INDIANAPOLIS -- Will this be the last bye week for Chuck Pagano as coach of the Indianapolis Colts?
It’s understandable if that's the case when you consider the current state of the franchise.
The Colts have gone from reaching the playoffs in each of their first three seasons under Pagano to now being on the verge of missing the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. Colts owner Jim Irsay wouldn't go beyond committing to Pagano for this season when he fired general manager Ryan Grigson back in January. New first-year general manager Chris Ballard is spending the season evaluating all areas of the team, from the players to the coaching staff.
The Colts' 3-7 record marks just the second time in the past 15 seasons that their record has been below .500 after 10 games.
“Life is hard; ball is hard. This profession is hard,” Pagano said. “You do it for moments. We haven’t had a whole bunch of those. We've had a lot of success. That’s how it goes. Some seasons are like this.
The Colts knew this season would be challenge with the roster turnover and the uncertainty surrounding quarterback Andrew Luck and his right shoulder to go along with season-ending injuries to players such as Malik Hooker, Henry Anderson and current injuries to John Simon and Clayton Geathers.
The ultimate goal has and continues to be winning as many games as possible. Other key evaluation areas when it comes to Pagano's future are the development of the young players on the roster and putting a competitive team on the field on a weekly basis.
The problem the Colts continue to face is their inability to close out games. They have led in the second half of five of their seven losses, including Sunday's 20-17 defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It's really pretty simple, we just have to figure out a way to get it done," left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. "It's happened too many times. It's kind of one of those things we have to nip in the bud and get in and fix it."
Simple is the last way you'd describe what the Colts have gone through. It's almost expected that they'll find a way to lose the lead in the fourth quarter.
"Until we figure out a way to eliminate foolish penalties in critical situations and a costly turnover, those kind of things, we're going to be talking the same old thing week in and week out, so it is what it is," Pagano said.
The Colts are closer to the No. 1 overall pick in the next spring's draft than they are to Tennessee and Jacksonville in the AFC South because they can't close out games.
Indianapolis is 3 1/2 games behind first-place Jacksonville and Tennessee and would have the No. 4 pick -- which would be its highest selection since taking Luck No. 1 overall in 2012 -- in the draft if it were held today. The Colts start their post-bye week stretch of six games -- three home and three on the road -- on Nov. 26 against the Tennessee Titans.
"Some years are like this," Pagano said again. "It makes you better if you don't quit, if you don't give in. If you learn lessons and you've got to learn; you've got to grow. You've got to be honest. You've got to be able to look at it and say, 'OK, this is why.' Point it out and say, 'This is why this is happening, so let's fix this, this and this.' You keep going, you keep going, you keep going."