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Tag:Chuck Pagano
Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:37 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 11:19 pm
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

Can the Colts draw inspriation from what other team's have done with young QBs? (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Colts and Peyton Manning are done. Which means that the Andrew Luck era began unofficially Wednesday afternoon (assuming, of course, Robert Griffin III doesn't surge to the top of Indy's draft board in the coming weeks). The knee-jerk reaction is to think that a post-Manning Indianapolis will look like something out of "The Book of Eli" -- an apocalyptic NFL wasteland with no hope of salvation anytime soon. Except that there are recent examples from around the league that should give the Colts and their fans hope. (We talked about it in the most recent Pick-6 Podcast, embedded below for your convenience.)


At its most basic, success with a young quarterback comes down to some combination of: a) a good defense, b) a strong special teams, c) a reliable running game, and, oh, it doesn't hurt if said young quarterback is d) mature -- both mentally and physically -- beyond his years.

As it stands, the Colts, should they draft Luck, will have d). It's up to owner Jim Irsay, new GM Ryan Grigson, and new head coach Chuck Pagano to take care of a)-c).  It's a tall order, for sure, but not impossible. Here are five examples that should give the Colts and Luck hope in 2012:

1. Baltimore Ravens

Pagano comes to Indy after serving as the Ravens' defensive coordinator last season. So he knows first-hand just how important a good defense can be for a young quarterback -- particularly one whose offensive coordinator doesn't seem to understand the downfalls of airing it out 50 times a game when the team's best player sits on the bench.

Luckily, Pagano hired Bruce Arians as his coordinator. Arians was Peyton Manning's first quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis, and he spent the last five seasons as Ben Roethlisberger's OC in Pittsburgh. He knows something about bringing along a young, talented quarterback.

Manning era ends in Indy
"[Arians] understands how to develop quarterbacks, especially young quarterbacks," Pagano told CBSSports.com in Indianapolis during Super Bowl week. "Bruce and I go back a long time. His philosophy matches our philosophy, and the pieces we're going to put around him [match] his passion and energy. He's a brilliant guy, he thinks outside the box so I feel really fortunate that Bruce is with us." 

The first order of business, however, is getting the defense in order. The Colts re-signed Robert Mathis, but appear set to cut Dwight Freeney loose for salary-cap reasons. Pagano will install a 3-4 defense which will replace the soft Cover-2 the team had been running for years. Even a mediocre defense to go along with something resembling a running game would go a long way in making Luck's rookie season manageable.

The last time the Colts started a rookie quarterback was in 1998 after they drafted Manning first overall. The year before, Indy ranked 23rd in total efficiency, according to Football Outsiders' metrics. The offense was 24th, the defense 25th and special teams 25th. In 2011, without Manning, the Colts were similarly awful: 31st overall, 27th in offense, 27th in defense, and 31st in special teams.

Of course, Manning was 3-13 as a rookie but his defense didn't do him any favors: they ranked 28th in '98. If Pagano can cobble together a defense and couple that with a decent running game, Luck's transition to NFL quarterback could go much smoother than conventional wisdom currently suggests.

2. Atlanta Falcons

In 2007, Michael Vick was in a heap of trouble and out of football, first-year Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino quit after 13 games to take the Arkansas job, and the starting quarterbacks that season included Joey Harrington, Chris Redman and Byron Leftwich. It's a miracle they managed four wins.

In 2008, owner Arthur Blank hired Mike Smith and the team drafted Matt Ryan. They won 11 games, and Ryan threw for 3,440 yards (61 percent completion rate), 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

In the Falcons' case, the one-year turnaround wasn't because the defense drastically improved. The unit was 28th in '07 and 25th in '08 -- instead it was the … passing game, which was fourth behind the Chargers, Colts and Saints. Part of that was because then-Falcons OC Mike Mularkey put Ryan in positions to succeed. But it was also a function of Ryan exceeding everyone's expectations.

We talked to him in January 2009, shortly after his rookie season ended, and asked if the Falcons had eased him into the playbook.

"To my knowledge, we had the full offense in," he said. "… From the start, we had a bunch of different things in, and I had a good amount of responsibility at the line of scrimmage to do some different things. I think as the season went on, we found what we were as an offense. Because there were a bunch of new people working together and trying to find the rhythm of our offense."

While a stout defense and a reliable running game are a young QB's friends, ultimately, it comes down to assimilating a ton of information and making plays you're asked to make.

3. San Francisco 49ers

If there's a blueprint from which Pagano should work, it might be the 49ers. By the 2010 offseason, Alex Smith was roundly considered a bust. The 2005 first-overall pick had, at various points in his career, shared snaps with Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill and Troy Smith, and San Francisco had never won more than eight games in Smith's six seasons heading into 2011. Then Jim Harbaugh replaced Mike Singletary as head coach and everything changed.

But it wasn't that Smith suddenly morphed into a franchise quarterback (it was the best season of his career but he was more game manager than late-game winner). The offense improved to 18th in 2011 from 24th the season before, but it was the defense and special teams that were the difference. The latter improved from 13th to third, and the latter went from 22nd to 2nd.

4. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals dumped chatty veterans (Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco) and were forced to find a new quarterback when Carson Palmer chose retirement over returning to Cincy. So the team took the draft's best wide receiver in Round 1 (A.J. Green), and landed their next franchise quarterback a round later (Andy Dalton).

Dalton was considered a heady player in college and that distinction followed him in the weeks and months leading up to the draft. Turns out, it was true. Like Ryan in Atlanta, Dalton not only knew where to go with the ball, he was accurate and timely with his throws. It's one thing to understand what the defense is trying to do; it's something else entirely for a rookie to actually do it with a blitzing linebacker in his face.

5. Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton wasn't the beneficiary of a good (or even slightly below average) defense and the Panthers, 2-14 the year before he arrived, still won six games. (They lost five games by seven points or less.) His success surprised everybody, even folks whose job it was to breakdown film for a living. Here's NFL Films' Greg Cosell in December 2011:

"What was remarkable about Newton was he demonstrated many of these traits of an NFL passer right away.  Beginning in Week 1 against Arizona, he read coverage, he knew where to go with the football, he was decisive and accurate. The next week he played the Super Bowl champion Packers and was truly impressive, showing NFL attributes beginning with poise and composure in the pocket. More importantly, he did not leave the pocket to run when the bodies started closing it down. He stood tall and delivered the ball in the face of pressure. He showed the willingness to make stick throws into tight windows, a necessary trait in critical long yardage situations against sophisticated NFL coverages."

And Newton came from a run-option offense at Auburn. Luck was in a pro-style offense at Stanford, and although he's plenty athletic, he was a pocket passer.

***

None of this means that the Colts are destined for the playoffs next year. But given how other teams have managed their young quarterbacks, it's reasonable to think that Luck could have early success in Indy. After all, if the only difference in Indy between annual double-digit wins and the playoffs, and last season's 2-14 record is Manning, then why can't the Colts win seven, eight or nine games with Luck in 2012?

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 7:18 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 9:03 pm
 

Colts, Mathis come to terms on new contract

Indianapolis franchised Mathis but only as a formality while they hammered out the details of his new deal.  (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Last week, talks were reportedly heating up between the Colts and free-agent defensive end Robert Mathis but the two sides didn't come to an agreement until Monday afternoon, the team announced in a statement. As a formality, Indianapolis designated Mathis as their franchise player while finishing up the paperwork for the new contract.

Mathis' deal is reportedly worth $36 million over four years with a $15 million signing bonus, according to the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell.

As for what Mathis brings to the Colts' defense, we'll repeat what we wrote last week: New Colts head coach Chuck Pagano comes to Indy from the Ravens where he was the defensive coordinator. Historically, this is an organization that has eschewed defense and deferred to Peyton Manning -- and for good reason. Prior to the 2-14 egg the team laid in 2011, the Colts had won 10 games or more 11 times in Manning's 13 seasons, making the postseason 11 times and winning the whole thing in 2006. Prior to Manning's arrival -- and since the Colts came to Indy in 1984 -- they made three postseason appearances.

But the Manning era is just about done, and Pagano understands that a good defense can carry an average offense featuring a young quarterback a long way. Joe Flacco is the most obvious example, but Ben Roethlisberger was the beneficiary of a stout defense early in his career, and Mark Sanchez made two straight AFC Conference Championship game appearances in large part because of the Jets defense.  With Andrew Luck next in line in Indy, bolstering the defense only makes sense.

But Mathis is 31, not an ideal fit in the 3-4 defense Pagano will install, and will tie up valuable salary-cap dollars with a new deal. That said, he's played at a high level for all but one of his nine years in the league; he had 9.5 sacks in '11 and 11 the year before that. Not counting his rookie season, Mathis has averaged 10 sacks a season. It's reasonable to conclude that he's still a capable pass-rusher, a commodity defenses can never have enough of.

Plus, in his annual list of the top 50 free agents, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco writes that Mathis "has improved against the run and could easily make the transition from 4-3 end to 3-4 rush 'backer."

Looking at the bigger picture, one of Pagano's goals was to keep Mathis and Dwight Freeney together on the Colts' defensive line.

"First and foremost, we're going to make sure that we put both of those guys in position to make plays," Pagano told reporters at last week's combine (via the Associated Press). "I don't think it would be very smart on my part or anybody else's part to make sure that doesn't happen."

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:30 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 8:31 pm
 

Report: Talks heat up between Colts, Mathis

Manning and Wayne appear gone but Indy could decide to keep Mathis around. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Colts have plenty of personnel decisions to make in the coming weeks and months, and Peyton Manning's future tops the list. After that, there's veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis. The former, barring a spectacular turn of events, is as good as gone, and Wayne could follow him to his next NFL city.

But Mathis, who was hoping for a new deal prior to the 2011 season (but made it clear that he had no intentions of holding out), appears to be in the organization's plans going forward. The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz tweeted as much Wednesday:

bkravitz
I'm told contract talks between Colts and Robert Mathis are warming up considerably.
2/29/12 6:26 PM

New Colts head coach Chuck Pagano comes to Indy from the Ravens where he was the defensive coordinator. Historically, it's an organization that has eschewed defense and deferred to Manning -- and for good reason. Prior to the 2-14 egg the team laid in 2011, the Colts had won 10 games or more 11 times in Manning's 13 seasons, making the postseason 11 times and winning the whole thing in 2006. Prior to Manning's arrival -- and since the Colts came to Indy in 1984 -- they made three postseason appearances.

But the Manning era is done, and Pagano understands that a good defense can carry an average offense featuring a young quarterback a long way. Joe Flacco is the most obvious example, but Ben Roethlisberger was the beneficiary of a stout defense early in his career, and Mark Sanchez made two straight AFC Conference Championship game appearances in large part because of the Jets defense.  With Andrew Luck next in line in Indy, bolstering the defense only makes sense.

But Mathis is 31, not an ideal fit in the 3-4 defense Pagano will install, and will tie up valuable salary-cap dollars with a new deal. That said, he's played at a high level for all but one of his nine years in the league; he had 9.5 sacks in '11 and 11 the year before that. Not counting his rookie season, Mathis has averaged 10 sacks a season. It's reasonable to conclude that he's still a capable pass-rusher, a commodity defenses can never have enough of.

Plus, in his annual list of the top 50 free agents, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco writes that Mathis "has improved against the run and could easily make the transition from 4-3 end to 3-4 rush 'backer."

If the two sides can't come to an agreement, CBSSports.com's Josh Katzowitz thinks that the Titans and Falcons would be likely destinations.

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 5:57 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 7:25 pm
 

Irsay 'would love to have' Manning back in Indy

'There’s no question it can be worked out if [Peyton] wants to be here.' - owner Jim Irsay (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

By all accounts, Indianapolis' first Super Bowl was a resounding success. From all the things the host committee could control (hotels, media, fans, transportation), to even those it couldn't (the weather), it was a seamless process that made last year's Super Bowl in Dallas seem more like Thunderdome.

If there was one blemish -- albeit a tiny one -- it was the after-school-special-style drama that played out between Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and team owner Jim Irsay. Whether the leaks about Manning's health were planned or not (we think they were), the fact remains: Peyton's neck injury is serious enough to raise questions about his future in Indy, and it's to the point where just about everybody figures he'll be playing elsewhere in 2012 (or whenever he's healthy).

Manning's Offseason Saga
Except that Irsay now seems amenable to keeping Peyton in Indy. (Seriously, we're almost at the point where Manning and the Colts are like that insane couple you know who break up every few months in a spectacularly public spectacle only to get back together days later to try to make it work. And because they really, really love each other.)

“We can make it work if he wants to be here,’’ Irsay told the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell Tuesday. “We’d be excited to have him back and finish his career with us.

“I want him to be able to make the choice. We would love to have him back here if he can get healthy and we can look at doing a contract that reflects the uncertainty of the . . . healing process with the regeneration of the nerve.’’

Manning, 35, missed the 2011 season while he recovered from multiple neck surgeries. The Colts went 2-14, Irsay subsequently cleaned house, and now, with a new front office, coaching staff and the first overall pick, looks to rebuild a franchise that Peyton led to one championship, 11 playoff appearances, eight 12-plus-win seasons, and a 141-67 record.

“There’s no question it can be worked out if he wants to be here,’’ Irsay, who has concerns over Manning’s long-term health, told the Star. “It can work if he wants to come back and can get back to being the old Peyton.’’

Of course, this won't preclude the Colts from taking a quarterback with that top pick. And it also means that Manning, should he want to stay, won't be in line for the $28 million bonus that's due March 8. Irsay expects to meet with Peyton in the next week, and as Chappell notes, the $28 million bonus activates the final four years and $90 million of his current contract.

In light of Irsay's comments, here are Manning's choices: a) don't budge off the $28 million and expect the Colts to release him (there will be plenty of interest in Manning's services in free agency, no matter his current health status), or b) rework his contract and stay with the Colts where he'll most likely serve as a mentor to Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.

It still seems like a long shot that Manning would return to the Colts, primarily because if he thinks he can play at a high level for 2-3 more years, he won't get that opportunity in Indy if the new franchise quarterback is standing over his shoulder.

The Star's Bob Kravitz guesses that Manning won't "be thrilled" when the owner and the quarterback eventually talk because any scenario that includes Peyton and the Colts in the same sentence will also mean that he'll have to take a hefty paycut to stay in town.

"The franchise looks good here either way," Kravitz wrote Tuesday night. "If he leaves, then the Colts can say, 'Well, it’s on Peyton. That was his choice.’' If he returns, it’s going to be on the Colts’ terms, and while Manning comes off as the ultimate hero, the Colts and Irsay get some of that reflected glory."

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Posted on: February 5, 2012 12:00 pm
 

DPOY Suggs talks about losing Chuck Pagano

                 (Photo credit: Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
By Ryan Wilson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Terrell Suggs has played for several great defensive coordinators during his nine-year Ravens career, the most recent one lasting just a season before landing a head-coaching job. The Colts hired Chuck Pagano last month to replace Jim Caldwell and rebuild a franchise that, after losing Peyton Manning for the year to a neck injury, fell to 2-14.

Pagano has been busily assembling his coaching staff, and Saturday night, Suggs, in Indianapolis to accept the Defensive Player of the Year Award at the inaugural NFL Awards Show, spoke about Pagano.

"I kind of predicted it Week 1 because I knew the defense that we had and I knew what kind of coach he was and how he was calling the game," Suggs told the media. "He definitely deserves it -- I'm sad to see him go because of things we did this year. I just wish we got the opportunity to see what we'd do next year, with him having a second year of experience under his belt being a defensive coordinator.

"But the world decided he didn't need anymore experience and it was his time to go and be a head coach (in Indianapolis)," he said. "He's going to do some great things and he definitely has the weapons to do it."

One of those weapons will be the Colts' yet-to-be-determined quarterback. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is apparently infatuated with Peyton Manning, who is still recovering from multiple neck surgeries. And the Colts hold the first-overall pick, which they will undoubtedly use on a quarterback. The only question is if it will be Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.

The Ravens, meanwhile, have named linebackers coach Deen Pees as Pagano's replacement. He'll join Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan and Rex Ryan as coaches who have served as Baltimore's defensive coordinator.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to be a defensive coordinator for anybody in this league,” Pees said two weeks ago. “But it’s especially humbling to be one for Ravens. . . . The tradition of this defense will continue, and it will flourish and it will get even better.”

[Follow all of CBSSports.com's Super Bowl Coverage] 

It certainly helps to have the Defensive Player of the Year on the roster.


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Posted on: February 2, 2012 5:12 pm
 

Colts' Pagano talks on new hires Manusky, Arians

Follow all of CBSSports.com's Full Super Bowl Coverage (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts hired Greg Manusky Thursday to be the new defensive coordinator. He was fired by the Chargers last month and will now join Chuck Pagano's staff a week after Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler backed out of the job.

Full Super Bowl Coverage
Pagano met with the media to talk about the latest additions to his staff.

"[Greg's] been a player and coach in this league for a long time … and he'll bring great leadership and passion and energy to our organization and to the defensive side of the ball." Pagano also said that Manusky will call plays.

The new head coach was also asked about offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was Peyton Manning's first quarterbacks coach with the Colts back in 1998. And now, 14 years later, he's returning to Indianapolis, which means that there's a good chance Arians will soon get to work with another rookie franchise quarterback.

There's still much to sort out, from Manning's future, to who the Colts will target with the first-overall pick in April's draft. (Andrew Luck is the early runaway favorite but Robert Griffin III will likely get consideration as well.)

"Bruce's resume speaks for itself," Pagano said. "He called plays at the highest level and he's won a Super Bowl."

Arians comes to the Colts after the Steelers chose not to renew his deal. Two weeks ago, he told the York Daily Record (Pa.) that he retired when he "wasn't offered a contract." After that, "it was an easy decision for me."

Arians added that team president Art Rooney II didn't give him a reason. "I can't answer that question," he said. "Only the people there can. That's the business. I know the job we did as a staff. I don't have any regrets."

He had been in Pittsburgh since 2004, after working with Pagano on Butch Davis' staff in Cleveland the previous three seasons. Arians was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2007, head coach Mike Tomlin's first year with the Steelers. In four of five seasons, Pittsburgh was a top-10 offense, according to Football Outsiders (and the only year they weren't, 2008, they won the Super Bowl). Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger flourished under Arians, but the Steelers got away from what they had previously been known for: running the ball.

There will be no run-first subtexts in Indianapolis. The Colts need someone to nurture a young passer and you'd be hard-pressed to find a candidate more qualified than Arians.

"He understands how to develop quarterbacks, especially young quarterbacks," Pagano said. "Bruce and I go back a long time. His philosophy matches our philosophy, and the pieces we're going to put around him [match] his passion and energy. He's a brilliant guy, he thinks outside the box so I feel really fortunate that Bruce is with us."

It was a peculiar split for Arians and the Steelers. Not because it came out of nowhere -- Rooney reportedly wanted Arians out several years ago and Roethlisberger and Tomlin fought to keep him -- but because the Steelers' offense had regularly been a top-10 unit going back to 2007.

Part of that is due to Roethlisberger, but that claim can be made about most winning teams: sustained success starts with the quarterback. And that's exactly what Pagano seems ready to do: rebuild this team around a franchise player. The only question, at least initially, is if that player will be Manning, Luck or someone else.

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Posted on: January 30, 2012 8:34 pm
 

Report: Keith Butler will return to Pittsburgh

By Josh Katzowitz

There was talk Sunday that new Colts coach Chuck Pagano, already ready to hire former Steelers assistant Bruce Arians as his offensive coordinator, wanted to nab Pittsburgh linebackers coach Keith Butler to take over the Colts defensive coordinator job.

Indy's offseason


Butler, though, has turned down Pagano.

That’s according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, which writes that Butler will return to the Steelers as the linebackers coach.

It’s clear that Pittsburgh values Butler, because last offseason, when the Cardinals wanted to interview Butler for their defensive coordinator job, the Steelers denied Arizona’s request.

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Butler is assumed to be the heir to Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, and ultimately, that job is better  than the one in Arizona, and if LeBeau plans to coach only a season or two more, staying in Pittsburgh to wait him out probably makes sense for Butler.

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Posted on: January 29, 2012 2:56 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2012 3:16 pm
 

Report: Pagano looks at Butler, Caldwell at PIT

Chuck Pagano reportedly is looking at Keith Butler to be his defensive coordinator (US Presswire).By Josh Katzowitz

Man, new Colts coach Chuck Pagano must have some serious respect for one of the teams his old ballclub hates the most. That would be the Steelers, and Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator, reportedly will pluck another Pittsburgh assistant to be a coordinator for the Colts.

On Saturday, it was Pagano surprisingly yanking Bruce Arians out of his so-called retirement in order to make him the offensive coordinator, and a day later, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Pagano will hire Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler as defensive coordinator.

A word of caution, though: according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Butler will interview the job Tuesday and said it’s “not a done deal.”

And in a switcheroo that only a Kirk Cameron fan could love, NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora reports that Caldwell will interview for the open Steelers offensive coordinator spot vacated by Arians.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Caldwell spent one season together in 2001 with the Buccaneers when Tomlin was the defensive backs coach and Caldwell was the quarterbacks coach.

In Pagano’s case, the possible decision to hire anybody from the Steelers defensive coaching staff is probably a smart move -- especially considering Pittsburgh has been a top-ten defensive team in yards allowed every year since 2000.

Indy's offseason
Butler has been in Pittsburgh the past nine years, and he’s credited with helping mold James Harrison, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley. Like Arians and Pagano, Butler worked in Cleveland in 2001, so Pagano knows what kind of coach he’s getting.

As PFT reminds us, Butler wanted to interview for the Cardinals defensive coordinator job last year but the Steelers denied him the chance. Now that Butler’s contract is up, though, it sounds like Butler -- who is largely considered the heir to Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau -- is ready for a promotion.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com