Column: Chuck Pagano shows off his power with the Colts

Chuck Pagano
Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

Indianapolis was the site for the Hallmark Channel’s final holiday movie of the season Monday as Jim Irsay got his feuding football offspring to kiss and make up in front of the entire NFL world.

If there was one thing that was a fait accompli in this year’s “Black Monday” cycle, it was that head coach Chuck Pagano was out with the Colts, the loser in the latest mind-numbing series of adults acting like immature kids in front offices around the league.

Just like Trent Baalke outlasting the surly Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco and Howie Roseman getting off the deck in Round 12 to dispose of the petulant Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, the Colts’ general manager, Ryan Grigson, supposedly had the ear of Irsay and was set to win this drama.

Unlike those other situations, however, the coach wasn’t the autocrat who was difficult to work with. It was the guy upstairs, and most of Pagano’s players wanted the coach back.

It certainly comes across like an arranged marriage by Irsay because it’s hard to believe Grigson is going to be able to change a management style that has been hands-on since he arrived in the Hoosier State.

The stunning turn came through an “an organic process,” according to the eccentric Irsay. “It’s a thoughtful process, it’s a spiritual process.”

It’s far too easy to take shots at the Colts owner, who has gone through some significant personal issues over the years, but let’s just say his new-age way of decision-making got a number of cross-eyed looks in a straight-laced league.

Perhaps the real end game here is that Irsay already took the temperature of the only candidates he considered better options that Pagano — big names like Sean Payton or Nick Saban — and realized that he wasn’t going to be able to land the big fish.

“When the day started, my hope was (for) continuity,” the owner claimed said.

And with that crack in the door open, Pagano wedged his foot inside.

Continuity is always the preferred way to go in the NFL, but it can only be accomplished with people who trust and respect each other. That, or possessing an outstanding quarterback, who can mask the problems in any organization.

The Colts have no chance at the former, but the latter is in the building. If Andrew Luck rebounds from an injury-plagued, lackluster season and begins to ascend the path to superstardom again, none of this matters and Indianapolis will be fine.

Just understand that if that’s the result here, it will be Luck putting the children on his back and climbing the mountain, not the other way around.

Grigson was always the bully in his relationship with Pagano, and when a number of his high-profile personnel moves were failing, he started forcing his coach to use players that Pagano had given up on. It was a toxic environment with certain players and coaches taking sides in what amounted to a high-school pissing match.

Pagano may have been the one being bullied, but he was always the smart and likable part of the equation. So the inspirational man who beat cancer and was going to be unfairly jettisoned got the ear of the owner and did what he does best, motivated him.

Call it organic or spiritual if you like. I’ll call it what it is–manipulation.

— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.

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