If all goes according to plans and doctors sign off, Chuck Pagano will be at the helm next week when the Indianapolis Colts finish the regular season at home against the Houston Texans. Pagano finished his third and final round of chemotherapy earlier this month and has been conditioning for a return to the sideline.
If Pagano is able to return, he will provide an emotional shot in the arm to a team already flying pretty high. The Colts have ridden the "ChuckStrong" bandwagon to an improbable 9-5 record and are on the verge of the playoffs. If that occurs, it means interim head coach Bruce Arians will relinquish the controls and return to his role of offensive coordinator.
If and when Arians steps aside, he'll go down as one of the most successful interim coaches in NFL history. A win on Sunday in Kansas City would give Arians nine wins as head coach and tie him with Wally Lemm (1961 Houston Oilers) and Hamp Pool (1952 LA Rams) who each won nine games after taking over their teams in mid-season.
Adding context to what Arians has accomplished is the situation he inherited, a young team with 28 new players on the roster coming off a 2-14 2011 campaign. When we see what happened to an established team, New Orleans, who lost their head coach for the season and is struggling to even finish at .500, Arians' performance is nothing short of amazing.
That sentiment is universally shared in the Colts locker room. Although players are definitely excited at the prospect of Pagano's returning, they have nothing but the highest praise for the job Arians has done.
"It's not just what he's done in terms of wins and losses," said kicker Adam Vinatieri, who has been around successful coaches a time or two. "To come in here with a new GM, a new head coach, new players and be the guy is a pretty doggone good job in and of itself. To do it under these circumstances, is remarkable. I don't have a vote, but I definitely think he deserves to be coach of the year."
“Heck yes. I am (ready). Hopefully we can get this victory and secure our playoff spot and turn it back over to Chuck.”