INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts hired Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano as their new head coach on Wednesday.
The team said Pagano will be introduced at a news conference on Thursday. It will be the first head coaching job for the 51-year-old Pagano, who has been a career assistant until now with stops in Oakland and Cleveland in the NFL and stints at schools including Miami and North Carolina.
He replaces Jim Caldwell, who was fired after the Colts’ 2-14 season in which quarterback Peyton Manning never played a down as he recovered from neck surgery.
The move is just the latest in a dizzying series of changes by owner Jim Irsay.
The Colts fired Caldwell last week after three seasons. The team went to the Super Bowl during Caldwell’s first year, but this year locked up the No. 1 overall draft pick with a horrid performance that also cost team vice chairman Bill Polian and his son, general manager Chris, their jobs.
Irsay has since hired 39-year-old Ryan Grigson as the new GM while letting go of Caldwell’s staff. In all, 11 of the 20 coaches who started the season are gone and others they may go, too, once Pagano arrives.
Pagano spent three years as the Ravens’ secondary coach before replacing Bryan Mattison as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator a year ago. The Ravens ranked third in total defense and allowed the third-fewest points in the NFL.
Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan and Rex Ryan all held the position before becoming head coaches in the NFL, and now it’s Pagano’s turn.
The Wyoming graduate and former strong safety for the Cowboys began his coaching career in 1984 as a graduate assistant at Southern California and spent time at in the college ranks at Boise State, UNLV, East Carolina and Miami before joining Cleveland to coach the secondary. In 2005-06, he was defensive backs job at Oakland, then served as defensive coordinator at North Carolina before joining the Ravens when John Harbaugh became head coach four years ago.
“Chuck is unorthodox,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “He’s like The Joker. You never really expect what he’s going to do, and everything has a motive.”
The Ravens considered Pagano to be just one of the guys.
“What makes him good? He relates to the players a whole lot,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “He’s almost like a player in a D-coordinator’s position. The guy has so much fun with us. He treats you like more than a player. It’s like we’re his sons. He wants us to do well. He keeps it fresh. He knows everybody’s strengths and puts them in position to make plays.”
Asked last month if he had aspirations to be a head coach, Pagano replied, “When I was a kid growing up, my dad being a football coach, he asked the same question of all the assistants that he ever hired: ‘Is your goal to be a head football coach?’ He always said if somebody had answered him, ‘Not really, I’m OK just being a position coach,’ then I don’t think he really wanted him on his staff because he wanted ambitious guys.
“I think if you ask anybody they’d say yeah. That would be something you always work for and toward.”
Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger believes Pagano has what it takes to be a head coach in the NFL.
“Chuck has a leadership quality about him. He’s humble but he also knows when to take the reins and take charge,” Kruger said. “He doesn’t try to dominate you in every meeting. He’s just a coach that knows exactly how players are and what direction they need. He’s a hell of a coach and I really think he’ll be a head coach one day.”