Colts coach tries humor to lighten mood during dismal season
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Coach Chuck Pagano turned the jokes on himself Monday.
Hey, nothing else has mollified the mounting frustration around the Indianapolis Colts complex.
So one day after the Colts blew their sixth halftime lead of the season, Pagano walked into his scheduled news conference, put on his reading glasses, stood behind the lectern and went into full tongue-in-check improv mode.
“It’s everybody,” Pagano said when asked about the weekly second-half collapses before he started gesturing in the air like a weather forecaster.
“It’s you guys, it’s the fans. It’s everybody driving up there. It’s everybody in the NFL community. There’s a storm in the Atlantic, hurricane whatever you want to call it, when’s it going to hit landfall. It’s coming, it’s the third quarter, middle of the third, it’s got to happen sometime. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy right now.”
Pagano was just winding up.
Before finishing that answer, he explained how nor’easters help keep storms out at sea and explained that’s what the Colts (3-8) need for their final five games.
His warmup to the weather analogy was just as entertaining.
Pagano compared this season to “Groundhog Day,” the 1990s film about a man who had to endure the same day over and over. In fact, when Pagano started describing Monday’s routine, he put himself in the film’s lead role.
“That song played, woke up to it this morning,” Pagano said, recalling one of the movie’s trademark scenes. “The Sonny and Cher song, yeah, ‘I Got You Babe. I Got You Babe.’”
It was a rare chance for him to shed his coaching armor, blow off some steam and show his lighthearted side.
The stand-up act wasn’t intended to poke fun at the Colts’ plight.
The truth is nobody inside the organization has taken these losses harder than Pagano, who acknowledged he was genuinely “sick” that his players were enduring this kind of season .
Indy has lost three straight home games for the first time since 2011 and five of six overall. It has let four double-digit leads slip away in the second half, most recently in Sunday’s loss to Tennessee. And the players have heard the increasing anguish in Pagano’s voice with each successive loss.
Team owner Jim Irsay started the season with playoff aspirations.
Instead, Andrew Luck hasn’t played a down as he continues recovering from January surgery on his throwing shoulder. One more loss will assure Indianapolis of its first losing season since 2011, its second since 2001 and its first in six seasons under Pagano, and it could come Sunday at Jacksonville (7-4).
So why not try a little comedy?
“We’re getting in these tight situations and we’re finding unique ways to screw it up over and over and over again,” Pagano said.
It’s not the first time Indy fans have watched their head coach turn in such a performance.
Jim Mora delivered his infamous “playoffs” rant on Nov. 25, 2001. Six weeks later, he was fired.
Whether Pagano will endure the same fate after surviving each of the past two years may not be determined until January.
For one day, in this bleak season, Pagano enjoyed having all the good lines to the myriad questions.
When asked about facing Tennessee defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, Pagano quipped: “He’s coached longer than I’ve been alive.”
When asked about dealing with the league-high 47 sacks allowed by Indy’s offensive line, Pagano started rummaging through his notes before uttering: “First-and-eight, second-and-17. I’ve got no plays. Chud (Rob Chudzinski) has got no plays on there if you’re looking for the second-and-17 call. There’s not a second-and-17 call on there. It’s a get back on track down.”
And when asked how much time cornerback Rashaan Melvin could miss with his injured right hand, Pagano even questioned himself: “This ain’t even Wednesday and I’m offering up that he’s out. I’m out of my damn mind.”
But Pagano has been around long enough to know there’s only one thing that will bring some levity to the locker room.
“When that stuff happens we need a storm to blow in and push it out to sea,” Pagano said. “And it’s going to happen.”
NOTES: Pagano was serious about Melvin being likely to miss Sunday’s game, though he did not provide details about the injury. ... Safety Darius Butler said Melvin also asked him Monday about what it was like playing with a “club” cast on his hand. Butler did that part of last season. ... Starting center Ryan Kelly remains in the concussion protocol.