Pagano focuses on playoffs, unsure of future

Posted at 9:45 PM, Dec 31, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay says he has not made any decision about who will be in charge of his team next season.

Shortly after ESPN reported Thursday that the team planned to fire coach Chuck Pagano on Monday, Irsay issued a one-sentence statement.

"As of today, no decision has been made with respect to any structural changes within the Colts organization for 2016 and beyond," Irsay said.

It might not take him long to go public with that decision following the regular-season finale Sunday against Tennessee.

Speculation has swirled for months around Pagano, who declined to take a one-year contract extension last offseason before his contract expires at the end of this season. And there have rumors of a rift between Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson all season, too.

Grigson has one year left on his original contract.

Indy (7-8) was expected to be a Super Bowl contender this season. But poor play, bad decisions and a rash of quarterback injuries sabotaged everything.

Over the past few weeks, Pagano has been asked directly about his job status. His answers have ranged from everything such as "they can fire you but they can't eat you" to Wednesday's comment that he was "fighting his ass off" to keep his job.

ESPN reported Thursday that fight has already been decided and that Pagano will be out Monday. The report said that Grigson also could be out if the new coach has a different preference about who he wants as the GM.

Pagano was not available Thursday after practice because that's when the coordinators usually talk. He should be available Friday.

Pagano's agent did not respond to an email for comment.

In the meantime, Pagano continues to insist that he's focused solely on winning Sunday's game to give the Colts an 8-8 mark that would keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

"We're still standing, right? Still standing," Pagano said. "We're in a great spot. We're in a great spot. I love it."

Actually, the overall playoff picture for Indianapolis is quite complicated, but the Colts can still make the playoffs with a win over Tennessee and a Houston loss, and if the results of seven other games fall in line -- wins by Buffalo, Miami, Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Oakland and Pittsburgh.

It's a long list, and nearly all of it is out of Indy's control.

"I'm worried about one," Pagano said. "I'm worried about Tennessee. We've got to do our job. We've got to do our part."

But even with the chances, however slim they may be, few -- if any -- would ever gamble on Indy playing past Sunday.

"There's been times that stranger things have happened," kicker Adam Vinatieri said. "I think winning the lottery is way harder to do than to have nine games fall your way. We have to go out and win this game otherwise the rest of the scenarios don't matter."

As the Colts (7-8) prepare for the regular season finale with the Titans (3-12), Indy certainly hasn't lost hope. Not yet anyway. At this point, especially while Pagano's future in Indianapolis -- and the future of general manager Ryan Grigson -- is up in the air, hope is all the Colts have left to hold on to.

"I'm am eternal optimist," punter Pat McAfee said. "I walk into a casino, I think I'm going to walk out of there with every single chip. I play the lottery, I think I'm going to win the Powerball. Don't tell me the odds, just tell me there's a chance."

The Colts will have their eye on scenarios and the Sunday afternoon games going on around the league, especially the Texans, who sit atop the AFC South with Indianapolis.

"I don't know every scenario," Vinatieri said. "But I know we'll be paying attention to that game as we go along."

Notes: Quarterback Andrew Luck (abdomen/kidney), who has already been ruled out for Sunday's game with Tennessee, was limited in practice on Thursday ... Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (shoulder/ribs/back) missed practice for the second straight day ... Safety Colt Anderson (ankle), linebacker Trent Cole (concussion), and receiver Donte Moncrief (toe) didn't practice ...  Linebackers Sio Moore (knee), Jerrell Freeman (hamstring) and Erik Walden (foot), safeties Winston Guy (hamstring/shoulder) and Mike Adams (ankle), receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf), tight end Jack Doyle (toe), and cornerback Darius Butler (hip/knee) were all limited.