The Indianapolis Colts have a lot of challenges this year. That’s a politically correct way of saying this team has problems.
They have a rookie quarterback, coach and general manager. They have a lack of talent and experience on offense and a new defensive scheme that puts what veterans the team does have in unfamiliar situations.
Oh, and the team’s bandwagon is much lighter than it was just a year ago. That’s a politically correct way of saying the team has tickets to sell and a fan base that is waffling in the absence of long-time franchise quarterback Peyton Manning.
The impact of Manning’s departure should not be underestimated. Many Colts fans are still steaming about it. Talk of Manning having a chip on his shoulder (fueled daily by one ESPN, CBS Sports or NFL Network talking head or another) hasn’t helped. And if Manning’s new team, the Denver Broncos, makes a strong playoff run this year, the Colts fan base could take another big hit.
So it’s probably appropriate that Colts Coach Chuck Pagano listed “how to serve” as one of two things he wants his team to learn. The other is “how to be a champion.” Pagano likely realizes the latter may take a few years.
In the meantime, the former might help pack the bandwagon a little tighter and fatten the team’s financial fortune while the championship run takes shape.
Pagano was likely talking about players and coaches serving one another, but he might start by talking to his players and coaches about how to serve the fans. From the looks of Monday’s training camp session, the lesson has already started.
Some players, coaches, owners and team executives around the NFL are better at this than others.
While Colts owner Jim Irsay often gets close to an ‘A’ in this category, the team’s former president, Bill Polian, wasn’t graded nearly as high. Some fans—dare I say many fans—would give Polian an ‘F’ in the service department. Winning, however, was his saving grace.
The coaches Irsay has hired have rated better. Few in the NFL have been more gracious during their playing and coaching days than Tony Dungy. It’s no coincidence Irsay invited Dungy to Colts training camp in Anderson earlier this week.
Irsay looks to hire guys with heart and soul. Pagano may be turning out to be one of those guys.
Pagano took what could have turned into an ugly situation and instead put on a clinic on how to serve and win over fans—one fan at a time.
Anderson resident Zach Simmons showed up to Colts camp Monday wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey. Players quickly noticed Simmons, who was parked front and center at the open practice. Players began to grumble.
Pagano took the opportunity to practice what he preached. Armed with a No. 12 Andrew Luck jersey, Pagano went to Simmons for what appeared to be a light-hearted conversation. At least Pagano grinned from time to time. Simmons told reporters afterward that Pagano gave him an ultimatum to take off his shirt and replace it with a complimentary Colts jersey “or else.”
Pagano insisted to reporters after practice that he was serious about his ultimatum.
Simmons looked like the sort of guy who might take issue with such an ultimatum. Instead he took off his No. 92 Steelers jersey, crumpled it up beside him, and put on the Colts jersey.
Pagano must have served up the message in just the right way. After the practice, Simmons told reporters that while he remains a diehard Steelers fans, he has newfound respect for Pagano and the Colts.
So now we know Pagano teaches by example. He knows how to serve. And he knows how to sell.
Now Colts fans just have to hope Pagano knows how to win. And can teach this Colts team how to be a champion.