INDIANAPOLIS COLTS UPDATE 

lCOLTS HIRE PAGANO AS NEW HC; QUESTIONS ABOUT MANNING'S FUTURE CONTINUE

The Indianapolis Colts have selected their new head coach in Chuck Pagano.

Pagano, 51, spent the 2011 season as the coordinator of the Ravens defense, after spending three seasons as the team’s secondary coach.

As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio notes, Pagano displayed an infectious smile and a sharp sense of humor when introduced as Baltimore’s coordinator last year.

“I had a great experience, or sentence,” Pagano said at the time regarding a prior stint with the Raiders."Well, I can’t say sentence, a two-year sentence in Oakland. And congratulations to Hue Jackson (who was hired as Oakland's head coach), it’s well deserved. And he will earn every cent that they pay him. It won’t be much, but he will earn every nickel. But I had a great experience out there. And two years was plenty.”

To get him in position to be a head coach, one year as a defensive coordinator was plenty.

And as Florio suggested, if Pagano displayed that kind of charm and wit at his interview with Colts owner Jim Irsay, the two men surely hit it off.

But as the Indianapolis Star points out, Pagano’s task is daunting.

He’s leaving an organization that is coming off a 12-4 regular season that propelled it to the AFC Championship game. The Ravens lost at New England 23-20 when place-kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds.

The Colts, meanwhile, are coming off a 2-14 season and have major question marks in all phases of the game -- especially in terms of personnel.

One thing, however, is certain: Pagano knows defense.

Baltimore finished the regular season as the NFL's third-ranked defense in both scoring (16.6 points per game) and total yards (288.9 yards per game).

Pagano was the Ravens' secondary coach from 2008 to 2010. He served in the same capacity with the Cleveland Browns from 2001-04, then coached the Raiders' defensive backs from 2005-06.

Prior to joining the Ravens, Pagano spent the 2007 season as the defensive coordinator at the University of North Carolina. Pagano spent several seasons in the college ranks, including at Miami, where he was the secondary coach and special teams coordinator from 1995-2000.

The Colts had been linked to seven other coaching candidates, including New Orleans Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, among others.

The Colts fired Jim Caldwell on Jan. 17 following a 2-14 season. ...

Now, with a new general manager, Ryan Grigson, and a new defensive-minded head coach in Pagano, the focus will turn to Peyton Manning's future with the club.

There has been no shortage of speculation -- much of it stemming from Monday's interview with the Star -- that Manning's run with the Colts is about to end.

Pagano's arrival does nothing to quell that speculation.

In fact, it only adds fuel to the fire.

Manning is owed a $28 million option on March 8. If the team doesn't pay it, he'll become an unrestricted free agent.

As Star beat writer Phillip B. Wilson suggested this morning, it's possible Irsay will ask Manning to retire, but it sure sounds like the NFL’s only four-time MVP isn’t ready to quit. From what was said Monday to the Star's Bob Kravitz, Manning sounds like he’s convinced himself he’s going to make a comeback from this third neck surgery, if not with Indianapolis then somewhere.

Indeed, reading between the lines of the interview with Kravitz, it sounds like Manning is ready to move one. Some observers immediately concluded the interview was the first salvo in a media battle between Irsay and Manning.

Based on some of Manning's comments, it's not hard to see why (I recommend reading the full interview for more context) they reached that conclusion.

Wilson noted that Manning is one of the most calculated athletes he's ever seen. He rarely says anything without a purpose. Manning painted a negative picture of the climate around the Colts complex.

“I’m not in a very good place for healing, let’s say that,’’ Manning said at one point when discussing the team’s facility. “It’s not a real good environment down there right now, to say the least. Everybody’s walking around on eggshells. I don’t recognize our building right now. There’s such complete and total change.’’

By saying as much, Manning was clearly sending a message. At the very least he made it clear that all is not well with the club in his view.

Manning also painted Grigson as less than straight forward when mentioning how the Colts’ new boss “kind of, sort of, without really wanting to tell me” made it clear Irsay would have the final say on this decision.

That doesn’t seem like a smart move, portraying Grigson in this light, unless of course the intent is to send a message to Grigson and Irsay.

Whatever the case, Irsay has made it clear he intends to draft a quarterback in April, whether it's Stanford's Andrew Luck or Baylor's Robert Griffin III.

"With Griffin and Luck and the way it's shaping up at the top of the draft -- could very likely go one and two like with Peyton and Ryan Leaf," Irsay recently said. "It's most likely one of those quarterbacks that you really feel is the best player in the draft, and where we're at moving forward you can't pass that up. I don't think anyone would expect that."

And according to Irsay, the Colts want Luck or Griffin first overall regardless of whether Manning's neck prevents him from playing in 2012.

The Colts have said they'll wait at least another month to continue to see how Manning's neck injury progresses, but when asked if his feelings on drafting a quarterback would be different if Manning were healthy, Irsay said, "I don't think it would."

There are other personnel issues with Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Jacob Tamme and Robert Mathis among those who will become free agents.

And as PFT's Gregg Rosenthal notes, there also will be changes on defense.

Pagano favors a physical, attacking 3-4 defense. The Colts have built their defenses over the last decade with quicker, smaller players. The Colts will get bigger fast under Pagano.

So. ... It's safe to say I'll be following up on the Colts on a regular basis in coming weeks. Stay tuned. It's going to get interesting.


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