Indianapolis was crazy all last week hosting the Super Bowl, and right along with it has been the host city’s new football coach and ex-Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
That was because Pagano-just days after the Ravens’ 23-20 loss in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots- didn’t have to wait long to get back to work at the game of football preparation because NFL teams kept calling for his services.
After just one season as Ravens defensive coordinator replacing Greg Mattison, Pagano apparently had built enough of a resume that the Indianapolis Colts called 1 Winning Drive and asked to interview the 51-year old for their coaching vacancy.
And they were impressed enough by Pagano’s demeanor, it only took one interview for owner Jim Irsay and new general manager Ryan Grigson to know who they wanted to replace the fired Jim Caldwell as head coach.
They hired Pagano on January 25th, making the move official.
Pagano hasn’t slept much over the last two weeks moving his life from Baltimore to Indianapolis but he did find a few minutes to join Drew Forrester, Glenn Clark, and Nestor Aparicio last Thursday afternoon from Radio Row to offer a special message to Raven Nation.
“My thanks go out to Steve [Bisciotti], Ozzie, Coach Harbaugh, the rest of the guys and all the players, all the assistant coaches, and the fans. I had four great years there and it’s really the last thing I ever expected.”
Pagano joined the Ravens in 2008 as secondary coach and quickly became a favorite of the players.
When Pagano left for Indianapolis, several defensive players took the move hard, including corner backs Lardarius Webb, Domonique Foxworth, and safety Ed Reed.
It was equally as hard for Pagano to move on, and his leave his brothers-in-arms behind.
“I felt like I had the greatest job in America,” Pagano continued. “It’s a fabulous organization and I wish nothing but the best for them.”
It was the sheer shock of getting the call that made Pagano consider the offer. Despite his success this season leading the third-ranked defense, he thought his chance was going to come after a few years down the road.
“It’s crazy,” Pagano replied. “It’s the last thing I ever expected-obviously walking in that locker room and dealing with the heartache that everybody was coming off of with that loss.”
Pagano walked into his regular meeting Monday morning after the loss to New England, and Coach John Harbaugh handed a phone to him in his office.
“Indianapolis called…they want to talk to you,” Harbaugh said.
“I was like, ‘No way-come on…tell me you’re playing with me’,” Pagano told the WNST crew. “I got on the phone with Ryan Grigson-our GM, and he asked if I would come down.”
Pagano was also equally surprised considering he had no connections to Jim Irsay, the Colts, or Grigson in the past.
“I had only spoken with Ryan a year prior about some things…it was just a surprising deal.”
But now the holiday is over for Pagano. He’s already at work formulating his new coaching staff and preparing for the 2012 season.
Both of those preparations might and have already conflicted with the Ravens off-season plans, as Pagano already tabbed Baltimore assistants Marwan Maalouf and secondary assistant Roy Anderson on his coaching staff.
Right now, it’s all downhill from here for Pagano.
“We’re still putting the pieces of the puzzle together,” Pagano added. “We’ve got three great hires with Bruce Arians coming in an offensive coordinator…and Greg Manusky just signed on today.”
Pagano admitted that he tried to raid his ex-boss in John Harbaugh of more of his assistants, but there was only so much leverage John would allow.
“I tried to raid the hen-house of coaches, but between Ozzie and John I obviously knew that wasn’t going to happen.”
Pagano said that he’s had numerous offers from fellow co-workers and coaches and ex-players to come on board.
But he quickly shot down the belief that it was because of him that he was getting all these calls. It’s about the tradition of working for a storied franchise like the Colts.
“This city is phenomenal…there’s a ton of people that want to come to this city and be part of this organization.”
Could this include several former Ravens on defense who are free agents-Jarret Johnson, Haruki Nakamura, Tom Zbikowski, etc-who loved Pagano?
He said it would be foolish for the Ravens not to anticipate that. They’ve already experienced it with the exodus of players following Rex Ryan to New York.
“I think if you look at history and you look at the coaches that have moved on from there and took other jobs, I think history tells you that’s the case. Nobody does it better than those guys now and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have my eye on a couple guys.”
But the one guy that Pagano is probably worried about-and this time as his coach as opposed to drawing up a game-plan against him-is his current quarterback in Peyton Manning.
His future remains in doubt as Colts quarterback, but Pagano isn’t worried about it. He knows and trusts in the people that are above him making those decisions for him.
“It’s obvious that Mr. Irsay and Peyton…the lines of communication are there. They’ll continue to talk and as time goes on…the situation will handle itself.”
Pagano said he has too much on his mind to involve himself with that he said he’s going to assume the right things get done.
It was the same approach he had in Baltimore, and that worked well enough for him.
“I’ve got so many things to do trying to reach out to players,” Pagano said, and put a staff together. I’ve got to do the best I can.”
WNST thanks Chuck Pagano for joining us on Radio Row and wishes him all the best in Indy…when they’re not playing the Ravens! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!