INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday of last week, Chuck Pagano became the newest head coach to direct the Colts during their Indianapolis tenure.
Pagano, a son of a very successful high school coach in Colorado, grew up in the game. He worked his father's football camps and was weaned on the sport from an early age.
Pagano played at Wyoming before embarking on a 28-year career that has led him to Indianapolis. Eighteen years on the collegiate level led to 10 years on the professional level, the last four of which were spent with the Baltimore Ravens.
Pagano moved from being the secondary coach to defensive coordinator in 2011, and he helped the Ravens post a division-winning 12-4 unit that came within one play of forcing overtime at New England in the AFC Championship game.
Within 48 hours after the final gun at Foxborough, Pagano was meeting with Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay and General Manager Ryan Grigson about the possibility of becoming the head coach in Indianapolis. On Wednesday, he was offered the position, and he spoke soon afterward about what he envisions with the club.
What he hopes to create would resemble in some degree the attacking nature of a Ravens team that stood as one of the league's most active defenses. It would match the personality of Pagano.
"I've always said the speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack," said Pagano. "If we're moving fast, if I'm moving fast and we have a high energy level, then I think everybody else will follow. The same goes in our locker room with our players. You have to have outstanding leadership in your locker room. I know there are men down there who are great leaders. I just came from an organization and spent time with one of the greatest leaders who will have ever played this game and is still playing this game. Those are the types of individuals and people that you have to surround yourself (with).
"If they can keep up, we're going to work at a high pace and move at a high pace. There is going to be a lot of energy. I just think with the right men in charge, the assistant coaches we put together, character, work ethic and all of those things will build the type of leadership we're looking for."
The 11th head coach of the Indianapolis era, among other tasks, will immerse himself in roster evaluations as he, his in-coming coaching staff and the personnel department start planning the approach for 2012. During Pagano's years in Baltimore, the Ravens employed a 3-4 set on occasion, but it was a varied enough approach down-by-down that it presented multiple problems for opponents.
Indianapolis has not run a base 3-4 set since 1992. The club has emphasized speed in the past decade. Pagano is a solid tactician who will learn what is on hand as he sets the path forward. He embraces the opportunity.
"I've got countless hours of film to watch," said Pagano. "I've got to dive into this and evaluate every player in that locker room. I've got to look at every player on the defense. I'm not going to be hard-headed enough and certainly the defensive coordinator and coaching staff that we bring in here, we're not going to jam a square peg into a round hole. We're going to find the strengths of this unit and the weaknesses. We're going to put them in the best possible position to be successful and to win games.
"If we can move toward the type of defense, the brand of defense that we've been playing where I came from, we can evolve to that. I was talking to Mr. Irsay, if Wade Phillips can go to the Houston Texans and install the 3-4 with no offseason and make Mario Williams an outside linebacker and stand him up on early downs, that the two explosive, great athletes, the great pass rushers we have on the edge here, I don't see an issue."
Pagano came from a Baltimore team that set a definite defensive tone. Multiple Pro Bowlers like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed headlined a group that attacked every down and made Baltimore a consistent post-season threat. Suggs had 14 sacks and a team-record and NFL-high seven forced fumbles in 2011.
Baltimore (288.9) sported the NFL's third-rated defense in 2011. The Ravens were ranked second against the rush (92.6) and fourth against the pass (196.3). The Ravens finished third in the league in scoring defense (16.6) for the fourth straight season. The streak tied the NFL mark for consecutive seasons ranking in the top three points allowed. Baltimore's 48 sacks ranked behind 50 by Philadelphia and Minnesota. 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). The Ravens ranked second in third-down defense (32.1 percent). Additionally, Baltimore held nine of 16 regular season opponents to 17 or fewer points.
"Our motto is, 'Simple me, complex you.' To say I'm a '3-4 guy,' we want to build a defense that's flexible," said Pagano. "It's going to be simple for our guys to execute but when offenses prepare for it on Sunday, it's going to look very complex to them. Having said that, just because we line up and they say, 'They're a 3-4 team,' we may be a 4-3 team on first down, we can be an odd 3-4 look on second down and the Lord only knows on 3rd-and-7-plus. That's our goal."