Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has informed people around him that he “has doubts” he will return as Indianapolis’ head coach next year, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). Of course, this does not come as much of a surprise; there were reports several weeks ago that 2015 would be Pagano’s last season with the Colts, and those reports came on the heels of an offseason full of articles describing a rift between Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson.
Owner Jim Irsay quickly tried to downplay news of a strained relationship between his head coach and his general manager, but given the team’s ugly start to the campaign, it is looking more and more as though both parties will be heading in different directions at season’s end (if not sooner). Earlier this week, Pagano made comments regarding his team’s offensive line that some interpreted as a shot at Andrew Luck and some believed was a thinly-veiled barb directed at Grigson. While Rapoport tweeted this morning that Pagano’s comments were simply meant to convey the difficulties the team has had with injuries to the unit, any negative statement from either the head coach or the front office at this point only serves to intensify the reported turmoil.
However, there are still 14 games to play, and Pagano and Grigson will both put forth their best efforts to get the Colts to the playoffs. As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, Pagano, who has a reputation as a defensive guru, has been even more hands-on with the defense than usual. But if the team’s early struggles persist, La Canfora writes that “any shuffling of the coaching staff would have to come from above Pagano. Sources said Pagano does not have the autonomy to hire or fire staff if he sees fit.”
The only question, then, is who will take over the reins as the Colts head coach in 2016, and where Pagano himself will end up. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Irsay could clean house, like he did when he hired Pagano in 2012, or he could retain Grigson and hire a new coach like he did in 2002, which would effectively “neuter” Grigson. The direction Irsay takes will have a direct impact on the number and caliber of coaching candidates available to him.
Pagano, meanwhile, has indicated that he plans to retire whenever his tenure with the Colts ends. Even if Indianapolis continues to struggle in 2015, Pagano would remain a viable defensive coordinator or positional coach candidate. At the moment, however, he is not thinking about his life after Indy, even if the rest of the football world is.