It seems virtually certain that the hiring of former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano as the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts signals the end of the Peyton Manning era. Bringing on a new head coach with the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft seems to be a lock for him to start fresh anew with a rookie QB, just like his former boss did in Baltimore four years ago when the Ravens drafted Joe Flacco.
Although the plan was to sit Flacco behind either Kyle Boller or Troy Smith at that time, the path it has taken since then has proved that it was the correct decision. With a huge bonus due Manning, combined with the obvious rebuilding effort facing the Colts, it makes total sense for Pagano and the new front office regieme in Indy to hand the starting QB position to former Stanford QB Andrew Luck when they make him a very rich young man as the first pick in April's draft.
The big question will then become, "Where will Peyton Manning land in 2012?" Rumors are swirling around both the New York Jets and Washington Redskins, with an outside shot at the Miami Dolphins. Furthermore, what assistant coaches may follow Pagano from Baltimore to Indianapolis? Finally, could there be an exodus of players loyal to Chuck to join him with the Colts just like a few did when Rex Ryan left to take over as head coach of the New York Jets.
No matter how you look at it, there will be changes coming on both team, major ones for the Colts but only minor ones with the Ravens. History has shown that Baltimore has had four defensive coordinators leave the "shadow" of LB Ray Lewis to greener pastures of head coaching positions around the league, only to find that it was Ray that made them wealthier, although never more successful than they were with him padding their resumes.
While we wish Chuck Pagano good luck in the AFC South with his new team, we know that the Ravens will find the next great defensive coordinator, be it already with the team, or be it outside the organization for some lucky assistant elsewhere. Hang in there,Chuck, it's going to be a very rocky ride!