When Chuck Pagano went into recovery earlier this season, Bruce Arians inconspicuously began his campaign as Indy's head coach. They were set to host Green Bay in a game they couldn't win, with a 1-2 record and less hope than a tortoise on the freeway. Since then, they've gone 5-1, pushed into a playoff spot, and transformed into a competitive team. How many people were thinking playoffs after week three? How many people doubt it now?
Michael Marot's article on the rise of Arians gives credit where credit is due. Not to be mistaken, this is still Chuck Pagano's team, but their success is largely due to the coaching of Bruce Arians.
In the six weeks since replacing his close friend, who was diagnosed with a form of leukemia Sept. 26, Arians has led the Colts to a 6-3 record and surprisingly into the playoff hunt. He's managed to keep the lines of communication open with Luck, found the right balance between being the head coach and offensive coordinator and even shocked the defensive players by cheering at practice when they come up with turnovers.
In other words, he's more than just the coach of this team: he's the glue that holds it together. I'll be one of the first to criticize his ultra-conservative playcalling (my brother and I text back and forth during the games, always frustrated when they punt on fourth down), but it's been working for them. Also, this:
Only eight coaches in league history have won more games after a midseason change than Arians (five). If the Colts win just four of their last seven games, Arians would tie the league record with Hamp Pool, who won nine games with the Los Angeles Rams in 1952, and Wally Lemm, who won nine with the Houston Oilers in 1961.
Regardless of whether that's out of the question or not, no one expected Arians to make this team good and no one would have blamed him if they continued to struggle. Chuck Pagano may provide the inspiration for every player on that team, but Arians's consistency and optimism have the Colts in the playoff picture, and it's time to acknowledge that.