1. Chuck Pagano
Chuck Pagano is a Boulder, CO native who will receive plenty of interest on the head coaching market this offseason.
Whether that’s an issue of supply and demand is irrelevant. Pagano was hired as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 based on merit, and he did a great job with them throughout the majority of his time there.
Taking over a young Colts team that had just jettisoned Peyton Manning, Pagano ended up making the postseason his first three years in the NFL, though his first NFL season did not go according to plan.
Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in September 2012 and did not return to the team until November. Bruce Arians did an exceptional job in his stead, and the Colts won 11 games in Pagano’s rookie season as head coach before losing to Pagano’s former team — the Baltimore Ravens — in the playoffs.
In 2013, the Colts once again won 11 games, beating the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning in his return to Indianapolis in the process. They also ended up winning a playoff game before ultimately losing to the New England Patriots in the divisional round.
In 2014, the Colts were once again 11 game winners, and ended up beating Manning and the Broncos in the postseason this time after losing to them in the season-opener.
They couldn’t get past the Patriots again, this time in the AFC Championship game, and that would be the peak of Pagano’s coaching career with Indy.
In 2015, Andrew Luck missed nine games and the Colts were only able to win eight total. In 2016, Luck wasn’t the same guy and the Colts went 8-7 in his 15 starts, missing the playoffs at 8-8.
In 2017, Pagano and the Colts went 4-12 with Luck missing the entire season, and he was relieved of his coaching duties.
It’s no surprise that in 2018 with Luck back fully healthy, the Colts look like a contender once again.
Pagano gets a bad rap based on the past three years, but it can’t be overstated how poor Ryan Grigson was as a general manager (the Colts fired him and hired Chris Ballard from the Chiefs) and how much that affected Pagano’s abilities to coach.
He has an overall record as 53-43 as a head coach with a 3-3 playoff record. Pagano may be one of the more underrated head coaches on the market, but his emphasis is defense and he would need to bring a very smart offensive mind with him to Denver to coordinate that side of the ball.
His ties to Colorado and John Harbaugh — who is close with Gary Kubiak — could be the connections Pagano needs to become Denver’s next head coach.