Colts coach can serve and sell, but can he win?

July 31, 2012
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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.

  • It always comes down to players.
    I hear what you are saying Anthony...there is no doubt in my mind that Pagano is a great coach...his defenses were always very well prepared and his players loved him...same with Bruce Arians...we have first hand knowledge of what he can do. Teh coaching staff is fine...The biggest issue facing the Colts is the last 3-4 drafts were bad at the top...I don't know if that was Chris or Bill Polian, but it happened and that is why they are gone and Grigson is here. Tony Ugoh (who is retiring)...Jerry Hughes...Ben Iljilana (who reportedly can't play a lick)...Donald Brown (who has shown flashes, but not consistency)...when you miss at the top of the draft, it always sets you back. They had to draft Costanza instead of the next wide receiver or corner because they missed on Ugoh...they had to resign Mathis and keep Freeney because Hughes can't play, at least in a 4-3...if he does not do it this year, he is another guy that they will have to draft to replace just 3-4 years after he was picked, and that will keep them from drafting a need somewhere else. They have to find a line out of all the bodies Grigson brought in, or Luck will have to run for his life. It is a difficult situation. But If Grigson's top picks work out, and they do find an adequate line, the offense may be close by the end of this does not take long in the NFL to get back if you make the right moves...and they may win more than you/we think...there is nothing overwhelming about Tennessee or Jacksonville...Houston is certainly on another level, but the division is not that good other than never has been a great division, save a couple of years. That is one reason the Colts dominated it for so long.
  • Another Offender
    Ironically, I attended the opening day of training camp on Sunday and there was a guest of the Colts who was walking the practice field while wearing a Kansas City Chiefs cap backwards. He appeared to be a teenager and was with some other kids. It's too bad the Colts' own guests can't show more respect for the team. Pagano should have given that kid a Colts hat and an "or else" option too.
  • Clothing police
    Chuck Pagano, clothing cop! Ha! I suggest focusing on what's happening on the field, not in the stands.
    • get a life Matt
      Come on Matt, a coach, like all executives these days, has to be multi-faceted . That is the difference between winners are losers. Tony Dungy modeled that also. Which are you?

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    1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

    2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

    3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

    4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

    5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.