Chuck Pagano plans on returning to Colts, but will Jim Irsay agree?

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This much we know after Chuck Pagano offered a long and winding postscript to a long and wildly erratic 2016 season.

He expects to return for a sixth year as the Indianapolis Colts head coach.

As of early Monday afternoon, he had yet to meet with owner Jim Irsay.

That timeline leaves everything very much up in the air, most notably the fate of Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson.

Pagano spoke for nearly 23 minutes Monday, which included an exhausting 11-minute opening statement that reflected on a second straight 8-8 record and second straight season that fell short of reaching the postseason.

But the only voice that matters belongs to Irsay. The buck stops at his fancy desk inside the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance headquarters.

It’s up to Irsay to quell any speculation and dismiss any conjecture as to the job security of his coach and GM.

Until then, Pagano’s words lack resonance.

The back-and-forth with the media:

Have you met with Irsay, and it sounds like you expect to be back?

“That’s the plan and I have not met with him, yet. We do every year, so when that happens . . . ’’

You’ll meet this afternoon?

“That’s the plan.’’

Is there any reason to doubt you won’t remain the head coach?

“No.”

And that’s based on?

“I just look at things. It’s always half-full. I don’t have any reason to believe why I wouldn’t be.’’

Pagano shared time with Irsay Sunday in a joyous locker room after the Colts rallied for a season-ending 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. But it was a celebratory moment, not one for reflection or considering the coming days.

“We were enjoying the moment . . . just won a game,’’ Pagano said.

One snippet from Pagano that spoke volumes regarding job security: “I think job continuity is huge.’’

Self-serving for the head coach and his staff? Of course. Revealing? Not a chance.

Irsay advocates continuity as well, but he’ll make a change if he’s convinced it’s in the best interest of the franchise.

A short history lesson is worth revisiting.

Following the humbling 2011 (2-14, remember?), Irsay fired long-time executive Bill Polian immediately after the season but left coach Jim Caldwell in place for more than two weeks. It would be up to the new GM – Grigson – to settle on the team’s head coach.

Eight days later, he hired Grigson.

A week later, the team fired Caldwell.

On Jan. 25, 2012, Pagano was named Caldwell’s successor.

The remainder of Monday’s presser dealt with a season replete with missed opportunities (losses to Detroit, Houston twice, Jacksonville) and individual achievements (Frank Gore, T.Y. Hilton, Andrew Luck bouncing back from an injury-plagued, error-filled 2015). He stressed that missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98 was “disappointing and it’s not acceptable.’’

On more than one occasion, Pagano shouldered the blame.

“I take full responsibility for all of this stuff,’’ he said. “We’ve got to be better.’’

After the Colts bottomed out in 2011 and Irsay authored a massive organizational overhaul, Pagano and Grigson pumped immediate optimism into the fan base with three straight seasons of 11-5 records and playoff appearances.

The last two years, though, have represented clear regression.

Why does Pagano believe he’s part of the solution?

“Faith. Belief,’’ he said. “We’ve got a quarterback, I think the best quarterback in the league. Got a bunch of young offensive linemen that are on the come, bunch of young defensive players that are going to get better through time.

“We’re going to learn. We’re going to grow. That’s the only thing you can go. We’ve got to be better, and we will. We’ll keep working until we get there.’’

Twelve months ago, it was believed Irsay was leaning toward moving on from Pagano, whose contract was about to expire, and Grigson, who had one year remaining on his contract.

However, Pagano played a major role in changing Irsay’s mind. Might he have to lobby once again for his job?

Everybody wants answers, he admitted, “the fans, my kids, my wife, the owner. Yeah. We’re going to have a discussion, OK, 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. We’ll have that conversation.’’

Only then will we have the answers that matter.

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