“I had a picture of a guy on a bucking bronco with the spurs on it,” he said. “It’s our last ride together. No team that I’ve ever been a part of has ever been the same, regardless of the record. That’s just the National Football League. This is our last rodeo together. We’re going to enjoy and embrace every single second of it and get obsessed with completion.”
The "last rodeo" could refer to more than just the end of a disappointing season for the Colts. It also could mean the end of Pagano’s six seasons as coach of Indianapolis.
Pagano’s job status has been in question at the end of each of the past two years. He managed to survive back-to-back 8-8 seasons in 2015 and 2016. But this season, which will end with the worst record since 2011 for the franchise, could be different.
There hasn’t been any word on which direction owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard are leaning with regards to Pagano’s job status, but the coach says he is OK with whatever decision is made.
“Great peace,” Pagano said Friday. “Couldn’t be in a better spot.”
The past three years have not been anything close to what Pagano envisioned -- from supposedly being Super Bowl contenders to missing the playoffs in 2015, to not having quarterback Andrew Luck this season. The common denominator is that the Colts have missed the playoffs in each of those seasons after making the postseason in Pagano's first three years as coach.
But Pagano’s problems go deeper than Luck's shoulder injury. The roster as a whole is not significantly better from the start of the season, and Pagano proved unable to make the halftime adjustments required to help his team close out games. The Colts are 2-7 when leading at halftime this season.
A win over the Texans on Sunday would keep the Colts out of the AFC South's cellar. A loss -- the first in six Week 17 games under Pagano -- would seal the underwhelming season.
“Whoever loses this game is going to be last in the AFC South,” Pagano said. “So finish. We signed up for 16. These guys have fought and they’ve battled, competed, every single week. We’re going to finish and do it the right way. They’re like us. They’ve got 18 guys on IR. We’ve got 18 guys on IR -- whatever it is. It just comes down to our will against theirs.”