On the final Monday of his fifth season in Indianapolis, Chuck Pagano stared down a hard reality he’s yet to encounter in his 79 games as an NFL head coach: His is a team that has nothing to play for Sunday.

At this juncture, the football hardly matters. It’s The Decision that does. The hope and optimism that encircled this team in July and August, gaining steam as Andrew Luck returned from injury, died on a sun-sprinkled Christmas Eve in Oakland, Calif. Pagano’s Colts were bounced from the playoffs with a week to play.

At least last year, while Luck missed nine games with an assortment of injuries, the Colts held onto a sliver of hope entering Week 17. This year they hold none. Just 16 weeks of regret, a season of unfulfilled expectations to look back on, a lost year that leaves their embattled head coach in pretty much the spot he was this time last December.

That is: No one save owner Jim Irsay knows what the future holds.

Pagano was Pagano on Monday, professing to hear nothing of the simmering firestorm that surrounds his job status. He smiled. He joked. “Sun came up, key fob worked, door opened, got another day,” he quipped. He was serious, though, when he needed to be serious, unhesitantly hurling the blame on his shoulders for his underachieving football team.