The Tuesday decision to fire offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and replace him with Rob Chudzinski gives Pagano the guy he wanted when Bruce Arians took the Arizona head coaching job in 2013. Instead of “Chud,” the Colts hired Pep, who general manager Ryan Grigson wanted, according to multiple reports.
Pagano and Chudzinski were University of Miami assistants from 1995 to 2000, then reunited in 2004 with the Cleveland Browns. When Pagano didn't get his way on the offensive coordinator job, he hired Chudzinski as his special assistant before the 2014 season and promoted him to associate head coach last offseason.
Question is, will Hamilton be the first of many to take the blame for a Colts season that has turned into a disaster? And can Chudzinski, who has a successful track record as an NFL playcaller but lasted only one season as Browns head coach in 2013, turn this offense around in the second half of a 3-5 season?
Is this indeed Pagano’s last stand, his way of convincing owner Jim Irsay that if the head coach’s future is riding on how 2015 plays out, he wants to coach with his guys and go out on his own terms?
Speculation about Pagano began in last offseason, when he turned down an extension offer. He decided to put everything on the line with this Colts team, which he said was his best in four years.
But the Colts have sputtered in all phases with 19 turnovers, 58 penalties, a leaky offensive line that has struggled to pick up blitzes and is among the league leaders in holding calls as well as special teams breakdowns.
Instead of being a legit Super Bowl contender, the Colts might not even make the playoffs. They’re on a three-game losing streak entering Sunday’s home game against Denver (7-0).
Ultimately, the numbers didn’t make sense for what was supposed to be one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses. Luck led the NFL in touchdown passes last season, but now he leads the league with 12 interceptions in just six starts.
The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback was supposed to have his best supporting cast with the additions of running back Frank Gore and wide receiver Andre Johnson, but the Colts are just 21th in points scored, 16th in total yards, 14th in passing yards and 24th in rushing yards.
“Through the first eight weeks of the season, we have felt our offense hasn’t performed at the consistent level that we need,” Pagano said in a team statement. “Because of this, we’ve decided to go in a different direction and relieve Pep Hamilton of his duties as offensive coordinator.
“As head coach of this team, it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m doing everything we can to put us in the best position to succeed. We thank Pep for his service to the team and wish him all the best.”
Hamilton joined the Colts in 2013 from Stanford, where he coached Luck in 2011. He has 18 years of coaching experience in the NFL and college.
But this season has gone from bad to worse with Luck inactive two games due to injury and the Colts struggling to move the ball, often times not getting untracked until it’s too late. The Colts trailed 23-6 early in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s 29-26 overtime loss at Carolina.
Hamilton was a proponent of installing a power rushing attack, but the reality is the Colts never had a single 100-yard rusher in a game during his tenure. The Colts haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in 48 games.
If this change of offensive coordinators doesn’t fix the problem, expect more changes. Owner Jim Irsay had high hopes for this season, which means Pagano and Grigson might not be far behind.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.