For the first time in five years under head coach Chuck Pagano, the Colts will be playing in a game that’s meaningless. This is the first time they’ll enter a week already eliminated from playoff contention, and while it’s meaningful in terms of draft position, the season has already been proven to be a lost cause for Indianapolis.
But when it comes to the Colts’ approach to this Sunday’s game against the 3-12 Jaguars, it won’t be any different: they’re playing to win, regardless of what is at stake.
“We have a huge game coming up at home against a division rival and an opportunity to get to 8-8,” Chuck Pagano said yesterday. “We will prepare like we always do, we will stick to the process. We signed up for 16 games, that’s what I told them after the game on Saturday, was that we signed up for 16 games so we are going to finish and we are going to finish strong.”
While calling this game “huge” is absolutely an overstatement and actually quite humorous, it’s easy to see Pagano’s point: the Colts aren’t just going to give up and quit because things didn’t go their way. The Colts are going to stick it out and play the full 16 game slate, which means that if guys are healthy, they’re going to play.
They’re not going to rest players - “Why would we?” Pagano asked Monday. To get a better idea of some younger talent? “I don’t see any reason to do that,” he said. “We are playing to win the game. 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.”
The best Pagano’s Colts can do is finish 8-8 for the second straight year, avoid a season sweep by the Jaguars, get a draft pick close to where the playoff teams are picking, and perhaps even save his job. That’s not to suggest Jim Irsay will make his decision based on this one game (he won’t), but if the owner is on the fence it’s probably best for Pagano if he won the game and finished .500. Most likely, though, this is simply a matter of pride on the line when the Colts take on the Jaguars, because an 8-8 record just sounds a lot better than a losing record. That’s the importance of this game.
“The name on the back of your jersey,” Pagano said. “The decal on the side of your helmet. Pride. Respect. Winning. It’s unacceptable where we are at, we all know that, players and coaches. That’s not us, that’s not this culture, that’s not what was developed around here long before I got here. That’s what’s at stake.”
It’s clear that this game means a whole lot more to the Colts than it does to their fans. For the Colts, their pride is on the line. So maybe that will finally be enough to motivate them to play their best, since the division and the playoffs being on the line clearly wasn’t enough.