Eyebrows raised in February when Pagano reportedly turned down a contract extension, but Colts owner Jim Irsay provided clarity on the situation Friday in saying his head coach doesn’t have to win the Super Bowl to keep his job.
“These things are ongoing a lot of times behind the scenes,” Irsay said to The Indianapolis Star during a ChuckStrong fundraiser at the team complex. “We're working on contracts, whether it’s management, coaches, players. We had discussions and it doesn't mean that they won't continue. It's not a Super Bowl-or-bust season or anything like that.”
The Colts have won 11 regular-season games in each of Pagano’s three seasons, although he missed 12 games in 2012 in his fight to overcome leukemia. His team is 3-3 in the playoffs, reaching the AFC Championship Game last January.
“We were proud of our (2014) season and I really feel positive about Chuck and what he's done for us,” Irsay said. “There's no question that he's accomplished a lot since he's been here. And we're here tonight for this gala because he had that illness (leukemia) in 2012. Really, it's only been two years, kind of, that he's been coaching. So, he's done a very good job and nothing rules out that we couldn't have an extension done before the season. And if not, we can still, I'm sure, work things out.”
Irsay’s comments were the first he’s made on Pagano’s status since the he said during February’s winter meetings in Phoenix that he planned to coach the Colts beyond next season.
“Be where your feet are,” Pagano wrote in a statement. “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.”
Irsay said the two sides discussed a new contract but were unable to come to an agreement — at least for now.
“There were some efforts to talk about it. We just didn't get there,” Irsay said. “Sometimes that happens. If you go back to the old days, there were no agents involved, either. Now general managers and coaches sometimes have agents. In fact, oftentimes … We're real positive about Chuck Pagano and the things that he's done. It's not a sign of anything extremely negative. We just haven't gotten anything done in terms of a long-term contract.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.