NFL

Season finale might be last audition for Colts

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)

(Eds: With AP Photos.)By MICHAEL MAROTAP Sports Writer

Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky has won consecutive games, his wife just had triplets and he isn't planning a trip to Disney World any time soon.

He's looking for work.

The career backup has an expiring contract, and it's unclear whether he'll be back with the Colts or another team next season. For Orlovsky, and all those other potential free agents, the season finale Sunday at Jacksonville is about more than draft position. It's one last chance to make an impression.

''Every week is an audition in this league,'' Orlovsky said Thursday, one day after the arrival of his three sons. ''There are 32 teams that watch, so it's important to have a good body of work and Sunday's game is the last piece of that body of work for this season.''

Things might be looking up for the seven-year veteran, who was unemployed until re-signing with the Colts on Sept. 29.

After losing his first nine NFL starts, Orlovsky helped Indianapolis (2-13) avoid a winless season by winning twice in five days. Another victory would give Indy its first season-ending, three-game winning streak since the Super Bowl-title season of 2006.

Orvlosky isn't the only one facing an uncertain future in Indy.

More than a dozen players are set to become restricted or unrestricted free agents in March, including a small cadre of 30-something former Pro Bowl players - Robert Mathis, Jeff Saturday and Reggie Wayne.

The Colts also must decide whether to pay four-time league MVP Peyton Manning a $28 million bonus, let him become a free agent or work out a new deal with the franchise quarterback. Team owner Jim Irsay has said that if Manning recovers from neck surgery, he will be back in Indy, no matter the cost.

Questions also surround coach Jim Caldwell, team vice chairman Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian.

Caldwell went 24-8, won two division titles and an AFC championship in his first two seasons with the Colts but without these last two wins, he could have seen his record slip to .500 this weekend.

After an 0-13 start, some fans openly criticized Caldwell for everything from his style to game management and called for a change. Finishing strong would be evidence that Caldwell did not quit on the season and that the players, who are in his corner, did not quit on him.

''I think Coach Caldwell has done a very good job this season. He has gotten the most out of his players,'' Saturday said. ''There have just been times that we haven't played well, so from that standpoint that will be up to Mr. Irsay and whatever he decides to do. But I think Coach Caldwell did a good job, and you've just got to keep battling and playing. You just go in, play as hard as you can and hope you get a win.''

Caldwell, who was fired in 2000 at Wake Forest and lost his job again the next season when the Buccaneers got rid of Tony Dungy, already has seen defensive coordinator Larry Coyer fired. More changes could be coming in the offseason or Irsay could bring in a whole new staff.

''Whether you are coaching or playing, it is always the same, and that doesn't matter if it is in Week 10 and you're 9-1 or whatever it might be,'' Caldwell said. ''Nothing is promised to you and there are no guarantees. So I think everybody that has played the game understands that, particularly at this level, and everybody that has coached it, we all coach on one-year contracts for (our) entire career.''

The Polians aren't entirely safe, either, not with concerns about the inability to groom an adequate backup to Manning. On his weekly radio show, Bill Polian acknowledged the front office was to blame for the lack of talent.

''Should we have done a better job? You bet,'' Polian said in October. ''But we have to make sure we do a better job going forward.''

Who will be around for the rebuilding project? Nobody knows..

Some contend the Colts should lose Sunday, thereby winning the Andrew Luck sweepstakes rather than winning the game and losing the No. 1 overall pick to St. Louis.

But for players and coaches fighting for their jobs, that's not the issue.

Playing well enough to win Sunday could make all the difference between getting a job, keeping a job or being out of work in 2012.

''Honestly, I think you're fighting for your job every single week in this league and it should be that way,'' Orlovsky said. ''It's a very privileged job. But you can't think about it that way. You just have to go out and prepare for each game and do the best you can.''

Tagged: Colts, Peyton Manning, Dan Orlovsky

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