Colts continue to prey on Baltimore

Baltimore Ravens defensive guru Chuck Pagano has joined the Indianapolis Colts as their new head...

Baltimore Ravens defensive guru Chuck Pagano has joined the Indianapolis Colts as their new head coach. (REUTERS)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:57 PM ET

When the Indianapolis Colts introduced Chuck Pagano as their head coach Thursday, it continued the evisceration of the Ravens and it cements the Irsay Family as public enemy No. 1 in Baltimore.

First, the Irsays stole their team. Now, they’ve absconded with the man credited with putting the swagger back into Ray Lewis’ defence.

This has been a week scripted in hell for the Ravens. First they lose the AFC championship — a game they have every right to believe they deserved to win — to what some of them called a “Pretty Boy” quarterback.

Nauseating.

So, everyone from Joe Flacco to Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff on the offensive side of the football is fitted for pillorying in the town square. Offensive co-ordinator Cam Cameron’s potential departure is greeted with a sigh of relief.

So what happens?

Cameron, close friend of head coach John Harbaugh, appears to be settling in for another season; even sending out instructions to his assistants. It had been assumed the Ravens’ lack of offensive creativity, and Flacco’s lack of progress, would translate into Cameron’s departure.

Instead, Cameron has been at the Senior Bowl practices this week in Mobile, Ala., with Harbaugh.

Instead, Pagano, the architect who restored the nasty, gung-ho style to the Ravens defence, is being introduced by Indianapolis owner and CEO, Jim Irsay, as the head coach of the despised Colts.

“I really believe Chuck is bringing a toughness, the leadership we need at this point for the franchise,” Irsay said.

The 51-year-old Pagano said the hiring had been a “whirlwind,” since the Ravens lost only a few days ago in the AFC championship game. “Words can’t describe the emotions that I’m going through right now and the feelings,” he said. “Coming off probably the most devastating loss that I’ve ever been a part of in the AFC championship game and to go in that locker room and see those faces and we all know how hard it is to get to that stage and to see the tears. It’s an all-time low. And the last thing I ever expected came across my table and now I sit here at an all-time high.”

Pagano will bring an aggressive style to the Colts’ defence. He’s outspoken and fiery, even getting into a heated argument with Harbaugh late in Baltimore’s win over the Houston Texans. How much that played into his departure from the Ravens is unknown.

What is known is that in his first year as the Ravens’ defensive co-ordinator after replacing the more conservative Greg Mattison, Pagano instituted a free-wheeling defence that ranked third in the league, allowing 16.6 points per game.

The Ravens recorded 48 sacks to lead the AFC after being limited to a franchise-worst 27 the previous year under Mattison.

“He’s a fantastic coach, he gets along good with his guys,” Ravens inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. “Players want to play for them. He deserves this. He’s a great guy. He’s creative. He’s all about defence. He puts it all out there emotionally. He’s a great guy to play for. I’m sorry to see him go, but I’m happy for him.”

Under Pagano, Baltimore also finished first in red-zone defence, second in rushing defence and fourth in pass defence.

Players love him. When the Ravens obliterated the Pittsburgh Steelers to open the 2011 season, linebacker Terrell Suggs said, “That guy Chuckie Pagano, man, he’s as smart as he is ruthless. I guarantee he’ll only be our defensive co-ordinator one year, because he’ll be a head coach somewhere next year.

Pagano’s brother, John, recently hired by San Diego as a co-ordinator, believes Indianapolis also will fall in love with his brother. “I think they are going to respond really well,” John said. “I think he’s a defensive-minded coach with fire and passion. He’s going to bring a different energy to the city of Indianapolis.”

How Baltimore responds is quite another story. It was Jim Irsay’s father, who in an infamous quote in 1984 as owner of the Baltimore Colts, spat at local reporters, “This is my goddamn team!” Then, under the cover of night on March 28, 1984, he moved the club to Indianapolis.

“I couldn’t pass up on this great opportunity,” Pagano said. “I’m just thrilled and so excited.”

Meantime, in Baltimore, they don’t know about “excited”.

OUT AT FIRST!

Baseball may be America’s national pastime but football is its natural passion.

Football is more popular than ever in a post-lockout world, according to a Harris Interactive poll.

In the past year it has gained 5% in popularity over baseball. Pro football is the favourite sport of 36% of Americans, according to the poll, while only 13% went with pro baseball. Last year the gap was 31%-17%.

GAME ON!

The Patriots held their first practice Thursday with tight end Rob Gronkowski sitting out with his ankle injury. Coach Bill Belichick, asked about a prognosis, joked that his “crystal ball is kind of clouding up.” ... Tackle Sebastian Vollmer practiced and could share Super Bowl duties with rookie Nate Solder.

QUICK HITS

A Dolphins source tells the Miami Herald that the team’s off-season priority is to acquire Peyton Manning ... Eagles tight end Brent Celek escaped injury when a vehicle in which he was a passenger spun out and struck a concrete barrier in Philadelphia. The driver was arrested on DUI charges. Celek was not charged ... Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton will undergo ACL surgery. He’s 34 and the club may not retain him with a salary of more $4 million ... Owner Jerry Jones reiterated at the Senior Bowl that DeMarco Murray will remain the Cowboys’ primary back. “He’s just harder to bring down than Felix (Jones),” said Jones.

GUT-WRENCHING

The last thing a professional athlete wants is pity.

But Steelers safety Ryan Clark is, nonetheless, feeling a little for the Baltimore Ravens.

Clark told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh that he didn’t watch the AFC championship game because his daughter was having a birthday party, but when the result came he could feel their pain.

“My phone rang off the hook when Billy Cundiff missed the field goal,” Clark said. “I mean gut-wrenching. I know for those guys it is heartbreaking, but that is what football is about. You have to make every play and New England made just enough plays to win the game. I know it seems like for the Ravens right now always the bridesmaid and never a bride.”


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