We knew next to nothing about our first-year head coach, but that didn’t matter.
We knew he had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia between Games 3 and 4 of the 2012 season and, frankly, that’s all we needed to know.
Indiana did what Indiana does, as seemingly everyone affiliated with the Indianapolis Colts — players, fans, employees and particularly owner Jim Irsay — rallied around this Chuck Pagano guy in ways that boggled the mind.
People who had never so much as met the man shaved their heads in Pagano’s honor at a time the coach’s own hair was falling out due to grueling chemotherapy sessions.
We were united, and it had a name, Chuckstrong.
Please, everyone with a trustworthy GPS system punch in Chuckstrong. because that bad boy is nowhere to be found.
Here we are, not quite 31 months after our state made a fist and fearlessly dared any of the 49 others to so much as blink in our direction, and Pagano has been labeled a lame-duck coach.
Chuckstrong undeserving of a contract extension?
It can’t be given everything he’s been through. And everything we as a football community have been through with him.
Now would seem a most appropriate time to throw Irsay under whichever bus is moving fastest considering Pagano is coming off a season in which the Colts made it to the AFC Championship Game.
True, they were completely exposed at New England, 45-7, deflated pigskins or otherwise. Worse, the team two weeks later was forced to endure the ultimate humiliation when the despised Patriots backed into another Super Bowl title.
But the NFL is a business. A business 99.9 percent of us (or more) know virtually nothing about when it comes to negotiating the contracts of players, administrators and, yes, head coaches.
It stands to reason Pagano, with three consecutive playoff berths and a 33-15 record in Indianapolis (a still-respectable 24-12 when you remove one-time interim Colts coach Bruce Arians from the equation), would be safe.
Maybe he is and we just don’t know it. Those doors at the Colts Complex are pretty thick, you know.
Or maybe Pagano really is at risk of the 2015 season being his final one with Irsay signing the checks.
If so, that’s a shame.
Colts players to a man seem to adore Pagano. They respect the grace and resolve he demonstrated while staring down a deadly disease, the fact he genuinely cares for them as men and, yes, wins.
So he’s not Bill Belichick.
Last I checked, that’s not entirely a bad thing.
So he’s not Jim Harbaugh (see above).
This isn’t Rod Dowhower and his dazzling .172 win percentage in 1985 and ’86, or pillars of coaching mediocrity such as Frank Kush, Ron Meyer or Lindy Infante we’re rolling the dice with.
Pagano is a good coach who guided a product with literally no running game, an aging and ineffective Reggie Wayne, an injured Robert Mathis and serious question marks on both the offensive and defensive lines one step from representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Pay the man, Mr. Irsay, before some other NFL city becomes Chuckstrong.