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Bruce Arians wins Coach of the Year for work with Colts

NEW ORLEANS -- Chuck Pagano can't help but smile upon this one.

Bruce Arians was announced as the 2012 Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year on Saturday night after guiding the 11-5 Indianapolis Colts to a playoff berth when many had written them off.

Arians -- now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals -- was hired to run the Colts' offense and tutor rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, but fate took over and propelled him to a larger role in October when Pagano was forced to step aside after being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia.

Arians led the Colts to a 9-3 record before Pagano returned in Week 17. During his run in the top spot, Arians repeatedly emphasized his role was to watch over the team until his friend returned. If one quality beamed brightest in Arians, it was his loyalty.

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"I wasn't coach of the year, the organization was coach of the year," Arians said when accepting his award. "More than anything it was Chuck. Coach, you set the path. We just rode the bus and kept the lights on the whole time."

The Colts were seen before the season as a rebuilding project set for dark days, but Luck capably took over for the departed Peyton Manning, and Pagano and Arians instilled a sense of urgency to win now. That culture was put in place by Pagano, but Arians preached the message from the minute the head coach fell ill. The Colts could have crumbled into a ghost ship -- everybody would have understood -- but instead they forged an unlikely path into January.

Arians has nothing resembling Luck under center in Arizona, but what he did in Indianapolis won't soon be forgotten.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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