoff spot.
The players certainly notice it.
"Coach Pagano's always done a great job of not letting us buy into what anybody says about the team outside the locker room," quarterback Andrew Luck said. "That's a good thing, or that's a bad thing. Right? Our focus is on the next practice, the next practice, the next game."
Focusing on the here and the now — and not looking back, no matter how good or bad things were — has also been Pagano's M.O. when asked questions about his own job performance by members of the media.
Asked if he was more relaxed in any way this offseason due to the fact he had signed a contract extension, Pagano said "I haven't thought about it much, to be honest."
"I'm grateful obviously and I'm thankful. I didn't want to be anywhere else," Pagano said. "Again, I still take it one day at a time. I'm never going to lose that mindset."