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How Chuck Pagano stacks up to John Elway's checklist

Zac Stevens Avatar
January 2, 2019

As the Broncos embark on their search for the next head coach, they will interview five different candidates for the job. On the day of each interview, we will grade that candidate based on the qualities John Elway is looking for.

Chuck Pagano


The Broncos stayed local with their first interview, talking with Boulder native Chuck Pagano in Denver on Wednesday.

Pagano, 58, has an extensive history in the NFL entirely on the defensive side. After over 15 years bouncing around as a coach in college, Pagano took the jump to the NFL in 2001 as the Browns’ secondary coach. Through the next 11 years, Pagano was in the NFL except for one year (2007) when he was the defensive coordinator at North Carolina.

Pagano received his first defensive coordinating job in the NFL with the Ravens in 2011. Thanks to leading the third-best scoring defense, Pagano became the Colts head coach in 2012.

Early in his time in Indianapolis, Pagano found tremendous success, going 11-5 with trips to the playoffs in his first three seasons. He missed a significant portion of his first season while undergoing treatment for leukemia, but after a successful fight, he returned for the season finale and playoffs.

After the hot strart, the Colts went 8-8 in two consecutive seasons and Pagano finished his time in Indy in 2017 with a 4-12 record as Andrew Luck missed the entire season.

During his six seasons in Indy, Pagano racked up a winning record, going 56-4, including 3-3 in the playoffs.

Pagano did not coach this past season, but is highly, highly respected in NFL circles, both by organizations and beloved by his former players and coaches.


John Elway identified four traits he is looking for in his next head coach. Here is how Pagano stacks up.

Greatness in their expertise: B+

In 2007, the one year Pagano was solely in charge of defense as the Ravens’ coordinator, they finished as the third-best scoring defense in the league. During his six years in Indianapolis, the Colts were all over the place, finishing as a top-10 defense one season as well as a bottom-10 defense in multiple years.

However, Pagano wasn’t necessarily given a talent-rich defensive roster.

Experience: A

Pagano knocks this one out of the park. With over 30 years of coaching experience, nearly 20 years of NFL experience and a successful stint as head coach, Pagano has the ideal experience that Elway is looking for.

Ability to lead men: A

It doesn’t take long to understand just how much Pagano’s former players and coaches love him. Heck, Broncos special teams coordinator Tom McMahon gave him a ringing endorsement as a person less than a month ago.

“Coach, as a human being, is one of the greatest men I’ve ever been around in my life,” McMahon said. “As a man, nothing like him.”

The “it” factor: B+

While this will boil down to the “feels” Elway gets from meeting with Pagano, as Elway himself said, it’s undeniable Pagano is beloved by nearly everyone he’s come in contact with. There’s no reason to believe this would be any different with Elway.

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