Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano watches from the sidelines in the second quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-10 victory at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on December 6, 2015. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
For a man who beat cancer, Chuck Pagano responded with what might have been a bit of hyperbole when given a contract extension Monday.
"I've had a lot of great days in my life, but none better than today. This is absolutely the best day of my life," Pagano said Monday night after beating the odds and surviving as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
One of the NFL's biggest upsets of the season occurred late Monday when Colts owner Jim Irsay decided to give the embattled coach a second chance.
"I'm convinced that we have the right stuff going forward to win a world championship. It was always my hope that this was the direction we would head," Irsay said of keeping Pagano. "It was a long day of conversation, and I came out of it really excited and energized."
Many around the league thought Pagano's firing was a given after the team collapsed in December. However, after an 8-8 finish to his fourth season in Indianapolis, Pagano can focus on the draft and improving a team that struggled without star quarterback Andrew Luck.
"Words can't describe how I feel right now," Pagano said. "It's a great, great day, and I owe it all to Jim."
The NFL Network reported Pagano received a four-year extension.
"The players are thrilled that coach got an extension," linebacker D'Qwell Jackson told reporters. "I'm just overcome with joy that a guy like himself, that we love and want to play for, a guy that stands for family, faith and football, got another shot."
Not only was Pagano's contract extended, but Irsay also decided to extend general manager Ryan Grigson's contract for three additional years. Grigson had one year left on his deal.
Grigson reportedly created friction with attempts to steer game-day and strategic decisions. On Monday, though, Grigson offered his support to Pagano.
"Chuck Pagano is a great man," Grigson said. "We've been through the ringer together, but we're still focused on one goal, winning a championship."
Pagano, who has a 41-23 record with the Colts, was hired by Irsay and Grigson in January 2012. Pagano, 55, had a record of 11-5 in each of his first three seasons, though then-offensive coordinator Bruce Arians ran the team for three months in 2012 while Pagano battled leukemia.
After turning down a contract extension he considered insulting prior to the 2015 season, Pagano led the Colts to an .500 record, one game behind AFC South champion Houston Texans.
Injuries, notably to Luck's kidney and ribs, helped derail the Colts.
Luck missed nine games, and in the regular-season finale, the Colts won using quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley, who had only three days to prepare.
Pagano was defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens when he interviewed for the Indianapolis job four years ago.