Ex-Colts coach Chuck Pagano: Andrew Luck 'got me more years than I probably deserved'

As the football world continues to wait for Andrew Luck to throw a football again, former Colts coach Chuck Pagano provided a reminder of just how damn good of a quarterback Luck is when healthy. On Monday, Pagano went on FS1's "First Things First" where he first expressed optimism about Luck's recovery from his unending shoulder injury. And then he admitted that Luck's ability to carry the Colts likely extended his job with the team.

"Everyone saw the picture of him in a tank top on a bicycle from the Indy 500," Pagano said of Luck. "He's strapped. He's ripped. My wife, my three daughters, my granddaughter, they all thought he looked great. He's in a great place mentally. He's in a great place physically. I expect Andrew to be the old Andrew, and come back and play great football this season and beyond. Obviously he's got a lot of work to do. He's got to get back on the grass. He's got to start throwing the football. All those things. That's going to happen."

"He's in a great place. I love Andrew Luck. He got me more years than I probably deserved. He's a phenom."

The picture in question:

Pagano's not wrong. It is known. Then again, in fairness to Pagano, the successes and failures of most coaches are tied to their quarterbacks. Pagano's not the only coach to benefit from strong quarterback play. 

From 2012-17, Pagano led the Colts to a 53-32 record. However, most of the credit for the Colts' 11-5 season in 2012 should be directed to Bruce Arians, who took over as interim coach when Pagano was forced to depart for cancer treatment. So, from 2013-17, Pagano led the Colts to a 42-38 record. It began with promise, with two straight 11-win seasons (after the 11-5 season that was split between Pagano and Arians). But Pagano went 20-28 from 2015-17, missing the playoffs in all three seasons. 

In 2016, playing through the nagging shoulder injury that has now sidelined him for the past 18 months, Luck completed a career-high 63.5 percent of his passes for 4,240 yards, 31 touchdowns, 13 picks, and a 96.4 passer rating in a 15-game season. Mainly due to Luck's greatness, the Colts went 8-8 even though their defense finished the year ranked 29th in DVOA and the offensive line ranked 28th in pass protection by Football Outsiders' metrics.

Luck underwent shoulder surgery following the 2016 season and despite assurances made by Colts owner Jim Irsay, he never made his way back onto the field. Without Luck to save them, the Colts bumbled their way to a 4-12 record in 2017, which got Pagano fired after the season. He's since been replaced by Frank Reich, who got the job only after Josh McDaniels screwed the Colts over at the last minute.

In the end, the Colts' future success will be less about the coach and more about Luck's health. Luck hasn't played in a game since Jan. 1, 2017. He is still not throwing footballs. Still, the Colts have remained optimistic. For the rest of us, we'll need to see Luck throw footballs and absorb hits before we're ready to celebrate his return.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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