His quarterbacks were 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley.
Chuck Pagano coached that collection of quarterback misfits to a 6-3 record.
It was the 2015 season with the Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck was 2-5 as a starter that year as he battled through a torn rib cage and shoulder injuries, then suffered a season-ending lacerated kidney while getting drilled by Broncos’ linebacker Danny Trevathan.
Pagano had gone 11-5, 11-5 and 11-5 in his first three seasons in Indianapolis but his 8-8 record in 2015 may have been his best coaching job.
Born and raised in Boulder in a family of football coaching royalty, Pagano will be first up in the Broncos’ head coaching search with an interview today at the team’s UCHealth Training Center headquarters.
As Broncos’ general manager John Elway said he will keep an open mind during his head coach search, Pagano has a chance. Steelers’ offensive line coach Mike Munchak might be the guy to beat from a candidate list that so far also includes Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor and possibly New England defensive coordinator Brian Flores.
What Pagano, 58, can sell is he’s already been where the Broncos are now -- and immediately resurrected his rebuilt team into the playoffs.
The Colts were the worst team in the NFL in 2011, finishing 2-14 as superstar quarterback Peyton Manning missed the entire season with neck and nerve damage injuries.
For 2012, the Colts hired Pagano as head coach, released Manning to free agency (luckily for the Broncos) and used their No. 1 overall draft pick on Luck.
With a near completely overhauled roster, Pagano’s Colts started 1-2 when he took a 12-week leave of absence to receive treatments for acute promyelocytic leukemia, a form of cancer.
He beat it, returned for a final game win and playoff loss to Baltimore, the eventual Super Bowl champion (unfortunately for Rahim Moore and the Broncos).
Considered a good motivator with a defensive background, Pagano led the Colts to another 11-5 record in 2013, this time with a playoff win, and another 11-5 mark and two playoff wins – including a 24-13 second-round victory against the Broncos at Mile High – in 2014.
Then came back-to-back, 8-8 seasons in 2015 and 2016 before he went 4-12 in 2017 with Luck missing the entire season because of a shoulder injury and Pagano forced to use Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.
Pagano took the past season off but said during his father Sam’s Colorado Sports Hall of Fame induction last April that he wanted to get back into the coaching business in 2019.
Should Pagano get the head coaching gig with the Broncos, his offensive coordinator would likely be Gary Kubiak and his brother John Pagano could be his defensive coordinator.
Sam Pagano won three state titles at Boulder Fairview High School. John Pagano has been an NFL defensive coordinator for six seasons – with the Chargers from 2012-16 and Raiders in 2017. John is currently the outside linebackers coach with the Houston Texans, who play the Colts in a first-round AFC playoff game Saturday.
The Broncos will interview Taylor on Thursday in the Los Angeles-area and Fangio on Monday in the Chicago area. Interviews with Munchak and Flores have not been finalized.