Amid speculation about his future, Pagano released a statement Friday night in which he specifies his intention to coach the Colts “for many years to come.”
The full statement, as reported by numerous media outlets including The Indianapolis Star:
“Be where your feet are," Pagano wrote. "What do I mean? Cancer taught me to be thankful for today. All I'm concentrating on is today. Then tomorrow. My focus right now is on the draft, bringing in players that can help us continue to grow, get better, and continue to 'Build the Monster.' I look forward to coaching the Colts this season and for many years to come.”
Pagano, 54, overcame leukemia in his first season with the Colts in 2012. He has a 36-18 record including 3-3 in the playoffs and has led the team to three consecutive playoff berths as well as back-to-back AFC South Division titles.
NFL.com reported Thursday the Colts would not extend Pagano’s contract before the upcoming season, but Dianna Marie Russini of NBC4 in Washington, D.C., cited unnamed sources in tweeting the Colts offered Pagano a one-year extension with a “very moderate” pay increase and he turned it down.
Colts owner Jim Irsay said he thought his team was “close” after a 45-7 AFC Championship Game loss at New England in January. He has spoken out the team’s need to improve defensively, specifically against the run — the Patriots ran through the Colts in each of the last two playoff meetings in Foxborough, Mass.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Irsay is thinking about parting with Pagano. If the one-year extension offer is true, that suggests the owner would like to keep his coach.
But if true, that also means Pagano is banking on the 2015 Colts as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The Colts reached the playoffs his first season and were one-and-done, then advanced to the AFC Divisional round the next year and took another step in reaching the AFC title game last January.
If the Colts continue to climb, with or without a Super Bowl victory, just getting there should translate to a new multi-year contract. The Colts have made splashes in free agency by adding wide receiver Andre Johnson, running back Frank Gore and outside linebacker Trent Cole, among others.
But it’s also possible that if the Colts fail to live up to expectations, Pagano’s reported gamble could end up backfiring.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.