6:35pm: Following the Colts loss to the Bills this afternoon, owner Jim Irsay denied reports of a rift between Pagano and Grigson.
“That can’t be farther [from] the truth,” Irsay said (via Mike Wells of ESPN.com). “Ryan and Chuck work hard together. They have a great relationship. I’ve seen coaches and general managers work together since I was 11 years old. I know the dynamic that needs to be there for them to work together. They have a great relationship.”
Irsay was also adamant that Pagano has a voice in regard to personnel decisions.
“That report is completely false,” he said. “I can guarantee you that — completely false. There is not one shred to truth to it at all. Honestly, these guys have a great relationship.”
However, Pagano was less defensive when he was asked if Pagano could be coaching for his job.
“Whenever these guys are in coaching – players and everything — everyone has to win,” said Irsay. “That’s a given. I don’t look at it as he’s coaching for his job or anything like that. I really don’t see the dynamic being anything different than any other year in the past to be honest with you. I don’t see it that way at all.”
12:43pm: It has been known for some time that there is a rift between Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and certain members of the team’s front office, most notably GM Ryan Grigson. As ESPN’s Dianna Marie Russini tweeted today, there is so much pressure on Pagano that he is essentially a lame duck coach, unless he takes his team to the Super Bowl. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports echoes Russini’s sentiments, writing that it is a foregone conclusion that Pagano will leave Indianapolis next year.
Per La Canfora, Pagano was insulted by the one-year extension that owner Jim Irsay offered after last season, which included a salary virtually identical to what the coach is making in 2015. Irsay, in turn, was insulted by Pagano’s dismissive response to the offer.
But the situation was worsening long before that particular exchange. Pagano has had no say in the team’s personnel decisions, either at the player or coaching level. For instance, Grigson installed Pep Hamilton as the Colts’ offensive coordinator when Pagano had been pushing Rob Chudzinski for the job. As La Canfora writes, “Given [the] differences of opinion on staff matters, personnel issues, a growing inter-personal strain and the minimal attempt made to extend Pagano, it’s created a culture where any coach would feel as if his future is elsewhere.”
Even if Pagano were to win the Super Bowl this season–and the Colts are a legitimate championship contender–La Canfora believes he will still end up elsewhere in 2016. It’s not as if the differences between coach and brass will magically evaporate, and if Pagano brings the Lombardi to Indianapolis, his leverage will be at an all-time high. Indeed, considering the success he’s enjoyed in his first head coaching stint, that leverage is pretty high already, and according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, Colts players are wondering how Pagano can possibly be coaching for his job this year (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).
Much like the aftermath of the Jim Harbaugh-49ers relationship, there will be no shortage of opportunities for Pagano in 2016, and there will likely be no shortage of viable candidates interested in the Colts’ head coaching job. But now, more than ever, it appears as though Pagano and Indianapolis are headed for a parting of the ways.