And Arians said nobody sat in the front seat of the team bus.
‘‘He’s always been our head coach,’’ Arians said.
So after getting medical clearance from his oncologist, Dr. Larry Cripe, to return with no restrictions, Pagano couldn’t wait to get to the office Monday morning.
Arians arrived at 7 a.m., three hours early for the scheduled team meeting. By then, Pagano had already driven past the inflatable Colts player with the words ‘‘Welcome Back Chuck’’ printed on its chest and was back in his office preparing for the Texans.
Players showed up a couple of hours later, and when the torch was passed from Arians back to Pagano, players gave their returning coach a standing ovation that Wayne said was well-deserved.
All Pagano wants to do now is emulate the success Arians and his players have had this season.
‘‘I asked him (Arians) if he would lead this team and this ballclub and this organization and take over the reins,’’ Pagano said. ‘‘What a masterful, masterful job you did Bruce. You carried the torch and all you went out and did was win nine ballgames. You got us our 10th win yesterday and you got us into the playoffs. You did it with dignity and you did it with class. You’re everything that I always knew you were and more.’’
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