Tag Archives: chuck pagano

Colts Win, but the Real Fun is Just Beginning

A few hours after this piece was originally published, the Colts announced that both Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson had been awarded contract extensions that will run through the 2019 season. This couldn’t happen to a nicer guy in Pagano’s case (I am truly happy for him), but putting all feelings aside, read on for my take on how this should have gone down…

On Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis, the Colts won a football game. Had this contest had (realistic) playoff implications, this might have been a significant story. However, despite beating the Tennessee Titans with two quarterbacks who weren’t on the roster a week ago, the game was no more than a subplot.

Now that the 2015 season is officially over for the Colts, the real intrigue begins. The Colts went from Super Bowl contender to non-playoff team during the course of the 2015 campaign…it was a wild ride. Everyone seemed to have a hand in the underperformance that swept through the Colts franchise this season: players, coaches and management alike. The team had to deal with numerous significant injuries during the year, but make no mistake about it, the wheels were falling off long before the injury bug hit. Colts owner Jim Irsay has stated that he wants “multiple Super Bowls” while Andrew Luck is the team’s quarterback.

They seemed very much on track over the last three years, but this season was a major flop. The big question now is: what should be done about it? As of this writing, there was no official news from Colts Headquarters regarding the status of head coach Chuck Pagano. Since last week, sources have reported that Pagano will be relieved of his head coaching duties by the Colts at season’s end. If that happens as is widely believed, it will be in the best interest of the team going forward. Chuck Pagano is a quality human being and there is a lot to like about the man, but if the Colts are truly “all in” to make a run at the Super Bowl with this team, Chuck Pagano is not the coach who will lead them there.

You really hate to see bad things happen to good people, but the reality is that Pagano is an average NFL head coach, at best. With that order of business out of the way, let’s move on to the status of general manager Ryan Grigson. Multiple sources are reporting that Grigson’s job is safe for now, at least until the Colts hire a new head coach. If Irsay lands a “big name” guy to lead the troops next season, the thought is that the new head coach in that scenario will likely want input into personnel matters.

If so, Grigson will probably be fired, or offered a lesser role within the organization. What should happen?

Let’s not dance around the subject: Ryan Grigson is bad for the Colts, and should be fired. Grigson got far too much credit for the team’s turnaround when he came on board in 2012. Much of that turnaround was due to drafting QB Andrew Luck, who was regarded by most as the best quarterback prospect to come out of college since John Elway nearly 30 years earlier. Grigson has had numerous blunders during his tenure (trading for RB Trent Richardson and drafting LB/DE Bjoern Werner in the first round, for example). Even some of the moves that have worked out were not necessarily because of Grigson’s insight.

A prime example of this would be his drafting of Pro Bowl WR T.Y. Hilton in the third round in 2012. This fact seems to have been forgotten, but as Hilton was emerging as an offensive force, even Grigson admitted that when he drafted him, he did so with the notion that Hilton would be a good kick returner, and anything they got out of him otherwise would be a bonus. So, even some of Grigson’s good decisions were either no-brainers, or just plain lucky.

In terms of his approach, Ryan Grigson leaves a lot to be desired as well. He has a huge ego, and appears to be more of a ‘me’ guy than a ‘we’ guy. He has consistently overstepped his bounds as a GM, reportedly making decisions that are usually those of the head coach, such as who plays, how much they play and player discipline. Even though the potential dismissal of Chuck Pagano seems justified, his job was clearly made more difficult by his general manager’s antics.

Now that we have head coaching and front office vacancies in theory, should the Colts also look to make roster changes? Absolutely. In truth, there are probably more weaknesses on this team than there are strengths…perhaps a shocking statement made about a team thought of as “loaded” prior to the season, but accurate based on what we saw for 16 games in 2015.

The Indianapolis defense didn’t perform well this year. Pro Bowl CB Vontae Davis had an off year, but one would hope he can bounce back in 2016. The other starter at CB, Greg Toler, is talented but continues to play inconsistently…he’s also too injury-prone. The defensive line and pass rush need help, but the return (from injury) of promising rookie DE Henry Anderson will help those causes to a degree next season. The Colts finished the year a lowly 26th in total defense, so the production simply wasn’t there.

The Colts offense was an even bigger disappointment this past season. Yes, Andrew Luck missed nine games…but looking past that, there were many other issues at play. The offensive line struggled for most of the year, particularly in pass protection. WR Andre Johnson was supposed to be a key addition, but he was barely visible and looked like a shell of his former self (41 catches for 503 yards). RB Frank Gore was underutilized; he didn’t get a lot of carries and when he did, there were not many holes to run through.

Undoubtedly, there are problems in this organization at all levels. Stability is an important ingredient to success, but when you have the wrong people in place, change is necessary. There is a lot of work for the Colts to do this offseason, and that process begins today.

The Colts Maintain Their Pulse in Week 16

The battered and bruised Indianapolis Colts showed enough moxie this past Sunday afternoon to pull off an 18-12 win over the Miami Dolphins in Sun Life Stadium. This victory was anything but pretty, but the way this season has gone for Indianapolis (7-8), they’ll take a win of any kind…beggars can’t be choosers, after all.

This was a game that the Colts were very lucky to win. Miami, now 5-10 on the year, outgained the Colts by nearly a hundred yards offensively, but there were some key moments that completely erased that advantage.

Indianapolis QB Matt Hasselbeck threw a first quarter interception that was negated by a holding call on Dolphins CB Brent Grimes. Later in the quarter, Miami QB Ryan Tannehill tried to hit WR DeVante Parker on a fade route in the corner of the end zone, but Tannehill was picked off by Indianapolis CB Vontae Davis. In the third quarter, Tannehill threw an apparent touchdown pass, only to have it taken off the board when WR Jarvis Landry was called for offensive pass interference on the play.

These three plays alone created an 18-point swing in favor of the Colts, but there was one last prayer they needed answered to pull this one out.

The Dolphins had driven to the Colts’ 5-yard line with under a minute to play, poised to find the end zone and score a likely game-winning touchdown. Instead, Tannehill threw the ball on three straight downs, misfiring each time. The fourth down play never got off the ground, as a mistimed snap caused Ryan Tannehill to be engulfed by the Colts defensive line before having any opportunity to get the ball out of his hands…and that was all she wrote for Miami.

Colts RB Frank Gore essentially carried the offense, rushing for 85 yards on 15 carries, including a nifty 37-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Matt Hasselbeck was knocked out of yet another game, and third-stringer Charlie Whitehurst came in and did his job: he played unspectacular but mistake-free football.

Indianapolis’ much-maligned defense held down Miami’s rushing attack, and made enough plays against Tannehill and his receivers to keep the Colts in the game, although they did give up 329 passing yards on the day.

Miami did everything they could to give this one away, but the Colts did capitalize on the Dolphins’ errors, so Indianapolis does deserve some credit for being opportunistic.

Despite the victory, the Colts playoff chances are slim…the Houston Texans are responsible for that (they blew out Tennessee 34-6 on Sunday). Houston continues to hold a one-game lead over the Colts, and it would take a myriad of things to happen for Indianapolis to wiggle into the playoffs now.

This was a win the Colts badly needed. Even if the playoffs are out of reach, they needed this to gain some momentum and confidence. However, there’s a problem with the way the Colts deal with winning games like this.

There has been a pattern this season of head coach Chuck Pagano overreacting to his team’s victories. He gave an inspirational and emotional speech earlier this season after a come-from-behind win over the Titans. Yes, the Tennessee Titans. Pagano repeated this act after Indianapolis picked up the ‘W’ over a Miami team who was eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago.

Why is this a problem? It shows everyone how low the bar is set, and honestly, wreaks of desperation. There’s a saying in sports, “act like you’ve been there before.” Pagano acting like the Colts just won the Super Bowl each time they beat an also-ran is weak. He’s trying to convince his team that they accomplished something significant, and perhaps, hoping his boss (Jim Irsay) is fooled by this as well.

It’s not working, Chuck.

Jim Irsay’s goal is for the Colts to win multiple Super Bowls in the “Andrew Luck Era.” Surely he knows that will never happen with a head coach like Chuck Pagano. Pagano is a man of character and strength, and a very good NFL assistant coach…there’s a lot to like about Chuck Pagano. The simple fact is: he’s over his head trying to lead an NFL franchise to the Super Bowl, which is where the Colts want to go and believe they can go.

Yes, Indianapolis came out on top in this game. But, when you put it all in perspective, this victory rings very hollow.

The Sad Decline of the Indianapolis Colts Continues

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard the words “Super Bowl” and “Colts” in the same sentence. Looks like it’s going to be a lot longer before we hear it again.

The Houston Texans came into Lucas Oil Stadium and wrested the division lead away from the Colts by virtue of a 16-10 triumph on Sunday afternoon. The Texans (7-7) now hold a one-game lead over Indianapolis, who fell to 6-8 with two games remaining in the regular season.

For the third straight week, the Colts held an early lead before imploding. After trailing 10-0 in the first half, Houston scored 16 consecutive points to win their first ever game in Indianapolis (the Texans were 0-13 coming into this contest). The Colts had an unprecedented 16-game winning streak within the division snapped last week against Jacksonville; now they’ve lost two in a row against the AFC South.

The quarterback matchup in this game was not exactly one for the ages: backup QB Matt Hasselbeck going for Indianapolis, while Houston had to play their third-string signal caller, T.J. Yates. Neither quarterback played particularly well, and when Yates went down with a non-contact knee injury after scrambling late in the second quarter, things looked even worse for the Texans.

Enter Brandon Weeden, the former starting QB in Cleveland, but currently number four on the depth chart in Houston. Weeden was the hero in this one, coming off the bench to go 11-for-18 for 105 yards and a touchdown after Yates’ injury. Most importantly, Houston scored all 16 of their points with Weeden at the helm, as he gave the Texans the shot in the arm they needed after falling behind early 10-0.

The Colts offense was anemic, gaining a paltry 190 yards for the game. QB Matt Hasselbeck had a tough day in more ways than one, going 17-for-30 for only 147 yards, and feeling pressure and taking hits from the Texans’ defense all afternoon. Indianapolis RB Frank Gore ran hard, but had nowhere to go, averaging 2.8 yards on 16 carries.

Aside from Brandon Weeden’s heroics, Houston didn’t exactly light it up either. The Texans’ running game was mostly held in check, other than Alfred Blue’s 41-yard run in the second quarter, which didn’t actually lead to any points for Houston.

The turnover battle was even, but the Colts only lost fumble was a very costly one. Indianapolis was driving late in the fourth quarter, trailing 13-10, when WR Griff Whalen took a short pass from Hasselbeck and coughed it up after a good hit by Houston CB Johnathan Joseph…this effectively ended the Colts’ hopes.

Indianapolis did get the ball back one more time, only to have Matt Hasselbeck throw a deep interception on the first play of the drive when he “misinterpreted the angle” WR Donte Moncrief took on his route.

The last three minutes of this game continued what has been a pattern of late with the Colts – key moment, key mistake(s).

Now that the AFC South lead has vanished and a playoff berth is becoming unlikely, what do we make of the 2015 version of the Indianapolis Colts? It would be easy to blame this disappointing season on injuries, particularly when your star quarterback has missed significant time on the field…but that’s not why this team has underachieved.

It all starts with a flawed roster, a fact that was previously covered up by QB Andrew Luck’s emergence as an NFL star. Even he could not continue to perform at a high level with a struggling offensive line in front of him. Colts GM Ryan Grigson chose not to address the offensive line to any large degree in the offseason, and it’s coming back to haunt the team now. In general, Grigson has just had far too many “misses” in the draft and in free agency, and they’ve led Indianapolis to where they are now.

Another key issue is coaching. Chuck Pagano, the Colts’ head coach, has not proven to be a top-flight coach in either game preparation or motivation. Consistent errors such as penalties and turnovers, especially at crucial times, are the mark of a poorly-coached team. As the season has worn on, the team is also playing with less and less desire and enthusiasm.

What a difference in outlook from Week 1 to now. The Indianapolis Colts were a trendy pick to win the AFC Championship this season, now, they’ll have to finish strong and hope for some help just to barely make the playoffs – in a weak division. Unless something spectacular (and unexpected) happens, some heads are going to roll when this train wreck of a season is over.

Indianapolis Colts Crash and Burn in the Sunshine State

Opportunity was knocking for the Indianapolis Colts as they headed south to play Jacksonville this past Sunday afternoon. The Colts, despite their struggles, were in first place in the AFC South. They came into the game carrying a 16-game winning streak within the division. A victory against the 4-8 Jaguars would go a long way toward securing a playoff berth for The Horseshoe.

With all this at stake, and a “winnable” game in front of them, you would expect a quality team to take advantage of a scenario such as this. Instead, the Colts took a promising start and turned it into an avalanche as they fell 51-16 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The way this game unfolded was eerily similar to that of last week’s debacle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, Indianapolis led 10-6 late in the first half, but were outscored 39-0 the rest of the way. Against the Jaguars, Indianapolis held a 13-3 lead late in the first half when Jags DE Andre Branch stripped QB Matt Hasselbeck of the ball, recovered the ensuing fumble and coasted 49 yards for a touchdown. After falling behind by 10 points, Jacksonville outscored the Colts 48-3 from that point forward.

How bad were the Colts in this contest? Let me count the ways. The Colts allowed the aforementioned fumble return touchdown. They allowed a 73-yard punt return touchdown to the Jaguars’ Rashad Greene. They gave up 154 rushing yards, allowing a gaudy 5.3 yards-per-carry average. QB Blake Bortles threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions in a very effective performance.

Some of Indianapolis’ offensive numbers actually looked pretty good (they were only outgained 380-322 yards on the day), but this was a case where the yardage gained did not turn into points on the scoreboard. Every time the Colts drove down the field, they were eventually stopped. Every time Jacksonville drove down the field, they found paydirt.

The bottom line to all this is very simple: good teams make plays in the crucial moments, and find ways to win. The last two weeks, Indianapolis had late first half leads, and when “crunch time” was upon them, they wilted. Badly.

Around midseason, the two most disappointing teams in the NFL were arguably Seattle and Indianapolis, both preseason Super Bowl favorites, both sitting at 4-5. The Seahawks have proven they are a legitimate contender in recent seasons, so what have they done since that 4-5 start? They have gone 4-0, winning the last two in blowout fashion. In short, they’re on a roll.

The Colts, on the other hand, have lost their last two games by identical 35-point margins. This is not what contenders do, honestly, this isn’t even what decent teams do.

The Colts are still in the thick of the race for the AFC South Title after New England defeated Houston on Sunday night. But, does this really mean anything in the big picture?

The Colts are a mess right now, and trending very much in the wrong direction…they’ve basically hit rock bottom these last two weeks when the division race was just starting to heat up. We can talk about the offensive line problems, the fact that QB Matt Hasselbeck is starting to come back down to earth, a defense that can’t get much pressure on the quarterback and is giving up big plays at an alarming rate, and so on.

But, the real concern here has to do with intangibles. The players are not showing much fight or will to win, and the coaching staff seem to be losing their players at a critical point in the season…the players simply aren’t responding to head coach Chuck Pagano on any level right now.

Another “important” game looms next Sunday, when the Houston Texans visit Lucas Oil Stadium. There’s no sugarcoating it, everyone in the Colts organization from management to coaches to players need a serious gut check. Things like heart, resolve and commitment are necessary for a team to make the playoffs and be a contender once they get there. The Indianapolis Colts are showing a disturbing lack of these key ingredients, and they will go nowhere without them.

Indianapolis Colts: State of the Union and Week 13 Preview

Going into the 2015 NFL season, the Indianapolis Colts were considered a strong Super Bowl contender by virtually every media outlet. A strong 2014 campaign that ended with a loss in the AFC Championship Game, along with the additions of WR Andre Johnson and RB Frank Gore had pundits convinced that this team was ready to take the next step.

After 12 weeks, the ride has been anything but smooth for the 6-5 Colts. This season of promise began with a dismal loss in Buffalo. The following week, another disappointing performance resulted in a Monday Night Football defeat at the hands of the Jets, leaving Indianapolis with an 0-2 record, and a lot of questions.

The Colts finally broke through in a comeback win over Tennessee in Nashville, but QB Andrew Luck sustained injuries that would keep him out for the next two games. The Colts turned to backup QB Matt Hasselbeck, hoping he could keep the team’s head above water until Luck was ready to return. In one of the more inspiring stories of the NFL season thus far, Hasselbeck has done far more than anyone expected from a 40-year-old backup quarterback.

Hasselbeck won those two games as the starting QB, and after Luck returned and sustained further injuries that have returned him to the shelf, all Hasselbeck has done is come back in and do what he has done all season – guide Indianapolis to victories. Hasselbeck is now 4-0 at the helm of the Colts offense this season, and one could argue that he has been the team’s MVP to this point.

Indianapolis has suffered from a number of maladies that have led to their mediocre record after 12 weeks, injuries aside. When he was playing, Andrew Luck was having by far his worst NFL season. There is a great deal of debate as to why Luck has struggled, but it appears to be a combination of things. The offensive line played poorly in the first few games, which led Luck to have to hurry his reads. Coupled with the fact that the team was getting behind early in games, Luck had to take chances in an attempt to get the Colts back into games, and that was leading to more turnovers than touchdowns.

Some of the other factors holding Indianapolis back include a defense that has not performed well, and a great deal of drama with the coaching staff. There is friction between head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson, and the offensive coordinator (Pep Hamilton) was fired earlier this season. None of this is a recipe for a Super Bowl contender, to be certain.

Despite everything, the Colts are currently in first place in the AFC South…playing in a weak division may be the key to a playoff berth for this underperforming group. If Indianapolis can win the division and sneak into the playoffs, this could be a dangerous team – their play of late has again given hints of that potential.

So, onto Week 13…what can we expect against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night? QB Ben Roethlisberger has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion against Seattle last week, but he will not face Andrew Luck, as he is still sidelined with abdominal injuries and a lacerated kidney. Statistically, the matchup looks like this:

Pittsburgh

Indianapolis

Offense: Overall

4

22

Offense: Pass

5

17

Offense: Rush

8

26

Defense: Overall

23

26

Defense: Pass

31

27

Defense: Rush

7

24

 

Pittsburgh’s offense is superior to that of the Colts in both passing and rushing. The Steelers are more vulnerable defensively, but they’re still a little better than Indianapolis overall. Pittsburgh’s rushing defense is solid; where they are weak is against the pass. Can Matt Hasselbeck exploit the Steelers DBs? That will likely be key to the Colts’ chances on Sunday night.

Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot, so the intensity/motivation should be high on both sides. The game will be played in Heinz Field, and frankly, the Steelers are just a better team, particularly with Andrew Luck (and his talent and comeback ability) on the sideline. The Colts will struggle to stop the Steelers offense, and the Colts will have a tough time running the ball, putting a lot of pressure on Matt Hasselbeck to make plays. It looks like Hasselbeck’s storybook run will end in Pennsylvania on Sunday night…he’s done a great job stepping in and guiding the Colts offense in Luck’s absence, but asking so much of him will finally catch up to Indianapolis in Week 13.

The Indiana Sports Year of Heartbreak: Been There and Done That

The state of Indiana has had many sports triumphs over the years; they arguably have two of the most iconic programs in both College Football and Basketball; The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Indiana Hoosiers.  Both have die hard, national fan bases that are very proud of their tradition.  Both teams made a giant return to national prominence this year.

Out of nowhere the Fighting Irish completed a perfect regular-season assuring them a shot to compete for the BCS National Championship.  The Hoosiers took the Big Ten Conference by storm, winning the outright regular season championship.  Big Ten was considered by many (and rightly so) to be the nation’s top conference this year.  Their dominant season resulted in a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.  The success didn’t end there.  Fresh off the worst season in the 2012 NFL, the Colts rode the arm of their Rookie QB all the way to the playoffs, despite their coach missing most of the season as he was going through treatment for cancer.  Finally you have the Pacers, a team no one talks about, but has quietly built a strong hard working team, epitomizing the values and characteristics of the Midwest.  The Pacers dominated the Central Division resulting in a 3-seed in the NBA playoffs.

Unfortunately that’s where the success ended.  All four teams failed to deliver.  The fan base endured heart break after heart break.  The Fighting Irish were manhandled by Alabama in the BCS Title Game.  The Colts were thrashed by the Ravens in route to their Super Bowl Title.  The Hoosiers were upset in the Sweet 16 by Syracuse.  And the Pacers were ousted in game 7 by the defending champion Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.  To be honest though, ND, the Colts, and Pacers were large underdogs.  The only real disappointment came from the Hoosiers being upset early in the tourney.  The Pacers made believers out of a lot of people, pushing the Heat more than any team has in the last two years.  At the end of the day their fans should be damn proud.  It’s tough to watch your team get so close in each sport and not bring home a title.  It’s demoralizing and gets “old.”

It reminds me of the year 2007.  We Ohioans have been there before and experienced the same heart break.  I like to believe it was worse for us, but that’s because it’s more personal.  I can sympathize with what the Hoosier state is going through right now.

Disclaimer:  It’s time to relive that year, scroll to the last paragraph if you can’t bear it.

It all started with the Football Buckeyes and their Heisman winning quarterback.  As heavy favorites they rolled into Glendale Arizona and got steam-rolled by the Urban Meyer led Florida Gators.  A couple months later, the Bucks had their opportunity at revenge as they faced the Florida Gators in the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Championship game.  As underdogs this time, the outcome was the same.  The Bucks kept it close and played tough, but UF controlled the game throughout.  Shortly after that we entered the NBA Playoffs.  It was LBJ’s coming out party.  The Cavs rolled through the Eastern Conference, taking down the heavy favored Detroit Pistons, only to then get swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.   Within a matter of months, three huge heart breaks were suffered.  Then we hit the baseball season, the Tribe unexpectedly won the Central Division crown and took out the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs, setting up a meeting for the AL crown with the Boston Red Sox.  For anyone following, this was the World Series as the AL was much more dominant than the NL that year.  The Tribe jumped to a 3-1 series lead, only to allow Boston to fight back and take the series in seven.  Boston went on to sweep the Rockies for the World Series title.  The one glimmer of hope from that year was the Browns shocking the entire NFL by going 10-6.  But in keeping with the heart break tradition, didn’t make the playoffs.  Exciting everyone for the next season….we all know how that went.

Indiana you have had a rough year to this point.  The joys of the regular season seem to diminish when you can’t finish the deal.  We know exactly how you feel; it’s tough to get beat, even tougher to get embarrassed.  Especially if you are a displaced fan like I am.  Keep your head up and don’t forget…The Indiana Fever are the DEFENDING WNBA CHAMPIONS!!

Coach of the Year: Sean Payton or Chuck Pagano?

It is Week 17 in the NFL and postseason awards will be handed out soon. The MVP is up for grabs with Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, and Matt Ryan having career years. The Offensive Rookie of the Year is a toss up with three quarterbacks (RGIII, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson) possibly taking their teams to the playoffs. Oh, and toss in running backs Alfred Morris and Doug Martin as well. And the Comeback Player of the Year is easily down to Manning or Peterson based on their statistics fresh off of major surgeries.

But to me, Coach of the Year comes down to two candidates–and they were barely in the stadiums when their team kicked off. Put aside the Mike Smiths, Bill Belichicks, and Pete Carrolls of the NFL and you will find two coaches who are vital to their team’s success.  Those coaches are Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints and Chuck Pagano of the Indianapolis Colts.

As most of you know, neither of these coaches called plays this year while Sean Payton was suspended for the season due to the bounty scandal surrounding the Saints and Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia at the beginning of the season and forced to give up the head coach position due to health reasons. However, without the presence of these coaches, their teams had wildly different seasons than in 2011.

Last year, Sean Payton and the Saints went 13-3 eventually losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Playoffs. This year, however, without the presence of Sean Payton (except for one brief time in a loge to watch Drew Brees break a long-standing Johnny Unitas record) they are a mere 7-8 and need a win against the Carolina Panthers to secure a .500 season. I am willing to bet if Payton had been on the sidelines calling plays the Saints would be in the playoffs and definitely would not have lost their first four games. For goodness sake they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs at home. That should not happen to a team that has become quite a powerhouse in the past few seasons. He may not be the Coach of the Year for his alleged actions, but just as Peyton Manning may have been the MVP last year when the Colts went 2-14 without him, Payton may be the Most Valuable Coach.

Speaking of the Colts going 2-14, that record earned them the number one pick overall and the Stanford Cardinal, Andrew Luck. Chuck Pagano came into the Colts organization with a new franchise quarterback and an attitude of overcoming circumstances. Their biggest circumstance? They were not very good. But Chuck’s biggest circumstance? He was diagnosed with leukemia and had to hand the clipboard over to Bruce Arians. While Pagano was battling his illness Arians, Luck, and the Colts were fighting to turn the franchise around and make the playoffs. Well, last week they accomplished that feat. The Colts stand at 10-5, a full eight wins better than last season with one game left to play. They hold the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs. And they accomplished it all while their head coach fought for his life. Pagano may not have been game planning and making halftime adjustments, but you can be sure he was at least advising his staff in the right direction and more importantly motivating his players and coaches to ‘overcome circumstances.’

So maybe neither coach qualifies as coach of the year. But you can see how important they are to their team and franchise’s success. Pagano’s interim head coach, Arians, is undoubtedly in the running for Coach of the Year in my opinion. For Payton and Pagano, though, they can be proud of how much they truly mean to their respective teams.

Which coach means more to his team? Who is the Coach of the Year? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @Believelander.

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Three Things I Know About the NFL After Week 4

I didn’t have a great week in the AHTP Pick’em league for the second week in a row, but at least I wasn’t a laughing stock this week. I was in love with San Francisco covering, Houston covering, and Washington winning outright. I got those three picks right, so ppppbbbbbbbttttt.

Look Out AFC, the Patriots Think They’re Undefeated

I said it on the Gary Snyder Show on Friday, and the Patriots proved me right Sunday; New England is two field goals away from being undefeated, and that’s the way they’re going to play.

If it weren’t for a freak Stephen Gostkowski miss against the Cardinals – on a night when he had already booted four field goals – and a game ending made boot by the Ravens Justin Tucker – that might have been wide right – the Patriots would be a hard fought 4-0 after Sunday’s drubbing of perennial little brother Buffalo Bills.

In case you think I’m being cruel when I say the Patriots drubbed the Bills, take a look at the quarter by quarter scoring. The Patriots took the early lead on a Stevan Ridley 6-yard rush, but went into halftime down 14-7 after two Ryan Fitzpatrick to Scott Chandler touchdown passes. Buffalo was playing solid football and holding the Patriots off. Things looked good for Buffalo. Until they had to play the rest of the game.

The Patriots won the second half 45-14. Wait… let me count that again, it can’t be right. Tom Brady to Danny Woodhead, Brady rush, Brady to Rob Gronkowski, another Ridley rush, Brandon Bolden rush, Brady to Brad Smith, Brady to Brandon Lloyd touchdowns and a Gostkowski field goal. Yep, 45 second half points. And that second half would have beaten any team in the league in week 4.

More impressive than the score, though, is how obvious it is that the Patriots have sloughed off some bad luck and seem to truly believe that they’re undefeated. You can tell by looking at how they scored their points. New England didn’t panic and rely solely on Brady’s arm, they worked their two young running backs for a total of 40 rushes, 247 yards, and 4 touchdowns.

All those years that we were sure the Patriots would win it all and they never did were seasons of watching Brady become Sisyphus and try to push the Pats up a hill that was just too high and too steep. But that New England offense is different now. The running backs aren’t free agents brought in to give Brady’s arms a rest, they’re youthful strength to help the Patriots push that boulder up the mountain.

If New England can get past their old nemesis Peyton Manning and his Broncos next week, there’s a better than even chance the Pats could reel off 8 straight leading up to an epic fight with the Houston Texans in December. I don’t know if I’m on the record at 8 wins in a row, but it’s bad news for the AFC when New England talks themselves into being an elite team.

Mark Sanchez is Still the Best QB on the New York Jets

I know it’s sad that a QB whose completing 49% of his passes for barely 200 yards per game with 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions is the best quarterback on any roster, but it’s true. Here’s another truth: as bad as Sanchez is – and as much as I’m not a Sanchez guy – this season’s early ineptitude isn’t all his fault.

There’s nothing Rex Ryan wants more than to be thought of as an elite head coach. (Okay. Except feet. I want you to know that I tried to take the high road) It’s bad enough that Ryan talks like he wants to be elite, but he runs his football team like a guy begging to be called a genius. After turning a team with a sub par quarterback from a balanced attack and 11-5 record in 2009 to a pass happy 8-8 in 2011, Ryan ran out and signed the only quarterback in the league worse at being a quarterback than Mark Sanchez to help run the offense.

But not just any offense. Rex Ryan somehow thought that bringing in read option superstar Tim Tebow would work for a team that threw the ball over 55% of the time in 2011 and is on pace to match that in 2012. Rex Ryan has created drama every step of the way in New York, and his continued obsession with trying to gain big chunks of yards with flashy play calling just doesn’t fit his personnel.

Ryan doesn’t care about a game plan that fits his team, though. He’d rather stand at the podium and tell the media that all that Tebow drama doesn’t get passed the locker room doors. That the team is fine with his decision, and that Tebow’s one completion for 9 yards and 9 rushes for 38 yards are fine by him. Of course they’re fine by him, it was his idea. And, ladies and gentlemen of the media, Sexy Rexy can’t be wrong.

Ryan is wrong. He’s wrong because he won’t admit to himself that his franchise quarterback isn’t as good at Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Dilfer, or Jeff Garcia. He’s wrong to think that the team was stable enough to deal with the whirlwind that is Tim Tebow And now that he’s got the team he wants, Ryan is wrong to be leaning on his quarterback duo instead of his young running backs.

Are the New York Jets the worst team in the NFL? No. Is Rex Ryan the worst coach in the NFL? Maybe.

(He’s nowhere near as bad as Pat Shurmur, but being mentioned in the same breath as Pat is the kiss of death)

Romeo Crennel Will Be the First Coach Fired in 2012

The Kansas City Chiefs are 1-3, can’t protect the football and can’t stop anybody. There are a handful of teams with those problems, but they’re more front and center in Kansas City for two very specific reasons; Head Coach Crennel is also the defensive coordinator of the 31st ranked defensive unit, and Crennel plainly declared that 7 interception and 5 touchdown quarterback Matt Cassel would remain the Chiefs go to signal caller.

That combination has to spell disaster for the embattled head coach. A defensive specialist cannot possibly preside over a unit so inept and keep his job. Let me put the Chiefs defense into perspective; I just got done lambasting the Jets, but New York has given up three less touchdowns than Kansas City. The often ridiculed Cleveland Browns are ranked 10 spots higher the Chiefs. In fact, the only team with a worse defense than Kansas City is the 38 points per game Tennessee Titans defensive unit.

If the defense is the first strike, sticking by Cassel is definitely the second.

“Even after he had those turnovers, he came back and drove the team down the field, so we think he’s capable,” Crennel said Monday. “We just have to get him to be more consistent.”

“At some point, you go through and see what’s happening in a game, how guys are reacting, and how he’s responding in a game,” Crennel said. “If you feel he’s inept, constantly making bad decisions, poor choices, that’s when you move on from him and give someone else a chance.” ~ Quotes from ESPN.com

What part of more interceptions than touchdowns and a 70 quarterback rating has Crennel so impressed that he won’t consider backup Brady Quinn? Maybe he’s too busy making sure his defense doesn’t end up worse than the Titans.

With strikes that big, two should be enough to take care of Crennel in Kansas City.

The Indianapolis Colts Had the Most Important Bye Week of the Season

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano used the bye week to get a blood test because he had been experiencing fatigue and bruising since training camp. As you probably know by now, it turns out that Pagano tested positive for acute myeloid leukemia, a treatable form of the deadly cancer.

The point of this isn’t to out report Adam Schefter, or to sound smarter than any of the analysts or doctors that have talked about when Pagano might be back in the press box after his chemotherapy. I don’t know enough about anything to talk about those things.

My point is that sometimes miracles and fate seem a whole lot more likely than coincidence. Who knows what would have happened if the Colts had the last bye week instead of the first, and Pagano stubbornly put off his own health for the good of the team. I sure don’t.

What I do know is that I’ll be rooting for Pagano and the Colts all season, except for week 7 when they matchup against my Browns. I’ll only promise to keep my jokes to myself.