Vote of confidence for Colts Chuck Pagano from Jim Irsay hardly binding

Jim Irsay might have been telling Chuck Pagano the truth, but then again ...

Jim Irsay might have been telling Chuck Pagano the truth, but then again …

Let’s say reports are true that Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano was told by owner Jim Irsay that he would return for 2017.

What exactly does that mean?

Maybe something, maybe nothing, and not a damn thing in many workplaces.

My experience professionally has been mostly restricted to media, but I have heard managers tell subordinates that their jobs are safe, only to see them fired weeks or months later.  It’s standard operating procedure.

Honestly answering an employee’s question as to what the shot is prior to a pre-planned termination is almost never done.  That’s how employers get sued.

So let’s assume for the moment that during the annual postseason de-brief, Pagano asked Irsay whether his job was safe.  Irsay, understanding the human resources repercussions of a transparent explanation, does what most managers with whom I have worked.  He either shades the truth or blatantly lies.

If Irsay is still looking for replacement, would he really share that with Pagano?  Not a chance.

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Pagano, a pretty good strategist in these matters as we saw last year, waits to be asked by the right reporter whether he expects to be back.  When it comes, Pagano responds with an accurate reproduction of Irsay’s answer.

Maybe the public airing of that portion of the conversation will compel Irsay to stick to his word, and maybe not, but there is no downside for Pagano to “innocently” share that specific detail.

Clearly, I’m reporting nothing substantial.  I have no idea whether Irsay plans to retain or jettison the coach with third degree burns on his ass for the second straight January from that hot seat.

But there are very few bosses in corporate America with the stones to upset the HR apple cart in order to honestly answer a question from a soon-to-be ex-employee.

It’s possible the reports late last week of Irsay telling Pagano he’s safe for 2017 could have been simultaneously accurate and completely false.

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It happens all the time, and for fans, Pagano, his family and friends, or the media to take Irsay at his word shows a total lack of understanding as to how business works.

Maybe Pagano will be back, and maybe he won’t, but if he or we take seriously an answer to that question in a closed door meeting, we are sweetly naive.

Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at

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