The Indianapolis Colts, after a weeklong search process, finally landed themselves a head coach Wednesday.
Team owner Jim Irsay and general manager Ryan Grigson hired former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano to replace ex-Colts coach Jim Caldwell, who was fired on Jan. 17.
Indianapolis officials have scheduled a 3 p.m. press conference today to introduce the team’s new coach.
“It’s difficult to leave the Ravens but I couldn’t pass up on this great opportunity,” Pagano told Ravens.com Wednesday. “I’m just thrilled and so excited.”
It apparently didn’t take Irsay and Grigson long to make up their collective minds. Pagano was interviewed on Tuesday and was offered the job upon arriving in Baltimore Wednesday afternoon. He quickly accepted the offer.
Pagano, 51, was in his first season directing Baltimore’s defensive unit. He was promoted to the coordinator’s position last spring when Greg Mattison accepted a similar job on the Michigan coaching staff. The Colts will be his first-ever head coaching position at any level.
Considered to be a youthful, fiery and energetic coach, the Ravens finished the regular season ranked third overall in total defense, second in rush defense, fourth in pass defense, third in points allowed per game and first in red-zone defense. They also ranked first in the AFC with 48 sacks, 21 more than they had during the 2010 season.
“Congratulations to him,” Baltimore linebacker Jameel McClain told Ravens.com. “The Colts organization got a great guy, a great coach. I think he’ll make an amazing head coach. Anybody would like to go to bat with a guy who will have your back.”
Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo agreed.
“Chuck, he’s the ultimate coach that you wanted to play for,” Ayanbadejo said. “On the field, you never wanted to let him down. It’s great news. You like to see people excel and become so much more and see what they become. It would be a selfish point of view to be sad. He’s going on to bigger things.”
Terrell Suggs, one of the Ravens’ outside linebackers, joked during the past season that he would try and dissuade other teams from having any interest in hiring the Baltimore assistant.
“Chuck Pagano, if anybody is trying to hire a head coach, if they ask, I’m going to say he sucks,” Suggs said. “He’s a terrible coach. . .His players don’t love him and he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he’s calling a game.”
The Boulder, Colo., native had been on the Ravens’ staff since 2008 as the team’s secondary coach. He also has NFL coaching experience with Cleveland (2001-04) and Oakland (2005-06). His brother John is San Diego’s linebackers coach.
A strong safety at Wyoming from 1980-84, Pagano also has an extensive college coaching background. After starting out as a graduate assistant at Southern California in 1984, where he spent two seasons, Pagano was an assistant at Miami (Fla.) twice as well as making stops at Boise State, UNLV, East Carolina and North Carolina.
During his last stop as an assistant for the Hurricanes (1995-2000), where he coached the secondary and was in charge of special teams, Pagano worked with Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Upon hearing the news of his hiring by Indianapolis, Wayne texted his approval.
The addition of a coach with a defensive background doesn’t come as a surprise. During last week’s press conference to announce Caldwell’s dismissal, both Irsay and Grigson spoke about wanting to have a more balanced team.
Indianapolis has been talent-heavy on offense since quarterback Peyton Manning joined the team in 1998. Colts officials wanted to surround the former No. 1 pick with plenty of weapons to work with. Consequently, most of the team’s salary cap expenditures went toward the offensive side of the ball.
Pagano will have some decisions to make about the Indianapolis defense, which has used a 4-3 alignment (four down defensive linemen and three linebackers) since 1998. Baltimore, meanwhile, has been a hybrid 3-4 defense (three down linemen and four linebackers), sometimes switching to a 4-3 during the course of a game.
As it stands now, the Colts’ defensive personnel is small in stature whereas the 3-4 defenses prefer to use bigger down linemen and linebackers.
There will also be questions about the Colts’ offense as several assistants were retained from Caldwell’s coaching staff, including coordinator Clyde Christensen, running backs coach David Walker and tight ends coach Ricky Thomas.
Pagano is the fourth Ravens defensive coordinator to take a head coaching job elsewhere, joining Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati), Mike Nolan (San Francisco) and Rex Ryan (New York Jets). Baltimore will now have to hire their fourth defensive coordinator in five seasons.
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The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
As it stands now, Indianapolis does not have a second-round pick. It was traded to Miami last fall in exchange for veteran cornerback Vontae Davis. But second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has nut ruled out the possibility of trading down from the first round if the Colts aren’t satisfied with the players available.
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Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had agreed Monday night to be the Colts’ primary back-up to second-year starter Andrew Luck. He officially signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team Tuesday morning.
“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Matt Hasselbeck,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “His body of work, intangibles, and extensive league experience speak for themselves. Those factors, plus his familiarity with our offensive scheme, will make him a great asset to our team and its vision as we move forward.”
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“I felt like this would be the best fit for me at this point in my career. I really liked what I saw was happening with the program here and the way things have taken shape. I feel like we have a really great team here and it’s on the rise. I really wanted to be a part of that,” Thomas said during a teleconference interview with the Colts’ media.
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McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who’s contract is due to expire March 12, was designated as the Colts’ franchise player Friday. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team’s special-teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed,” Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. “We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks.
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Back and ready to go.
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