All the while, with Pagano putting his hand in game plans first from his hospital bed and later from his home, the Colts continued to win.
Indianapolis improved from 2-14 in 2011 to 11-5 last year, and the team received an inspirational message from its head coach after a Nov. 4 win against Miami.
"I've got circumstances," Pagano told his players during a surprise appearance in the postgame locker room. "You guys understand it. I understand it. (The leukemia's) already beat. It's already beat. My vision that I'm living is to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings and then hoist that Lombardi Trophy several times."
Video of the speech went viral and become one of the indelible images of the season.
Pagano is the fourth member of the Colts' organization to win the Halas Award — joining quarterback Bert Jones, who won it while the franchise still was in Baltimore in 1979, quarterback Jim Harbaugh in 1997 and former head coach Tony Dungy in 2006.
Atlanta's Dan Reeves is the only other head coach to win the award, claiming the honor in 1999.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whose wife died during labor negotiations before the start of the preseason, was last year's winner.