Chuck Pagano

Cardinals Rumors: Munchak, Wilks, Caldwell

The Cardinals are the only NFL team looking for a new head coach that either hasn’t already made a hire or does not have a clear-cut front-runner for the position. Indeed, many coaches around the league have “trepidation” about the Arizona gig, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Among the factors concerning potential contenders are the Cardinals’ lack of a solution at quarterback and the increasingly difficult path to contention in the NFC West. Additionally, Arizona prefers to keep the majority of its defensive staff in place, meaning a new head coach might not get the opportunity to hire his own coaches, as La Canfora writes in a separate piece. The immediate outlook for the Cardinals isn’t very positive, meaning ownership could make “sweeping changes” again in just a few years.

Here’s more on the Cardinals:

  • Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak withdrew from Arizona’s coaching hunt last week, but La Canfora reports (via Twitter) that Munchak would have been the favorite for the club’s head coaching position had he not pulled out. Munchak cited family concerns when explaining why he decided to remain in Pittsburgh, but there was at least some thought the Steelers could promote the NFL Hall of Famer to offensive coordinator after ex-OC Todd Haley‘s contract expired. Instead, Pittsburgh tabbed incumbent quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner for the role, meaning Munchak will return for a fifth season as the team’s OL coach. Munchak, 57, has previous head coaching experience, as he posted a 22-26 record with the Titans from 2011-13.
  • Among the candidates who are still in contention for the Arizona job, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has reportedly made a “very strong impression” on Cardinals ownership during the search process, tweets La Canfora. Wilks, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, and Eagles quarterbacks John DeFilippo all have or will receive second interviews. Incumbent DC James Bettcher, meanwhile, won’t require a second meeting given his familiarity with Arizona’s decision-makers.
  • While the Cardinals’ search is still ongoing, candidates have already started to formulate hypothetical coaching staffs. Flores for instance, would likely install former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator were he to land the Arizona gig, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Bettcher, meanwhile, is eyeing former Broncos play-caller Mike McCoy for OC and ex-Colts head coach Chuck Pagano for DC, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • We touched on Haley earlier, and the former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator says he would have interest in taking over OC duties for the Cardinals, per Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM (Twitter link). Haley, of course, has worked in Arizona before as the club’s offensive coordinator from 2007-08. Also a potential candidate for vacant OC jobs in both New York and Cleveland, Haley will likely need to wait until the Cardinals settle on their next head coach before taking any serious looks at a reunion in the desert.

Ravens Interested In Chuck Pagano For DC

The Ravens are interested in hiring former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano as their new defensive coordinator, according to Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). While Baltimore has other options to replace the recently-retired Dean Pees, Pagano appears to the club’s primary option, per Preston.Chuck Pagano

Pagano, 57, spent the 2008-11 campaigns in Baltimore and served as the club’s defensive coordinator during his final season. That year, the Ravens ranked third in total defense and first in defensive DVOA. While Indianapolis’ defenses struggled under Pagano’s tutelage, he would offer a sense of familiarity for Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and the rest of Baltimore’s defensive staff.

While Pagano may hope to generate head coaching interest around the league, such a scenario is likely a pipe dream given the Colts’ lack of success in recent years. As such, Pagano’s best hope of rebounding as a head coach down the line could be accepting Baltimore’s DC offer to work with a defense that ranked third in DVOA a season ago.

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Chuck Pagano Out As Colts Head Coach

Following Indianapolis’ 22-13 win over the Texans in the season finale, head coach Chuck Pagano was let go as the team’s head coach, WISH-TV in Indianapolis’ Anthony Calhoun reports (Twitter link). Chuck Pagano

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported late Saturday night that the team was expected to part ways with the coach following Sunday’s performance. The team followed through, firing the head coach less than hour after the final whistle.

Pagano, who was two years into a four-year deal with the team, served as the Colts head coach since 2012 and amassed a record of 53-43 that included three postseason appearances. During his tenure, Pagano ushered the team into a new era after the release of Peyton Manning. With the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the team tabbed Andrew Luck and pulled off three consecutive 11-5 campaigns with the Stanford product under center. In 2014, the Colts advanced to the AFC Championship game but were defeated by the eventual Super Bowl-champion Patriots, 45-7.

In 2015, Luck missed nine of 16 games and the team skidded to an 8-8 mark. Following another .500 campaign in 2016, Indianapolis parted ways with GM Ryan Grigson but decided to keep Pagano on for another season.

The writing was on the wall early for Pagano in 2017. Luck never got on the field following a lingering shoulder injury and the team posted its worst record since 2011.

Team owner and CEO Jim Irsay issued a statement following the firing, saying:

“Chuck Pagano provided Colts fans with many exciting wins and memories as head coach of the Colts. Throughout his tenure in Indianapolis, he impacted the lives of the players he coached, those who he worked with in the organization and Colts fans across the globe. Chuck’s first season was one of the more inspirational stories in NFL history as he courageously battled and overcame leukemia. As a result, his CHUCKSTRONG Foundation has raised millions for cancer research. We are thankful for Chuck’s contributions to our franchise and community and we wish him, Tina and the entire Pagano family nothing but the best moving forward.”

 

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Breer’s Latest: Black Monday Preview

With the final week of the NFL’s regular season approaching, that only means two things; 12 teams will soon be focusing on reaching the Super Bowl, while the rest will start to look ahead to next season. One major part of looking forward is addressing who on the coaching staff will be returning in 2018. Many of these coaching questions are answered on the day following Week’s 17 conclusion, conveniently called “Black Monday”.

Veteran reporter Albert of Breer of Sports Illustrated, gave a preview of the coaches he expects to stay and the ones that will likely be shown the door in his most recent column. Breer ranked the potential firings as “Likely/Done”, “We’ll See”, and “It’s Complicated”. In total, there were 15 head coaches mentioned who could see their situations change starting next week.

Here’s a quick look at Breer’s takes on some of the league’s hottest coaching questions:

  • There were five head coaches included in the “likely/done” category including: BearsJohn Fox, BengalsMarvin Lewis, LionsJim Caldwell, ColtsChuck Pagano and and the Giants‘ interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. The four full-time head coaches on this list have all had their fair share of success in the league. In fact, three of them led their current teams to multiple playoff appearances during their tenure. However, Caldwell and Lewis have been unable to win a postseason game with Pagano and Fox having failed at continuing the past success they have shown during their careers in football. Breer notes that while the “expectation is that Fox will be gone”, the decision on the fate of general manager Ryan Pace is true question facing the franchise this offseason. There’s been rapid speculation about Lewis, Caldwell and Pagano throughout the year, so their inclusion on this list is no surprise. Finally, the Giants are currently interviewing general manager candidates who will almost certainly be looking to lead their own head coaching search once hired.
  • Breer puts six current head coaches in the ‘we’ll see” part of the list. This portion mentions the CardinalsBruce Arians, BroncosVance Joseph, RaidersJack Del Rio, BuccaneersDirk Koetter, TitansMike Mularkey and the RedskinsJay Gruden. There’s a variety of situations going on here with Breer noting that Arizona could see Arians retire, which could lead them to other current NFL head coaches: Todd Bowles and Bill O’Brien. Del Rio and Gruden have had their fair share of success because of quality quarterback play, but both have managed to decrease confidence because of an inconsistent 2017 season. However, Breer points out that both are signed long-term so their owners would have to eat the remaining years of their current deals. Mularkey and Koetter were rewarded for the relationships they formed with their QB’s, but there’s been disappointment with how this season has unfolded for their teams. Breer notes that should Mularkey lose this Sunday, he could be on the chopping block come Monday morning with the team looking to hire an offensive-minded coach like Josh McDaniels. Finally, Joseph has forced himself to the hot seat even in his first year of coaching the Broncos, though Breer says himself that this situation is “unpredictable” given that team president John Elway is just “not pleased with how the season’s gone”.
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson, and the two previously mentioned O’Brien and Bowles of the Texans and Jets, find themselves on the “it’s complicated” section of Breer’s roundup largely because of just the many factors are at play in regards to their situations. Jackson got a vote of confidence from owner Jimmy Haslam himself, but new general manager John Dorsey could have his sights on implementing his own guy after a winless season. O’Brien has made the playoffs before, but has struggled committing to a QB even after the team selected Deshaun Watson in the first round. Bowles has done a lot with a little in New York this season, but ownership could go in a different direction with a new starting signal caller likely walking into the building next year. Also, there is the potential that all three coaches could move onto new head coaching gigs with the number of openings that could be available this offseason. The final and definitely most surprising inclusion on this list was Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who Breer mentions could retire at age 66 with a roster about to see major turnover in the next few years. Although, I would venture that nothing he’s said this season would indicate that being the case.

Luck Making Progress In Europe

When asked about the status of quarterback Andrew Luck, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said he is “doing fine” and is receiving treatment in Europe, the teams reports. Andrew Luck (vertical)

“(He’s) communicating via e-mail and text; making progress,” Pagano said. “I think everybody knows — he’s in Europe somewhere, getting some great treatment.”

Luck has been sidelined all season following surgery to his throwing shoulder in January. The franchise quarterback was hoping to make a return to the field but was shut down and place on injured reserve on Nov. 2.

Though he will not be returning this season, Luck just making progress has to be a good sign for Colts fans who hope to be back in the thick of playoff contention in 2018. With the 2012 No. 1 pick under center, the team has won 43 of 70 games and earned three trips to the postseason.

Luck signed a five-year extension with the team in 2016 that will keep him in Indianapolis through the 2021 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Browns, Thomas, Colts

Here’s a look at the AFC:

  • Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who has been ruled out for the year, says he’ll wait until the offseason to determine whether he wants to continue playing. However, he did say that he is happy playing in Cleveland for coach Hue Jackson (Twitter link via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). “Love Hue, loved playing for him. Playing for him was awesome and I’d definitely love to continue playing for him,” Thomas said.
  • There has been speculation about the job security of Colts coach Chuck Pagano, but Stephen Holder of the Indy Star hasn’t seen any signs of an immediate change. He notes that the team’s Monday media schedule includes Pagano’s standard news conference at its usual time. If Pagano was being shown the door today, the Colts probably would have held off of releasing the schedule. Meanwhile, team sources indicated to Holder that the team is taking a patient, long-term approach to 2017. Of course, that won’t satisfy Colts fans who are frustrated after the team’s 27-0 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday.
  • Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker will run and test out his injured ankle on Tuesday, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald (Twitter link) hears. If it responds well, he is hopeful to play on Thursday against Baltimore. So far this year, Parker has 19 receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown.

AFC Notes: Butler, Kizer, Texans, Ravens

DeShone Kizer will surely see his fair share of struggles during his rookie campaign, similar to his four-turnover performance last weekend. However, the Browns are seemingly willing to be patient with their signal-caller, and this sentiment was emphasized by head coach Hue Jackson.

“He’s playing with a bunch of men,” said Jackson (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). “He’s 21 years old. He’s leading an organization that hasn’t been what it needs to be. He’s surrounded by a ton of guys who, we haven’t won a ton of games, and he’s trying to uplift everything. There’s a lot of pressure. Let’s just be honest — it is.”

In two NFL starts, Kizer has completed 57.4-percent of his passes for 404 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions. He’s also collected 43 rushing yards and one touchdown on 10 attempts.

“Like many rookies, I can name many guys in this league who have thrown three interceptions in a game, four interceptions in a game and came back the next week and played their tails off,” Jackson said. “That’s going to happen. I don’t like it. Nobody does. But hopefully he will keep growing from it and keep getting better.”

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC…
  • Texans left tackle Duane Brown is the lone veteran to continue his hold out into the regular season. Former NFL agent Joel Corry notes that his team could certainly use some reinforcement on the offensive line, although precedent says Brown won’t receive his desired contract. Not only is the organization reluctant to hand out extensions during the regular season, but they also don’t want to find themselves in similar situations in the future. Ultimately, Corry believes there’s little incentive for Brown to sit out the entire regular season, so he ultimately thinks the Texans will win the stalemate.
  • The cash-strapped Ravens cleared $2.66MM in cap space today, reports ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). The organization converted Tony Jefferson‘s $1.96MM salary and Justin Tucker‘s $1.79MM salary into signing bonuses, leading to the additional cap space.
  • Could the Colts be eyeing a coaching change if they fall to 0-3 this weekend? ESPN.com’s Mike Wells isn’t sure, although he says a loss to the lowly Browns wouldn’t be a good look for head coach Chuck Pagano. For what it’s worth, owner Jim Irsay has never fired a coach during the regular season, and Pagano can use the excuse that he’s been without his franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. However, if the team doesn’t put up a fight at home, Wells believes the hot seat will certainly get warmer.
  • Impending free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler has struggled through the Patriots‘ first two games, writes CSNNE.com’s Mike Giardi. In fact, the coaching staff knocked the former Super Bowl hero out of the starting lineup last weekend, replacing him with Eric Rowe. Trade rumors surrounded Butler throughout the offseason, and he watched as the team handed a hefty payday to a cornerback from another organization (Stephon Gilmore). While Butler presumably isn’t happy with his current situation, the writer believes it’s up to the player to turn his season around.

GM/Staff Notes: 49ers, Colts, Saints, Broncos

The 49ers’ shocking general manager choice, John Lynch, will face a “steep” learning curve as a front office neophyte, ex-Lions GM Matt Millen told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. As was the case with Millen, whom Detroit hired in 2001, Lynch is coming from the broadcasting booth to take the helm of a franchise. It didn’t go well for Millen, under whom Detroit went 31-84 before it fired him in 2008. “You need to be schooled,” said Millen. “You need to be mentored. You need to have somebody you can go to. That’s not easy.” Lynch could have a less difficult time breaking into his new job than Millen, notes Branch, who points out that soon-to-be 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is likely to have 53-man roster control. Assistant GM Tom Gamble will also be around to help Lynch make the transition.

More on the NFL’s front offices and coaching staffs:

  • Newly minted Colts GM Chris Ballard received a five-year contract, according to Mike Chappell of FOX59. Colts vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye III was among the candidates Ballard beat out for the role, and owner Jim Irsay revealed Raye nearly got the job, per Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. Irsay assured Raye, who will remain in the Colts’ Ballard-led front office, that someone else will give him a shot as a GM if the Colts orchestrate a turnaround (all Twitter links here).
  • While Ballard reportedly isn’t committed to going forward with Chuck Pagano beyond the 2017 season, he spoke glowingly of the five-year head coaching veteran Monday. “There were no other options. Chuck Pagano is a great coach,” said Ballard (Twitter link via Holder). Upon Ballard’s hiring, Pagano stated Sunday that he’s “extremely excited” to work with the rookie GM (via the Colts’ Twitter account).
  • The Saints have hired Mike Nolan to coach their linebackers, his previous employer, SiriusXM NFL Radio, announced (on Twitter). Nolan coached the Chargers’ linebackers in 2015 and has been a defensive coordinator with seven teams, though he’s best known for an 18-37 run as San Francisco’s head coach from 2005-08.
  • Broncos head coach Vance Joseph has added “assistant head coach” to running backs coach Eric Studesville‘s title, tweets Mike Klis of 9News. Studesville drew interest from the Jets earlier this month in their search for an offensive coordinator, but he elected to stay in Denver, where he has coached RBs since 2010.

Extra Points: Ballard, Patterson, Gronk

As Jim Irsay said upon firing Ryan Grigson, Chuck Pagano will return to coach the Colts in 2017. New GM Chris Ballard will stick to that plan, but he’s not committed to the coach longer than that, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Ballard intends to keep Pagano in 2017 but is planning to re-evaluate the position before the ’18 season.

The new executive’s hire may only intensify the hot seat for Pagano, who expressed his support (Twitter link) for the 47-year-old Ballard upon his hire. Irsay appears set to oversee an arranged marriage between his top two decision-makers after letting both Grigson and Pagano start together in 2012. Pagano led the Colts to three playoff berths, one of which involving a historic comeback win over the Chiefs in Ballard’s first year in Kansas City, before the team stumbled to back-to-back 8-8 seasons. We heard over the weekend Ballard could have Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub as a possible replacement come 2018.

Here’s more from around the league on Monday.

  • Ballard’s knowledge of the draft represents a good fit for a Colts team that’s struggled identifying amateur talent since its strong haul of 2012, Mike Wells of ESPN.com writes. In addition to the talents Ballard played a part in the Bears procuring during his time in Chicago, the Chiefs dispatched their then-director of football operations to investigate then-embattled prospect Marcus Peters, Adam Teicher of ESPN.com notes. Teicher pegged Ballard, whom he called the No. 3 man in Kansas City’s power structure behind John Dorsey and Andy Reid, as a potential Dorsey successor.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson observed Ty Montgomery‘s transition to running back and wants to try it himself. “I would love to play running back,” Patterson said on the “Pardon My Take” podcast, per Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I think any receiver in my position would love to play running back. People always say, ‘He’s just a running back when he gets the ball in his hands.'” A Patterson position change would make more sense due to the tantalizing ability he’s shown with the ball in his hands but an inability to stick in Minnesota’s receiver rotation. Although, Patterson’s lanky 6-foot-2 frame might make him less-suited for inside contact than Montgomery. The wideout is set to be a UFA after the Vikings didn’t pick up his fifth-year option last May.
  • The Patriots advancing to Super Bowl LI without Rob Gronkowski prompts Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News to argue the league’s most aggressive traders should make another. New England faltered without Gronkowski in the 2012 and ’13 AFC championship games, losing one-sided matchups, but orchestrated two routs during this year’s run without him. He’s missed extensive time with injuries during his otherwise stratospheric career, and Mehta points to the Patriots’ league-high 61 trades during Bill Belichick‘s 17-year tenure as evidence Gronk isn’t untouchable. Gronk will be 28 next year, but the three-time All-Pro tight end is on an affordable deal given his stature. He’s due to take up just $7MM of the Pats’ cap next season on a contract that runs through 2019.

Colts Hired Psychologists For Grigson, Pagano

It had long been speculated that one or both of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson would be fired after the 2016 season, and although it took a little longer than expected, Grigson was relieved of his duties yesterday. Pagano, meanwhile, will reportedly keep his job for the 2017 season (though there are rumors that he, too, could be dismissed if he fails to deliver a championship to Indianapolis next year).

Jul 30, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano (left) talks to team president Ryan Grigson during training camp at Anderson University. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star reports in a series of Twitter links, there was a significant rift between Pagano and Grigson by the time the 2015 season rolled around, and nothing improved in 2016. Holder says that, this past season, Pagano went into his “bunker” and Grigson went into his, and the dysfunction was such that it was surprising that anything got done.

Holder adds (via Twitter) that owner Jim Irsay went to great lengths over the past several weeks to sort out the issues with his club, and he apparently concluded that the best thing for the Colts was to “untie” Grigson and Pagano, who both joined the team in 2012. Holder observes in a full-length piece that Irsay did not mention any of Grigson’s personnel-related shortcomings when he outlined his reasons for making a change. Instead, he said, “I don’t think you guys understand and give Ryan enough credit for what he’s done here. I really don’t.”

Those statements led Holder to believe that it was the flaws in the Grigson-Pagano relationship that ultimately triggered Grigson’s dismissal, and a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter lends a great deal of support to that theory. As Schefter writes, the Colts brought in psychologists to help repair the relationship, and the primary focus was on ways Pagano and Grigson could improve their communication. Schefter added, “one person compared the meetings to a couple going to marriage counseling, hoping they could work out their issues with the help of a third party.”

Obviously, that innovative step did not work, as the differences between Grigson and Pagano proved to be irreconcilable.

We learned earlier today that interim GM Jimmy Raye III is currently viewed as the favorite to replace Grigson on a permanent basis.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.