If you aren’t familiar with the Bruce Arians-Chuck Pagano-Indianapolis Colts narrative of last season, you must have been living under a rock.
And, if you’ve since surfaced from beneath that rock and need a refresher, here’s a brief summary: Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia last September. Interim head coach, and now Arizona Cardinals head coach, Bruce Arians led the Colts on a 12-game tear through the regular season under the ‘Chuck Strong’ motto as more than 20 players, and two cheerleaders, shaved their heads in Pagano’s support. Pagano returned as head coach on Christmas Eve and, following the Colts’ 11-5 season, Arians got his first head coaching post in Glendale, after earning the AP Coach of the Year award.
Now, on Sunday, Pagano and the Colts are set to visit Arians’ new stomping grounds at University of Phoenix Stadium. And it’s going to be emotional for both sides.
“It’ll be great to see B.A., Jerraud Powers, a bunch of the coaches,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck explained.
Among the other reunions taking place Sunday, the Colts will see former offensive line coach, and current Cardinals offensive coordinator, Harold Goodwin on the opposite sideline.
“I was hoping (the game) would never be on the schedule because too many emotional ties to what happened last year to have to play them,” Arians said Monday.
“I’m just glad we are playing here and not there. That would really be tough to walk into that stadium.”
Pagano, himself, weighed in on the game, cutting a similar outlook to Arians’ take.
“Obviously there’s history there, but he’s exactly right,” he said while talking about Sunday’s game on a conference call with reporters.
Pagano went on to talk about how deserving he felt Arians was of a coaching job prior to this season, making the matchup incredibly unique.
“I think everyone in the coaching profession knows that was long overdue,” Pagano said of Arians’ hiring.
Given the mutual knowledge of the two coaching staffs and styles, another facet is added to the matchup, as the Colts head coach went on to note.
“He’s got familiarity with us and we’ve got it with him, so I guess it’s a level playing field,” Pagano told reporters.
Arians, as a one-time interim head coach, has intimate knowledge of the Colts’ ways, though only spending one season with the organization.
Once the reunions are over on Sunday, however, it’s no holds barred. Arians told reporters Monday that he would “hide his emotions” well. And Luck reflected a similar sentiment.
“I think once warm-up sort of gets going and the ball is snapped, it won’t be too hard for either side to take the emotions out of it and realize it’s a big game,” he said. “There’s a lot at stake.”
Both the Cardinals (6-4) and Colts (7-3) are in the heat of playoff contention as they anticipate Sunday’s 2:10 p.m. MDT kickoff.