According to Ian Rapaport of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins will consider pursuing Chuck Pagano if his contract is not renewed as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Pagano, who is 39-22 as the head coach of the Colts, hasn't had the best season with quarterback Andrew Luck injured and a general manager who he doesn't mesh well with. Of note, the Colts went 11-5 in 2012, but interim head coach Bruce Arians coached the vast majority of that season with Pagano sidelined due to a courageous fight with cancer.
Prior to coaching the Colts, Pagano served as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens for one season. While there, the defense finished third in both points allowed and yards allowed. They finished 13 in takeaways and second in rushing yards allowed. His biggest accomplishment was improving the pass defense from 21st in passing yards all the way down to fourth in the league. He is best known for his work in the secondary.
Pagano is certainly an interesting candidate for the Dolphins to consider. He took over a Colts team coming off a 2-14 season and his team has been to the playoffs three out of four years. When he first came to Indianapolis for his first offseason team meeting, he knew the message couldn't be about success because according to the Indy Star, it was too far away for them to grasp. So, he sold himself instead.
"There were about 25 players in there," Pagano told the Indy Star. "There were a lot of great players, great Colts players, including (Peyton Manning) that were no longer there in the very first team meeting I ever had. We had people from all over the place that were new in that room. (But) we had a philosophy, we sat down early on before any player ever got back in the building and talked about our vision, talked about our culture."
Sounds a little like what the Dolphins need, right? A team in disarray with a roster void of a talent. Pagano would be walking into a very similar situation in Miami that he had in Indianapolis. So, let's take a look at what he brings to the table as a person and as a head coach.
For one, he is well-respected by the players in the Colts' locker room, even if the media sometimes doesn't portray it that way. Take, for example, Vontae Davis, a former member of the Dolphins who hasn't been shy about voicing his displeasure about his former coaches in Miami.
"We love playing for him," cornerback Vontae Davis told the Indy Star earlier this year. "He's why we're here. I've been in locker rooms where guys don't get along with their head coach. But Coach P is such a down to earth guy, he's an integrity guy. We really love playing for him."
Darius Butler has been a long supporter of Pagano. They've had heart-to-heart conversations about cancer, as his younger brother has also battled cancer. Butler recalled to the Indy Star when Pagano first took over and the Colts had to hold onto something to have hope.
"If you've been around the game long enough, you know it's not always the most talented teams that win it all," Butler said. "It's such a team sport that you have to buy into something. You have to be all in for it to work. If you go out there with your own agenda, it's not really going to work. You have to have each other's backs out there. We do."
Besides relating to players, Pagano is one that really takes a personal investment in those around him. Montori Hughes tragically and unexpectedly lost his 8-month-old daughter in August 2014. Pagano did everything he could to make sure that Hughes and his girlfriend had everything they needed.
"When you come in this building, he preaches family," Hughes said. "And, man, I believe that to the fullest. If you need somebody to talk to, he's always there. He has been for me. Every single day, he asks me how things are going. He might shoot me a text in the middle of the night to see how I'm doing and how my girlfriend is doing. I really respect that, because he has a lot going on himself. Nobody really has to show they care. But I respect him as a man and as a coach."
Yes, these are great stories and there are plenty of football coaches who are great men but just couldn't get it done on the football field. Just look at guys like Dave Wannstedt, Tony Sparano and even Joe Philbin. All of them were fantastic people but when it came time to winning on a consistent basis, they just couldn't get it done. Is Pagano the same way or is he able to get into the small details of the game? According to Davis, Pagano is the reason why his career has gone from an average first-round pick to an All-Pro cornerback.
"I credit him for helping me do all the little things. He has really, really helped my career. It's bigger than talent. Talent won't get you through. That's what I tell a lot of young guys. It's those little things that help you in football and in life."
On the flip side though, his critics have called his team this season undisciplined while making plenty of mistakes. Some have said that his teams don't look prepared and aren't ready to play football. Luck has regressed this season, although some blame that on the injuries he has been dealing with throughout the year. The offense, which brought in big names such as Andre Johnson and Frank Gore, has been uninspiring to say the least, even with a coordinator change mid-season. This too, seems like a familiar story as the Dolphins can pretty much be described in the same exact manner.
I can lay out stats and such but that doesn't tell the full story of why a coach is and isn't successful. Believe it or not, a lot of what goes on behind the scenes carries over onto the football field and it does have an impact on the product that you see on the field. When looking at someone who is a head coach, there are so many variables that you can't just pinpoint a stat here and there and say he isn't good. Just look at New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. His defenses over the past few years have been some of the worst int he league but many fans are clamoring for him because he is an offensive genius. So, it's more than that.
We have all seen what is going on with the Colts this season. The best way to filter through that noise is to hear directly from his players and those around him and that's what you have seen in this column. There is much more noise to filter through though and the Dolphins will be able to do that by speaking to him directly. In the end, they will need to ask themselves - who really is Chuck Pagano?
Is he the inspiring coach who has gotten all that he can out of the players he has coached or is he someone the rest of the NFL has figured out? Perhaps Pagano has lost interest in his job, as he is in the final year of his contract and knows he is likely out the door. We don't know if he was on board with bringing in all these players this past offseason. That too, could be having an impact on the way this team is playing in terms of chemistry and such.
The answer likely lies in the middle. It seems that Pagano needs a fresh start somewhere, although rumors have it that he may want more personnel control in his next stop. If the Colts don't renew his contract, which seems likely at this point, the Dolphins should interview him. There is nothing to lose with an interview and perhaps they will get information that leads them to believe this season hasn't been all on Pagano in Indianapolis.
This column was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter! Follow @FinsInsider