“Wow. It has been a whirlwind. Words can't describe the emotions that I'm going through right now and the feelings. Coming off probably the most devastating loss that I've ever been a part of in the AFC championship game and to go in that locker room and see those faces and we all know how hard it is to get to that stage and to see the tears. It's an all-time low, and the last thing I ever expected came across my table and now I sit here at an all-time high."
Those were Chuck Pagano’s first words after he was introduced as the next coach of the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, four days after the Ravens’ season ended with a crushing loss to the New England Patriots.
The Ravens’ former defensive coordinator thanked Colts owner Jim Irsay, who was sitting to his left next to new Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson, for having the patience to wait to interview him before naming a new coach.
“He has things you can’t fake,” Grigson had said earlier. “He has true leadership. He’s a leader of men.”
Pagano acknowledged that if Lee Evans hadn’t dropped that pass from Joe Flacco in the end zone Sunday, he might not have been standing at the podium, and at the pinnacle of coaching, Thursday. But he said he would have taken coaching the Ravens defense in the Super Bowl over arriving in Indianapolis for this reason.
“I thought for sure that I was going to be coming to Indy to play for a world championship,” Pagano said.
He said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh called him up to his office Monday and told him the Colts wanted to fly him in for an interview. “I hadn’t even taken a shower yet,” Pagano said. “It was three in the afternoon. I probably shouldn’t tell you that.” After two days of chatting with the Colts, he accepted the job Wednesday.
Pagano introduced his wife and daughters Thursday, told stories about his father and growing up in football, and said he wants to make the Colts a family. His first priority is getting to know everyone in the building, from the 61 players on the roster and practice squad to the folks who prepare meals in the cafeteria.
“We’re here to build each other up and to laugh and to have fun,” he said. “And when you win, you have fun.”
Pagano mentioned the massive banner picturing the Lombardi Trophy that hovers inside Baltimore’s indoor practice facility in Owings Mills, saying, “We came 22 seconds away from having an opportunity to play for it.”
He busted out clever one-liners like he did in Baltimore, deflecting one question about the future of Peyton Manning by saying he sent a text message to actor Rob Lowe but hadn’t heard back.
And he promised the Colts fan base that "everyone we face on Sunday is going to get a face full of Colts.”
It may take time for him to bring Baltimore’s smash-mouth style of play to Indianapolis, but it’s clear that he has already brought the passion and intensity that won over Ravens defenders in his four years in Baltimore.