Local residents support Pagano

GREENFIELD — Richard VanDyke heard about Change.org. He even signed a few online petitions hosted by the website in the past, but he never envisioned launching one himself.

At least not until this past weekend when he created a digital appeal calling to “Fire Ryan Grigson from his position as Indianapolis Colts GM, and keep (head coach) Chuck Pagano.”

“I’m a very, very faithful (Indianapolis Colts) fan, and I just saw how (Pagano) was getting the short end of the stick through it all. It wasn’t right,” VanDyke said.

VanDyke, 38, like many, heard the rumors foreshadowing the potential firing of head coach Chuck Pagano regardless of the team’s regular-season finale against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

It turned out, VanDyke and signers of his petition got their wish. Well, half of it.

The Colts announced late Monday night that Pagano would sign an extension and Grigson would be retained.

The team had a news conference scheduled for late Monday night.

Social media was abuzz with commentary and spoofs on Pagano’s situation, flippantly stating the coach’s chances of keeping his job were hinged on the Colts somehow making the playoffs, which required nine unlikely scenarios.

Initially, VanDyke, who was interviewed before the news of the coach staying with the team was announced, shared his opinion on the matter with friends and family, but after attending Colts punter Pat McAfee’s “A Ridiculous New Year’s Eve” stand-up comedy show at the Old National Centre, he believed action was necessary.

“There was a part of the show where he said he loved coach (Pagano). The whole crowd cheered, but then somebody said something about (Ryan Grigson) and everyone booed,” VanDyke remarked. “Right there, I knew I wasn’t the only one.”

On Saturday morning, VanDyke put his plan in motion, fashioning his online defense of Pagano and activating the petition at 11 a.m.

On the website, the motivation behind VanDyke’s campaign was clear:

“Ryan Grigson is responsible for the situation that the Indianapolis Colts are in personnel-wise this season. It would not be fair for Chuck Pagano to lose his job when Mr. Grigson does not give him the tools to do his job, nor the authority to make the necessary changes to make the team successful.”

After the first few hours, the petition had fewer than two dozen signatures. In an attempt to spread the word, VanDyke shared the website’s link on Twitter and posted it on Facebook, tagging and reaching out to the Indianapolis-area media.

By the time, VanDyke went to sleep, his supporters rose into the hundreds. When he woke up Sunday, the number broke 2,000 and continued to climb, prompting phone calls from local TV stations for interviews.

“I was about to delete it, then it just started going,” VanDyke said. “It’s been shared a lot. I’ve seen comments from all 50 states, including Hawaii and Alaska, plus Canada, Finland and the (United Kingdom). That tells me it’s not just an Indiana thing. It’s a national and international thing at that.”

VanDyke said his inbox has been flooded since Saturday with nearly 5,000 signatures before Monday night’s announcement.

As the father of three kids, VanDyke, a Greensburg native, appreciates the support. Moving to Greenfield three years ago to be closer to his then fiancee and her family, VanDyke works for Engleking Construction. When he has down time, he spends it with his kids and watching the Colts, his second family.

A fan since the late 1990s, VanDyke has never seen the Colts in person — or stepped foot into Lucas Oil Stadium for football — but he’s never missed a game. A big reason is the message expressed by Pagano.

“He’s just a real good coach. You can tell by the camaraderie between the players and the family feeling he brings to the locker room. You can see it all around him and you can tell the players love him,” VanDyke remarked. “That’s the most important part about a winning team.”

Until this season’s disappointing 8-8 finish for the Colts, Pagano steered the franchise to three consecutive 11-5 records, two AFC South Division titles, three playoff appearances and 40 wins overall in four seasons.

Prior to the announcement Monday, Pagano’s four-year contract, signed in 2012, had expired. Last March, the Colts tried to extend his contract by one year, but Pagano declined at the time.

The coach didn’t receive an extension offer earlier this year as the team’s season spiraled out of control with substantial injuries suffered throughout the lineup and to quarterback Andrew Luck.

Grigson, an Indiana native, has been reported by various news outlets of overstepping his bounds and micro-managing several coaching and personnel areas the past four years and undermining Pagano. According to sources, these acts have led to confrontations and a splintered relationship.

While the strained partnership between Pagano and Grigson isn’t a secret, reports Monday revealed overwhelming locker room support for the coach by the players, possibly pushing the eventual result more in Pagano’s favor.

“The more and more I thought about; something needed to happen,” VanDyke said. “Chuck Pagano is too good of a coach. You have to give a guy the right tools to do his job or he’s not going to get it done. And I don’t want to see him go to some other team and beat us the next 10 years.”

Luckily for VanDyke, he won’t have to. At least not next year.

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.