Pagano ready to make case to remain Colts coach

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Chuck Pagano insists he's still right the coach for the Indianapolis Colts.

All he can do is wait to see if team owner Jim Irsay agrees.

Less than 24 hours after barely avoiding his first losing season as Indy's coach, Pagano met with his team and reporters before taking his case directly to Irsay.

''I think just like everybody else wants answers - the fans, my kids, my wife, the owner,'' Pagano said Monday. ''Yeah, we're going to have a discussion on where we're at, what do we need to do, where we're going and how we're going to get there? We understand where we want to go and so, yeah, we'll have that conversation.''

What Irsay must decide is whether Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson can get his team back on track.

During the first three seasons of the post-Peyton Manning era, the future looked bright. Indy won 11 games each season, made the playoffs all three times, captured two division titles and advanced one step deeper in the playoffs each year. The run ended with an AFC championship game loss in January 2015.

Since then, it's been a bumpy ride.

Andrew Luck missed nine games with injuries in 2015. Without their franchise quarterback, Indianapolis went 8-8 and was eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the season.

Luck stayed relatively healthy in 2016, missing just one game, but the results were similar. The Colts were eliminated from playoff contention with one game left, then won the season finale to finish 8-8.

It's the first time the Colts have missed the postseason in consecutive seasons since 1997-98, and it's the first time they've achieved the dubious feat under the same coach since the late Ted Marchibroda failed in 1993 and 1994.

''The inconsistency was frustrating, and not putting a string of wins together. I know in the past when we have had successful seasons we have put strings of wins together and got in a groove,'' Luck said. ''We didn't manage it this year. It's hard to say why.''

There's no indication that the Colts can reverse their slide next season, either.

Pagano was hired to fix the defense , which finished 26th, 20th, 11th and 26th in his first four seasons before slipping to 30th in 2016. With the defense's unquestioned leader, linebacker Robert Mathis, retiring, and linebacker Erik Walden set to become a free agent, the Colts could lose two players who accounted for 16 of their 33 sacks.

While Indy's young offensive line played better in November and December, it still allowed the fifth-highest sacks total (44) in the league. And fans have grown impatient with the litany of penalties, inexplicable play calls and botched decisions that have become a defining characteristic of the Colts the last two seasons.

Those problems have stirred a heated debate over which man, Pagano or Grigson, bears more responsibility. Or whether both should be out.

''I think continuity is huge,'' Pagano said. ''We live in, I call it the Burger King mentality. Burger King world, I want it my way and I want it now, that's reality. Sometimes you have to go through some stuff to get places.''

If the Colts make a coaching change, Luck is likely to be working with his fourth offensive coordinator in six seasons. But even keeping Pagano, Grigson or both around won't necessarily result in stability. After both received contract extensions last January, Pagano wasted no time in shaking up his coaching staff.

''It seemed like we had 100 different assistant coaches this year. So I think it's about getting people in the right positions,'' punter Pat McAfee said.

That call falls to Irsay, who would rather not make a change.

The problem is he also expects wins and playoff appearances, and he must determine whether Pagano and Grigson are capable of getting the job done.

''We understand that 8-8 is not good enough and that's on me,'' Pagano said. ''It's unacceptable.''

NOTES: The Colts announced Monday they have signed receivers Marcus Leak and Tevaun Smith, cornerbacks Tevin Mitchel and cornerback Larry Scott, linebacker Lavar Edwards, safety Stefan McClure, quarterback Stephen Morris and guard Adam Redmond to reserve-future contracts.

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