The next chapter in the Peyton Manning saga could take a decidedly defensive turn.
The Colts hired Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano as its new coach yesterday and will introduce him today.
It’s the third time Jim Irsay has turned to a defensive-minded coach since replacing his father as team owner in 1997, first hiring Jim Mora and then Tony Dungy as Mora’s replacement in 2002.
“I like it,’’ Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis wrote on Twitter.
The Colts are hoping the change produces better results after Indy went 2-14 this season, its worst record in two decades. But there are questions about how this decision will impact the future of Manning and his teammates.
The 51-year-old Pagano had been a career assistant until yesterday. He had coached previously in the NFL with the Raiders and Browns and also worked extensively in college with stops at Miami and North Carolina.
He’s the fourth Ravens defensive coordinator to get a head coaching job in less than a decade. The others were Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Jets coach Rex Ryan, and former 49ers coach Mike Nolan.
Those who have worked closely with Pagano believe he’s ready for the promotion.
“Chuck has a leadership quality about him. He’s humble but he also knows when to take the reins and take charge,’’ Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger said. “He doesn’t try to dominate you in every meeting. He’s just a coach that knows exactly how players are and what direction they need.’’
“Chuck is unorthodox,’’ Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “He’s like The Joker. You never really expect what he’s going to do, and everything has a motive.’’
But Pagano is taking over a team in transition.
Irsay’s dizzying array of moves this month has essentially cleaned house.
It began with the firings of the father-son front office tandem of Bill and Chris Polian on Jan. 2, the day after the season. The next week, Irsay hired 39-year-old Ryan Grigson as the new general manager.
Last week, coach Jim Caldwell was fired after his third season because he won only two games while Manning sat out with a neck injury and now, eight days later, Indy has his replacement - with more changes to come.
Quarterbacks coach Ron Turner, receivers coach Frank Reich, and offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars all have been let go, too. That leaves offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, running backs coach David Walker, and tight ends coach Ricky Thomas among those with fates yet to be determined. Back in 2002, when Mora was fired, Irsay hired Dungy but kept most of the offensive staff intact.
The offseason moves are taking a toll on the team’s morale. In an interview published Tuesday by the Indianapolis Star, Manning called the complex not a “very good environment’’ for healing.
Irsay must pay Manning a $28 million bonus by March 8 or the four-time league MVP, who turns 36 in March, could become an unrestricted free agent after having three neck surgeries in 19 months. The Colts have the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, which most expect to be used on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Raiders inch closer
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is finalizing a contract to make Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen the team’s next head coach, a person familiar with the process said on condition of anonymity because the team is not publicly discussing the search.
Fox Sports and ESPN reported Tuesday night that the Raiders had chosen Allen to replace the fired Hue Jackson and become the team’s seventh coach since 2003.
Allen, 39, will be the first new Raiders coach to come from the defensive side of the ball since John Madden before the 1969 season. Madden won 103 games in 10 seasons.
Goodell is extended
Now that the NFL has labor peace for the next decade, commissioner Roger Goodell has job security through the 2018 season. Not only did Goodell get through one of the league’s most contentious and troubling periods - a 4 1/2-month lockout of the players - but he oversaw a highly successful season once a 10-year collective bargaining agreement was reached. Yesterday, he reaped some rewards himself with a contract extension through March 2019.
“It is the only place I have ever wanted to work,’’ Goodell said after the league’s compensation committee approved the extension. The 52-year-old Goodell took over for Paul Tagliabue in 2006. His original five-year contract was extended in 2009. He earned about $10 million, including bonuses, under that contract. During the lockout, he had a $1 salary. No terms were disclosed for the new contract.
Reed out of Pro Bowl
Ravens free safety Ed Reed has withdrawn from the Pro Bowl because of multiple injuries, becoming the latest of several players from his team to skip the game. The 33-year-old Reed is dealing with ailments that include a nerve impingement in his neck, a sore shoulder, and a sprained left ankle. He will be replaced by Steelers safety Ryan Clark. Other Ravens opting out are Suggs (undisclosed), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (thigh), and running back Ray Rice (family reasons) . . . The NFL is relaxing its social media policy and allowing players to tweet before and during Sunday’s Pro Bowl. The league said it will set up a computer on each sideline where players are encouraged to use Twitter to communicate with fans, teammates, and even opponents during commercial breaks and when their offensive or defensive unit is not on the field . . . Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke is retiring. The 35-year-old Hoke spent 11 seasons with the Steelers after originally signing with the team as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Brigham Young in 2001. Hoke played in 114 games, finishing with 81 tackles and two sacks . . . A deadline is approaching for a plan to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome and fans are wondering if football in St. Louis might be at stake. There is a Feb. 1 deadline for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission to outline how it will transform the aging dome into a “first-tier’’ stadium by 2015. If it fails to do so, the Rams can break their lease after the 2014 season . . . Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said the team wants a new stadium in the Twin Cities, even if it means building on the current site of the Metrodome. Wilf spoke after a meeting with Governor Mark Dayton and state lawmakers about the team’s push for state funding of a new stadium. The New Jersey businessman was more open than ever to rebuilding on Metrodome land in downtown Minneapolis, despite his past preference for two other sites.