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ANDERSON, Ind. — As the Colts prepare for a second straight season outside the playoffs for the first time since 1998, fans aren’t the only ones feeling frustration.

Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano made it clear Monday his team will take Sunday’s inconsequential season finale against Jacksonville seriously.

He also made it clear nobody in the locker room is happy with a 7-8 season in which the team never got its record over .500.

“It’s unacceptable where we are at, we all know that, players and coaches,” Pagano said. “That’s not us. That’s not this culture. That’s not what was developed around here long before I got here.”

A win against the Jaguars (3-12) would leave the Colts at .500 for the second year in a row. A defeat would result in the franchise’s first losing season since 2011.

Head coach Jim Caldwell and front office leaders Bill and Chris Polian were fired the day after that campaign, and there are plenty of outsiders calling for Pagano to meet a similar fate this year.

He avoids newspaper reports and radio talk shows in order to focus on the task at hand. But it’s harder to insulate his family.

“I hate it for them,” Pagano said. “I can deal with it. I hate it for my wife and my kids and my family that have to read it and whatever, try to calm them down, tell them to keep their blinders and ear muffs on. Keep your nose out of the paper. Don’t listen to 1070 (The Fan). There’s a guy on there that really loves me. I think the world of that guy, too.”

Pagano signed a four-year contract extension after an 8-8 finish last year, and owner Jim Irsay told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport two weeks ago he is not anticipating making any changes in the offseason.

But Irsay also left the door open a crack in case he has a change of mind.

Pagano began his career with three straight 11-5 seasons and three playoff appearances, culminating in a trip to the AFC Championship Game following the 2014 season. Since then, quarterback Andrew Luck has missed 10 games to injury and the team has a 15-16 overall record.

This year, the Colts are 0-5 against teams that have clinched a playoff spot. And they fell behind 33-7 in the third quarter Sunday at Oakland — the AFC’s current No. 2 seed — before scoring the game’s final 18 points.

“The record is what it is, and I can’t change history,” Pagano said. “All we can do is keep moving foward and try to rectify moving forward what’s taken place. Again, it’s not this organization. It’s unacceptable. Every man in that locker room would tell you and every coach up and down these hallways would tell you that.

“The standard is the standard, and we know what the expectations are and that’s to win. That’s what everybody came here to do.”

Playing for keeps

The only thing the affected by the outcome of this week’s season finale will Indianapolis’ and Jacksonville’s respective draft positions.

But Pagano is committed to playing any healthy starter in the contest. That’s been a constant since the coach arrived in 2012, even when playoff positioning has been clinched before the final game.

“We are playing to win the game,” Pagano said. “Now, if it calls for somebody because of injury or somebody can’t go then we will put whoever we have to put in there. But we will play our guys to win the football game.”

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HOUSTON — Hours after news broke on Sept. 25 of LSU firing Les Miles, Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek’s phone buzzed furiously.

Reporters tried to reach Yurachek — the man who has the unenviable task of trying to retain college football’s hottest head coach, Tom Herman — seeking to confirm a report that LSU reached out to Herman’s agent.

Yurachek didn’t take the calls, but before the night was over, Herman was standing at the northwest corner of TDECU Stadium after the Cougars’ practice, answering reporters’ questions about whether he had been contacted by the Tigers.

The calendar hadn’t yet turned to October, but LSU’s decision to part ways with Miles after four games set the rumor mill churning about the second-year coach’s future. Welcome to college football coaching searches in 2016.

“You guys like talking about things,” Herman said. “It’s your job to talk about things. And it’s my job to make sure a bunch of 18- to 22 year-olds play really hard on game day and execute really well. It really doesn’t creep into our lives very much.”

The chatter won’t stop anytime soon, particularly with the struggles ongoing at Texas and USC and the heat on their incumbent coaches. The more success Houston has — and the more vacancies that pop up at perennial power programs — the more intense the discussion surrounding Herman’s future will become.



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