It was absolutely sobering to hear news after the Indianapolis Colts’ bye week that their new head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Since offensive coordinator Bruce Arians took over on an interim basis, all the Colts have done, to paraphrase Skip Bayless, is win. And all the while, the team has not forgotten about Pagano, as personnel from players to cheerleaders showed support by shaving their heads in his honor.
As if it were some sort of Christmas miracle, Pagano has been cleared to resume head coaching duties. And on the eve of his return to the sidelines, he even sent an inspiring email to folks on LiveStrong’s email list. Pagano, of course, was the subject of an offshoot of the cancer campaign organized by the Colts, called “ChuckStrong.”
“After I was diagnosed with leukemia, my whole team rallied around me in ways I never expected,” Pagano wrote. “That’s the definition of teamwork.”
But for football publisher Hub Arkush, Pagano’s return to the Colts in the final week of the regular season is the definition of “selfish” at best.
“I know that this may be controversial, and I don’t wanna be Scrooge here, but why he is coming back is an absolute mystery to me,” Arkush told Sports Radio 610 in Houston this week. “It seems a little bit selfish. I understand I’ve never been in his position, but… I think it’s got to be a distraction, and I think Bruce Arians has done an outstanding job. They should not be screwing around with that.”
Arkush was asked by Brad Davies and Mike Meltser if he thought it was a good idea for the Colts to rest their starters, now that the team is locked into the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. But before eventually answering that question, he addressed his concern for the person who hasn’t been in action for a dozen weeks.
“If I’m Chuck Pagano, I rest myself.”
The publisher of Pro Football Weekly also took a similar stance this week on the nationally syndicated radio show that bears the publication’s name, which he co-hosts with Green Bay Packers radio announcer Wayne Larrivee.
“I don’t really understand why Chuck Pagano is coming back,” Arkush commented, adding that the coach’s cancer battle has been “a great story” and that “it’s obvious he had a huge impact” on the team’s amazing run, especially with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck under center. Arkush also believes that Arians should be a shoo-in for the NFL Coach of the Year for his work in keeping the Colts in playoff contention, winning nine of twelve games.
Pro Football Weekly is actually a pretty good publication. Not only do they have a corresponding radio show, they also have a weekly television program that runs on many regional sports networks during the football season – and many might have heard of it for the first time only after Dan Hampton predicted that the Minnesota Vikings would “hit” the New Orleans Saints “like Katrina” in the opening week of the 2010 regular season.
Having said that, this sounds like a point that Hampton, and not Arkush, might make.
While Arians deserves credit for coaching a team that has been .750 under his watch, and Luck also should get some consideration for playing out of his mind in a sensational rookie campaign (second only, perhaps, to Robert Griffin III), you can’t help but argue that the spirit of Pagano kept a fire burning like the light that remained on in his office as he underwent treatment.
So even though he’ll be back with the team physically in what will likely be the team’s final game in Indianapolis this season, no matter how far the Colts advance in the playoffs, it’s hard to say if Chuck Pagano’s return will be a head coaching version of Ronnie Lott or Kirk Gibson or Curt Schilling or Willis Reed.
But to suggest that “ChuckStrong” returning to the team at this phase is “selfish” is downright weak.