Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano announced a new four-year contract extension for Pagano late Monday night at the team complex. (What follows is a complete transcript.)
Irsay opening statement
“Good evening. Thank you for coming out on this cold night. I’m happy to announce moving forward with Chuck as our coach. Again, it was something that I was hopeful would be the case. We gave it careful consideration. Really it was something that, again, my focus and our focus always was always on winning and going forward and the best we can win.
“Yes, continuity plays a role. It’s important. You like to have continuity when you can have it. It was careful consideration. It wasn’t fan pressure, player pressure, anything along those lines. It was something where, look Chuck’s won 44 games in the last 4 years. That’s not easy to do.
“When we started in 2012 coming off of 2011, the cupboard was really empty. We really were all-in in 2011 with a lot of veteran players and going into 2012, it was a tremendous job by Chuck and Ryan and of course Bruce Arians helping out as well to get us rolling.
“Again, when I look at the old regime, the old era, you look at those first four years and you have two out of four that were a losing season. You have no playoff wins. That’s with a Hall of Fame quarterback and a Hall of Fame general manager. These guys have surpassed that in their first 4 years. We hadn’t won a playoff game in the first four years of our old era.
“We’re always competing against ourselves, we know that. We know we had great early success; that’s something we’re competing against.
“I’m really thrilled. Chuck’s earned the opportunity. It worked out very well. It’s something where when we met today and had a lot of long meetings, as we do at the end of every year to go over 2016 and talk about moving forward, Ryan and I met, Chuck and I met, then Ryan and Chuck had a long meeting. When we came out moving forward Chuck and I had agreed on the extension, it’s four years, that he said to me, ‘Jim, I want to make sure I’m tied at the hip to Ryan and I want to make sure when we get to the mountaintop that Ryan and I are there together because we’ve been through a lot together and we have a special relationship, a close relationship. We’ve accomplished a lot. We’ve overcome a lot.’
“This year was tough obviously, 8-8 and falling short of the playoffs is difficult. But at the same time to be right in there with the injuries we had at quarterback, I’m proud of the organization, proud of the way we fought back.
“I’m convinced we have the right stuff on my right (Grigson) and my left (Pagano) going forward to win a world championship. There’s no doubt in my mind.
“It’s important to be thoughtful and lean on continuity when you can. Again, Chuck has earned the opportunity going forward. Ryan also is contractually tied to Chuck going forward. We’re set. We’re looking forward to going forward in the future. I couldn’t be more excited.
“It was always my hope this would be the direction that we would head. But I had to be sure. It was a long day of conversations and I came out of it really excited and energized.”
Grigson opening statement
“I want to thank (Irsay) and his family for this great opportunity to continue what Chuck and I set out to do from day one. It’s not very common to have a steward of a franchise like Mr. Irsay with the football knowledge, the war stories, all the people that he’s come across, all the greatness that he’s been exposed in this league has helped mold and steer Chuck and I through this journey.
“Like he said, it was a trying year for us. 8-8, that’s not good enough for Chuck nor I and Mr. Irsay. But we’ve done a lot of great things and Chuck Pagano is a great man. I don’t have to sit here and tell you guys that.
“We’ve been through the ringer together, but we’re still focused on one goal. We’re in the arena together, we’re in the fire together, but we’re united and we’re set out to do a job, and that job is to still have our eyes set on championships. And together we’re going to set out to do that and we’re going to do that.”
Pagano opening statement
“Great to see everybody. Good night. Not good night. It will be good night soon. No injuries to report. I’ll go over the guys tomorrow. (Laughter.)
“It was a great day. I’ve had a lot of great days in my life. But none better than today. This is absolutely the best day of my life. I’m grateful and I’m thankful to Mr. Irsay and his family for the opportunity he’s given me. Jim had my back back in 2012. He stood behind me. He believed in me. He never gave up on me. He got me and my family through a trying time. For that I could never repay that debt.
“Now given this opportunity to move forward, Tina and I, we love this city, this community, this organization, this football team. I can’t tell you, words can’t describe how I feel right now. I just … it’s a great, great day. And I owe it all to Jim for believing in me and believing in Ryan and our vision. Together, from day one our mission has been the same. Four years ago, we started coming to this building with the same vision, the same mindset, and we’ll continue to do that day and day out. That mission and that goal has never changed.
“We stuck to the process like many of you better in the future. (Laughs.)
“It’s a great, great day. Like I told the players today, we didn’t reach out ultimate goal this year. We have one goal and one goal only and you guys know what that is. Ryan and I are blessed to have an opportunity to continue this journey alongside Mr. Irsay and forge forward. We didn’t achieve our ultimate goal but there’s a lot to be proud of. I talked about it after the football game. To go through the adversity and the obstacles, again I can’t tell you how proud I am of every man in this organization for sticking to it and fighting and never giving up. There’s a lot of teams that tried to win with backup quarterbacks and when we lost Andrew (Luck), we had Matt (Hasselbeck) step in.
“We had to make history with the Thrasher (Josh Freeman) and Ryan Lindley and the coaches put together a game plan with that last game and it ended on a great note. On a positive note, finished .500 and no better way to start 2016 than like that. I love this city, I love this community, I love this team and and I love my job and this organization and the players and we’re going to work. Long road ahead, a lot to do, lot of stones to turn and we’re going to roll up our shirt sleeves once again and continue to chase that ultimate goal and that mountain top.”
Question to Pagano on relationship with Grigson.
Pagano: “Always has been (water under the bridge). We agree to disagree, but at the end of the day you leave every meeting with a handshake and a hug and you say, ‘OK, look it’s about one thing and one thing only, it’s about the team. It’s about making decisions for the Horseshoe.’ It’s not about me, it’s not about Ryan, it’s not about any one person. We’re both here an we’re both honored and privileged to serve Mr. Irsay and his family for another four years. We do everything with the shoe in mind and what gives us the best chance to win.”
Question to Irsay about when he woke up this morning, was situation a blank canvas?
Irsay: “I know you guys have to do your job and you’ll paint some perceptions and people are always trying to get the story out first on what’s going to happen with each team. We certainly love and appreciate all the interest in our game that we have and at the same time reality is that it was careful consideration to what we accomplished, on where I feel we can go. I think we talked about It, we know what happened with the slow start. We know why we got out 0-2 and got out slow. We know about the injuries that came. We know about some of the changes we made that were positive. We’ll never know what could have been after Denver, but we sure want to find out about the future because I think great things are in store. It’s an organic process, it’s a thoughtful process. It’s a spiritual process. You look direction. You take it very seriously, the love and interest we have in our game. I’ve said it before, I’m a steward and I know my responsibility is to bring great things to the horseshoe, to bring them the right way, to make our city and state proud of the Colts.
“Waking up this morning, I’m always hopeful for continuity. I could have walked someone in that door tonight or tomorrow night and have them walking in with eight figures a year on themselves on whatever and making a big splash. If that was the best for us, believe me, I would do it. This guy is a great coach, you don’t have to go too far to ask a lot of people about what he’s done. Bill Polian has gone into the Hall of Fame, Ryan has outdone him. It gets lost in the translation, I know everyone expects more. They want to win it all and we wanted to win it all this year as well. I give a lot of credit to Chuck and his staff for fighting hard and Ryan. Both of those guys were fighting hard to get us to 8-8 and give us that chance at the end. Maybe we could slip in. And Andrew was going to pass that kidney test maybe this Friday or certainly the next one. He would have been back for the divisional round I’m pretty sure and maybe the wildcard round. We would have loved to have that chance. Six points with Houston, that’s tough. We still split with them. We did a lot of great things. The Denver game and coming back off Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and steadying the ship.
“When the day started, my hope was the right direction for us would be continuity and keeping this thing together. Im really thankful. I’ve invested a lot in these guys. I told him in the championship game in Foxborough, ‘Look around. Take it in. Learn from this. This is going to make us better.’ These guys started out never having been a head coach and general manager before and they’ve accomplished a lot more than most would have accomplished in their first four years. We want more. But Andrew is going to be healthy, we’re excited, we’re probably going to have to get a little bit younger going forward and that sort of thing. We’re excited about the future. This is best for our franchise and I’m excited about being able to get it done and be here tonight.”
Question to Irsay about Grigson’s contract.
Irsay: “Him and Chuck, they’re going forward together. Chuck made a point of that. Unsolicited, alone in my office. I had no problem with that. We’re not announcing anything or anything like that, along Ryan’s line. Yes, contractually, Ryan is going forward with Chuck. This is our guys. These guys are ready. There’s been a lot reported, a lot written. I know what the reality is and this is definitely what’s best for the Indianapolis Colts going forward. I’m sure of that.”
Question to Irsay regarding what he spoke to Grigson and Pagano about.
Irsay: “At the end of every year, we talk, and we talk about our vision going forward. This year carried a little bit more weight because Chuck’s contract was ending in early February. We had in depth discussions about the future. I talked to Ryan and Chuck together and separate. We had a full discussion about the vision and going forward. These guys had a great discussion. I think going forward there’s a lot more work to do. I’m sure they’ll have more to say as these weeks pass and we get into the offseason and sort of thing. It was getting together and getting in there and getting honest, getting everything right and getting a clear vision going forward.”
Grigson on Pagano: “We have a lot of meetings together. We’re in the arena together every day. He’s in a different part of the arena than I am. But at the end of the day, whether we have difficult decisions to make or he has a differing opinion than I do, I think we both know what we are made of at our core. We worked to resolve anything to make the best decision for the franchise. We’re both human beings and this is a tough business. You’re going to have tough decisions. There’s going to be times when we both are passionate because we are trying to win a championship. To win as many games as our head coach has, something that Chuck brings to the table every day, even with the season that we had this year, is just hope. And that’s just the man he is. It’s his experiences and hope, even though all the different quarterbacks, we never feel like we’re dead. We always feel like we have life. That’s something that you can’t replicate. That’s a gift. Chuck’s a guy who can get us to the mountaintop. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Question to Grigson about what he’s learned.
Grigson: “It’s my fourth season as a general manager. I think each year has been special in its own way. 2012, that was incredible. But you learn the most about yourself and about people around you through adversity. Coach says character is revealed through adversity. We’re human. We make mistakes. But we’re constantly striving to win. That’s at the root of what he and I do every day.
“Coach said something after the game the other day. People scratch their head about 8-8 being a special year. We’re trying to achieve something great. And sometimes you have to go through rough times to be able to build and have something special staring you in the face at the end. So what we went through this year, that adversity, I believe from Andrew Luck to myself to coach Pagano, that adversity is what’s going to springboard us to greatness. Because that’s life. He’s a fighter. I’m a fighter. Jim’s a fighter. All three of us are going to fight together until we get the crown.”
Question to Pagano about the fan support for him.
Pagano: “They’re the best fans in the entire National Football League. I’m blessed. Back in 2012, I wasn’t on the job but a few months, six months, before my circumstances. And the way this community embraced me during that time, they didn’t know me from anyone. It was Hoosier hospitality at its finest. Until you live it, the way we all lived it, I’m forever grateful. I found out early on in my tenure here just how the people of this state and this community, just how good they are and how big of hearts they have. It just speaks volumes. Again, I’m blessed and this is a great, great day. Moving forward we’re extremely excited.”
Irsay adds final comment.
Irsay: “If you think I’m going to let someone bully my head coach, you’re wrong. You don’t know me. Ryan’s not that type of guy. If you think I’m going to have that in my organization, you’re wrong. You don’t know me. That’s not going to happen. We’re going to stay and be together.
“And the other thing I’ll just add in closing. If my coach wants to celebrate a victory, we’re going to celebrate a victory. Sorry. But it’s tough to win in this league. Put on a head-coaching hat sometime and give it a try. So we’re going to celebrate a victory when my head coach wants to celebrate a victory. I just want to end on that. Trust me on that one. That’s the truth.
“So, we’re united. We have a lot of fire. We’re excited about the season. It just happens to be a great feel-good story. We just didn’t write it that way. We want this guy around because he’s a hell of a football coach. Trust me on that. We’re lucky to have him.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+