Colts expect Pagano to making all calls in return

Colts interim coach Bruce Arians expects Chuck Pagano to take
full control of the team when he returns – even if that means
making a coaching change in the playoffs.

Pagano has not been on the sideline since being diagnosed with
leukemia Sept. 26, something Indianapolis believes will change
before the season ends.

”If he comes back, he’ll be the head coach,” Arians said when
asked if Pagano would be making all of the game day decisions.

It’s the most definitive answer the Colts (7-4) have given since
Pagano took an indefinite leave from the team to undergo
chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

Initially, team owner Jim Irsay said Indy hoped Pagano could
coach from the press box later this season. But with Pagano’s
prognosis steadily improving, the hopes inside Indy’s team complex
have grown, too.

The goal, Arians has said over the past month, is to get Pagano
back on the sideline for the regular season finale Dec. 30 against
Houston, and if not then, to keep playing until Pagano does
return.

It looks more possible with each new report.

Pagano’s physician, Dr. Larry Cripe, said earlier this month
that the illness was in ”complete remission” just before Pagano
embarked on a second round of treatment. Pagano has made a few
trips to the team complex recently and has attended each of Indy’s
last two home games though he watched from the coaches’ and owners’
boxes. He’s been studying game tape, practice tape and has even
advised players individually.

In Pagano’s absence, though, the Colts have done things few
thought possible.

Quarterback Andrew Luck has continued his pace for a
record-breaking rookie season.

At age 34, receiver Reggie Wayne has continued to post the best
single-season numbers of his career in a record-breaking
season.

Other rookies such as T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen have emerged
as play-makers and a rebuilt defense has improved, too.

The combination has Arians on the cusp of history, too.

Only six coaches in NFL history have taken over a team at
midseason and won more games than Arians, who is 6-2. If the Colts
win Sunday at Detroit, Arians would join the Raiders’ Art Shell
(1989), Cincinnati’s Bruce Coslet (1996) and Mike Holovak of the
Boston Patriots (1961) as the only members of the seven-win club.
San Diego’s Don Coryell won eight games in 1978, while Wally Lemm
won nine games with the Houston Oilers in 1961. Hamp Pool set the
NFL record with a nine-win season with the 1952 Los Angeles
Rams.

Just seven AFC teams have winning records, and the Colts are
sitting in the No. 5 playoff slot, one game ahead of Cincinnati and
Pittsburgh.

Arians, who was forced out by the Steelers after last season
despite winning two Super Bowl rings in Pittsburgh, is savoring
every moment.

”I’m thankful for the Pittsburgh Steelers letting me go to be
here,” he said last week, drawing laughter. ”Truthfully, I
couldn’t think of a better place to be at this point in time and to
have felt more needed probably in my entire life. So thank you
Pittsburgh.”

But Arians, himself a cancer survivor, is eager to get Pagano
back on the field soon, too.

The two talk and share text messages nearly every day and
whenever Pagano is healthy enough to take control, Arians will
gladly slide back into his role as offensive coordinator.

”It’s his team,” Arians said.

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