Chuck Pagano’s coaching style is mix of several influences.
The Indianapolis Colts’ first-year coach obviously learned a lot from his dad, Sam, who was a highly-successful high school coach in Boulder, Colorado. And he’s derived a lot of ideas and techniques from those head coaches both on the collegiate and National Football League level that he’s worked for as a long-time defensive assistant coach.
So it’s been interesting to watch Pagano during the Colts’ spring mini-camps and organized training activity sessions, as well as in the team’s training camp workouts, as he’s tried to sort out his own niche as an NFL head coach.
Being an assistant coach is one thing. But taking over a franchise and being the ultimate coaching decision-maker is something else entirely.
Pagano’s style can be considered player-friendly. He often uses humor and jokes to get his point across. It’s also family-oriented. Wives and children of players and coaches often watched training camp practices at Anderson University from a small hill near the south end zone of the grass practice field.
While professional football is a business, he also wants his players to have fun and to enjoy what they’re doing.
That’s why it wasn’t surprising to see how Pagano decided to end the team’s final training camp practice at AU Friday morning.
Unlike former coaches Jim Mora, Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell, who would usually have about a 45-minute walkthrough session on “getaway day,” it appeared as if Pagano was prepared to conduct a full workout on the Macholtz Stadium playing field.
Yet there was Pagano, about an hour-and-45-minutes into the practice, calling everybody together in the center of the field. Punter and back-up placekicker Pat McAfee had already connected on a pair of 58-yard field goal attempts. The Colts’ first-year coach came up with an offer that could end the session early.
If McAfee were to make a 59-yard field goal, practice would be over. The team liked the idea and surrounded the third-year kicker. Some were whooping it up. Others became quiet so that McAfee could concentrate on being successful with the kick.
“Well you bring them in there to let them know what we’re doing because we had plays left in practice. The [assistant] coaches go over the [practice] script [before going on to the field]. There were a few plays left, so we brought them in there just to let them know if Pat makes this kick, we’re done for the day. So obviously you have some enthusiasm based on that,” the first-year coach related afterwards.
“Some guys were cheering, some guys were on their hands and knees, ‘Make sure you make it’, some guys were saying, ‘Quiet down, give him silence, let’s make this kick.’ I wanted to see it go through.”
But it wasn’t to be. Despite a good snap from center and a good hold, the ball sailed wide of the goal posts. Distance wasn’t a factor. McAfee just pushed his kick to the left a bit.
While the players were disappointed, Pagano gave his kicker one more chance. This time a chip-shot attempt from 38-yards out. And this time, it was good. Practice over.
“No excuses, right? It was well-deserved. Ever since we got together from day one all the way back to the off-season program, we started phase one from the first team meeting we had until today. These guys have done everything we’ve asked them to do. They’ve bought in hook, line and sinker, they’ve done a great job and it was well deserved,” the Colts coach said.
“I think [McAfee] just overcooked it a little bit to the left. We put it on the 20, right dead in the middle and he nailed it. So it was a good way to end it.”
• Camp over, back to Indy — Despite school starting around the central Indiana area, a nice crowd was on hand at Anderson University for the final day of training camp practices.
The Colts will have a short workout this morning at the team’s Indianapolis headquarters before leaving for Sunday night’s nationally-televised game with Pittsburgh.
“We had a great day. I’d like to thank the fans for coming out [Friday] on this last outing. [The] people of Anderson, everybody associated with the university. They’ve done an outstanding job,” Pagano said.
“We felt like we had a really productive camp, we got a lot of things done and it’s a credit to everybody at this university and again the fans of the city have been awesome to help us get done what we’ve needed to get done.”