INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Pagano is staying as coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts have given their head coach a contract extension, the team announced Monday night. The team has called a 10:30 p.m. news conference. No contract terms were immediately available.
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Pagano led the Colts to the playoffs in his first three seasons in charge, advancing one step further each year, losing in the 2014 AFC championship game. But plagued by injuries, including to star quarterback Andrew Luck, Indianapolis went 8-8 this season as Houston won the AFC South.
The 55-year-old coach’s job appeared to be in jeopardy, but he and team owner Jim Irsay spent most of Monday meeting, and the deal was reached in the evening.
“I don’t see any reason for change. I think Chuck is the guy for this team to lead us to a Super Bowl,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said earlier Monday. “You look around the league, all the head coaches that have been around for years, there have been off years. If an off year is 8-8, I know some teams would give their right arm to go 8-8. I don’t see a need for change.”
Some Colts fans agreed.
As players continued to post their personal sentiments on Twitter, Colts fans adopted the phrase #Chuckstay to show their support. That’s a spinoff of the #Chuckstrong tagline that became popular when Pagano was battling leukemia in 2012.
Pagano turned down a one-year contract extension last offseason and gambled he could take Indianapolis to a fourth straight playoff appearance, a third straight division title and their first Super Bowl in six years.
Pagano is 41-23 in four seasons in Indy and has won three playoff games.
But with the injured Luck missing nine games this season and 40-year-old backup Matt Hasselbeck dealing with a myriad of injuries in December and January, the Colts never lived up to the preseason Super Bowl hype.
Pagano’s backers largely believe general manager Ryan Grigson, who has one year remaining on his original contract, should be the one to go. They believe Grigson’s hits and misses in free agency and the draft were the biggest problem and that Pagano did all he could with the hand he was dealt.
Grigson’s supporters have questioned Pagano’s ability to get his players to execute. They also pointed to poor play calls, penalties, turnovers and a series of questionable decisions such as the bungled fake punt against New England.
Only one opinion really mattered, though, and that was Irsay’s. The extension showed how the owner felt about Pagano’s work.
Before players started cleaning out their lockers, Pagano held this season’s last team meeting. Players declined to say what specifically was discussed, but many acknowledged Pagano expressed “love” for each of his players.
“I’ll tell you this, he’s given his heart and soul every day since I’ve been here,” Luck said. “I feel like I’ve grown so much as a player, as a person under him. Through this season, which became trying and disappointing, he’s always been a sort of bastion of whatever that is of a good coach.”