It's not so much if the Colts are going to fire Chuck Pagano, it's when they'll fire Chuck Pagano. Assuming Indy doesn't make the playoffs it is "virtually certain" Jim Irsay will send Pagano packing, as CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has reported basically since September.

The replacement portion of the program could be pretty awkward, with La Canfora reporting Irsay will conduct "a coaching search that could result in general manager Ryan Grigson being let go." 

The way this happens is if Irsay is able to land a big fish on the hook (which is primarily being baited by the presence of Andrew Luck on the roster) who demands enough power or the presence of a hand-picked GM and makes Grigson expendable. 

Two such candidates Irsay plans to pursue according to Nick Saban and Sean Payton.

Neither is currently a free agent. Saban is planning for the College Football Playoff championship game against Clemson on January 11. (The result of the Saban rumors will be a lot of delightfully angry press conference answers from the Crimson Tide's head coach.)

And Payton is under contract with the Saints, although it's believed the relationship between the club and its long-time coach could be coming to a close if New Orleans plans to rebuild the roster. 

Landing Payton might require a trade with New Orleans, making matters extremely complicated. 

Saban might be even tougher to lure because of his comfort level in Tuscaloosa and an annual cavalcade of five-star recruits coming through town to almost guarantee a title run. On the other hand, Saban could win a title with Alabama this year and make the leap back to the NFL in a situation where he would face an easy division and already have his franchise quarterback. Say what you want about his time in Miami, but it's an entirely different ball game if he picks Drew Brees over Daunte Culpepper. 

Stealing Saban from Alabama or scoring Payton from the Saints feels like a pipe dream for an owner who managed to create an environment where everything turned real south real quick despite back-to-back 11-win seasons in Indianapolis.

More than likely it's just the annual rampant speculation of associating big names with big jobs, a right of passage for the final week of the season. 

Nick Saban is back in the rumor mill, this time with the Colts. (USATSI)