First and foremost, Pagano’s success has been nearly unparalleled for a new head coach in the NFL.
If you remember correctly, the former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns assistant actually missed a vast majority of his first season with the Colts back in 2012 while undergoing cancer treatment. Now back at full health, Pagano has won 11 games two consecutive seasons and is coming off a 2014 campaign that saw him lead Indianapolis to the AFC Championship game.
This obviously isn’t enough for Colts owner Jim Irsay to commit to Pagano long-term. Instead, the embattled franchise head wants to see how the 2015 season plays out before making a long-term financial commitment.
Does this sound familiar?
In Jim Harbaugh’s first three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, he led that team to the verge of a Super Bowl title once and nearly won the NFC Championship a total of three times.
Despite that success, the powers to be in Santa Clara found themselves not overly impressed by Harbaugh’s past success. Instead, they wanted to see him lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl title before actually paying the current Michigan head coach Super Bowl-winning money.
We saw how that worked out.
The dynamics change completely when a head coach isn’t seeing full commitment from the front office. He tends to press, which leads to potentially tight play on the football field. We saw that firsthand in San Francisco last season with the 49ers finishing at just 8-8 amid rumors that the team would be parting ways with Harbaugh.
While we have no idea how this situation is going to play out for Pagano and the Colts, it’s a less-than-ideal scenario for both sides.
It’s obvious that Irsay and company are going all in this year. They signed two older veterans—Frank Gore and Andre Johnson—to short-term deals. They also added key components around those two skill position dynamos.
Does this mean that Pagano’s job will be in jeopardy should Indianapolis fail to make a Super Bowl run in 2015?
That’s almost literally the million-dollar question here.
Pagano has one year left on his deal and is earning $4.5 million per season—a number that ranks him in the bottom half among NFL head coaches.