Colts finally fire Chuck Pagano after six seasons, but they give him a game ball first

The Indianapolis Colts have finally decided to move on from Chuck Pagano, firing the embattled head coach after six seasons and a disastrous 2017 season that saw the Colts secure the No. 3 overall pick. 

The Colts announced the news shortly after Indianapolis managed to beat the Texans.

"Chuck Pagano provided Colts fans with many exciting wins and memories as head coach of the Colts," Colts owner Jim Irsay said in a statement. "Throughout his tenure in Indianapolis, he impacted the lives of the players he coached, those who he worked with in the organization and Colts fans across the globe. Chuck's first season was one of the more inspirational stories in NFL history as he courageously battled and overcame leukemia. As a result, his CHUCKSTRONG Foundation has raised millions for cancer research. We are thankful for Chuck's contributions to our franchise and community and we wish him, Tina and the entire Pagano family nothing but the best moving forward."

It's notable that Pagano's work within the community was mentioned by Irsay here, and that they talked about his battle with leukemia, because it fully describes Pagano's up-and-down tenure in Indianapolis. 

When Pagano took over in 2012, the Colts were coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history and secured the No. 1 overall pick, with which they took Andrew Luck. Pagano and new GM Ryan Grigson won 11 games in each of their first three years, capturing division titles and making playoff runs. 

In that first year, Pagano battled through illness and missed substantial time, with Bruce Arians taking over as interim coach and likely springboarding his own career in Arizona with the impressive performance from Indianapolis.

There were consistent power struggles with Pagano and Grigson over the next few years, however, and when Luck began to consistently battle injuries and the Colts were forced to play backups, the results on the field were not as good.

Irsay ultimately decided to bring back Pagano in 2017, even though there was a new GM (Chris Ballard) in town and even though there might not have been a chance of Luck playing at all during the season. He never would, and the Colts would win just four games in Pagano's final year. The actual firing was not surprising, but at least he got a game ball?

It's like a gold watch, but much worse.

Pagano would actually finish his career as the Colts' fifth-winningest coach, although for all of those wins there are some truly terrible moments. Nothing stands out more than running the worst fake punt of all time.

The Colts gig is an attractive one, because there is some prestige attached to it. But there are also major questions: what kind of coach will Ballard look for? Can you work under Irsay, who certainly has been a little different in his ownership at times? And most importantly, what's the status of Luck long term? 

Indy acquired Jacoby Brissett in an offseason trade that gives them some security in a backup plan, but they need Luck healthy to be great again. It's certainly one of the most attractive jobs on the market if he's good to go, but if he's still hurt, the Colts will have difficulty drawing the best possible candidates. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories