Against season-long odds, coach Chuck Pagano is staying with the Indianapolis Colts on a new deal.
The team announced Monday night that Pagano has agreed to a four-year contract extension after a trying season featuring well-documented in-fighting with general manager Ryan Grigson and persistent "hot seat" reports emanating from Indiana.
The surprise is not only that Pagano survived, but also that there was no clear victor in the power struggle.
The team confirmed Grigson will also return in the same capacity after a lengthy meeting throughout the day on Monday. Colts owner Jim Irsay added in Monday's press conference that Pagano pushed to have Grigson get an extension. The two are now "contractually tied" together, as Irsay put it. Although the relationship between Grigson and Pagano was described as toxic as various times during the season, Rapoport was told that it was closer to two passionate professionals with mutual respect.
"It wasn't fan pressure, player pressure," Irsay said on his reasoning for bringing back Pagano. "It was that Chuck's won 44 games in the last four years."
"Chuck is a fighter," one source explained to Rapoport.
That much is indisputable.
"When I spent 26 days in the hospital (during 2012 cancer treatment), that was tough. That was tough. This is nothing," an embattled Pagano declared last month. "... They can't eat you. They can fire you but they can't eat you."
Pagano vowed to go in and fight for his job, armed with allies in the coaching community, the support of the locker room and the leverage of other organizations prepared to vie for the services of a coach with an impressive 41-23 record over the past four years.
It's certainly possible that Irsay was also swayed by Sunday's impassioned post-game speech which personified the leadership of an ideal head coach.
"I wouldn't trade this season for nothing," Pagano raved. "And we've had some good ones ... but this one, you are going to look back on this one and say, 'all the adversity, all the obstacles and you never quit. You fight, you fight, you fight -- because of the grit, because of the character, because of the men and the leaders in this locker room right now.'
"6-3, 5-3 with a 40-year-old (Matt Hasselbeck). A guy that comes in, a country western star with a bad hammy (Charlie Whitehurst). He tried to tap out but couldn't. He couldn't, because he loves his teammates. ... We told you that we would get those guys ready in three days. The Coney Island Thrasher (Josh Freeman)! He served soft-serve ice cream at halftime and goes out and still wins football games. ... Guys I've never been more proud because there are a bunch of teams who -- a long, long time ago in the season -- would have mailed it in. ... And I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for fighting."
This was fully expected to be the most coveted job of the offseason, allowing the next coach to build around Andrew Luck. Now that Pagano and Grigson have put their differences aside, their next task is to finally succeed in constructing an offensive line capable of protecting the face of the franchise.