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Former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano wants to coach again: 'I’ve got unfinished business'

Chuck Pagano wants to get back into coaching. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano wants to coach again, he said during an appearance on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” on Wednesday.

Pagano had three great years with the Colts

The Colts were in need of a major facelift following a disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2011, the season following Peyton Manning’s departure. They hired Pagano as their head coach and added Andrew Luck with the top overall pick to jumpstart a new era in Indianapolis. Pagano had spent the past few years helping build an outstanding, aggressive defense for the Baltimore Ravens — first as secondary coach and then as defensive coordinator — and Luck was viewed as a surefire face-of-the-franchise superstar.

Things got off to a difficult start: The team was 1-2 heading into its bye week when Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. But the team rallied around Pagano and, under interim head coach Bruce Arians, went 9-3. Pagano returned for the final week of the regular season — a win over the Houston Texans — and the Colts reached the playoffs, falling in the wild-card round to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens.

Pagano returned at full strength in Year 2 and once again went 11-5. The Colts won a thrilling 45-44 wild-card game over the Kansas City Chiefs before falling to New England. In 2014, the Colts once again posted an 11-5 record but again fell victim to the Patriots, this time in the AFC championship.

Pagano was fired earlier this offseason

After three straight 11-win seasons and with his health intact, Pagano seemed to be on the way to building a consistent winner in Indianapolis alongside Luck. But the prized quarterback played in just seven games in 2015, and the Colts slumped to 8-8, the first time they missed the playoffs under Pagano.

Even with a mostly healthy Luck in 2016, the team struggled, finishing 8-8 for the second straight year. Luck missed all of last year, and the Colts fell to 4-12. After three straight missed playoffs, Pagano was fired just hours after the season finale.

Pagano’s résumé is a mixed one

Pagano, 57, worked his way up the ranks as a defensive wizard — especially in the secondary — but his units struggled mightily in Indianapolis. During Pagano’s six years in Indianapolis, only once did his defense finish in the top half of the league in points allowed (ninth in 2013), and it finished third-to-last in 2017.

But there were certainly other factors. Luck helped cover up a lot of roster deficiencies that former GM Ryan Grigson failed to address. As Pagano stated on Monday in an interview with Fox Sports, Luck was a huge part of his success:

I love Andrew Luck. He got me more years than I probably deserved. He’s a phenom. Him not being able to play killed him. When you can’t be there for your teammates and you’re recovering and rehabbing, it kills you. Last year, it killed him. The great competitors want to be out there. This cat, he’s dying to get back on the football field.

Pagano took a team that lost 14 games and a city that lost its iconic quarterback and immediately turned it into a playoff team. That’s a huge accomplishment for any coach, especially one making his head coaching debut. But Pagano will have to prove that his calling card — his defensive acumen — can be successful moving forward if he wants to earn another shot in the NFL.

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