Jim Irsay Has Colts Looking Like The Laughingstock Of NFL Following Jeff Saturday Hire

Media members talk with Chris Ballard, general manager, Jim Irsay, owner, and new interim head coach Jeff Saturday, on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, during a press conference at the Colts headquarters in Indianapolis.
Media members talk with Chris Ballard, general manager, Jim Irsay, owner, and new interim head coach Jeff Saturday, on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, during a press conference at the Colts headquarters in Indianapolis. /

The Indianapolis Colts parted ways with Frank Reich earlier in the week, ending a 4.5 year stint as the team’s head coach. Owner Jim Irsay tried his best to calm the waters in Indy, but following the hiring of Jeff Saturday, all he did was make the Colts the laughingstock of the NFL.

The firing of Frank Reich, on the surface, was a move that had been long overdue in Indianapolis. As great of a person as Reich is — and even with a winning record as the Colts HC — his style of coaching began to run dry last season.

Contrary to what Jim Irsay says, an analytical approach is not what cost Frank Reich his job. Under Reich’s guidance, the Colts consistently boasted an above-average offense and ranked in the top ten on 4th-and-short conversations. These numbers are even more impressive when you factor in the carousel of quarterbacks that have gone through Indianapolis since Andrew Luck’s retirement.

The primary reason Reich was relieved of his duties is due to his history of slow starts and sloppy finishes. In years prior, the Colts rebounded from disappointing opening months, but after starting 1-4 in 2021 and embarrassingly dropping their final two games, it became clear that Reich’s luck had run out.

The Colts salvaged a tie against the Houston Texans to open the 2022 NFL season, but the following week, the team somehow one-upped their abysmal performance from week 18 of 2021 against Jacksonville. For the eighth straight time, the Jaguars beat their divisional foes, this time in a 24-0 shutout. The Titans handed the Colts a 24-17 loss a couple of weeks later.

Thanks to a slew of self-inflicted errors on the part of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Colts stole a win from the AFC West leaders. They also defeated the Denver Broncos in a field goal-kicking contest that went down to overtime. Frank Reich’s crew exercised their demons by defeating the Jaguars in Indy, bringing the Colts’ record to a respectable 3-2-1.

These three wins were not enough to right the ship. Anyone who watched the games could see that the Colts’ recent victories were not a product of stellar play on their part, but more so lackluster play from their opponents. Still, there was enough reason to believe that Reich could scrap out 9-10 wins.

Three straight losses to the Titans, Commanders, and Patriots proved one thing: the 2022 Indianapolis Colts are not a good football team. The Patriots avenged their loss from 2021 by stomping the Colts 26-3. This game became the final nail in Frank Reich’s coffin.

The firing of Frank Reich was a justifiable move for the reasons listed above. The same cannot be said about everything that has happened since Reich’s firing.

First, the Colts announced former franchise stalwart at center — Jeff Saturday — as the team’s interim head coach. If you are thinking, “oh wow, I did not know Jeff Saturday was on the Colts coaching staff”, well… that is because he wasn’t.

In fact, Saturday has never coached above the high school level. That is not to say he lacks the traits to be a good NFL coach, but to be thrown into the fire by Jim Irsay midway through the season was a stunning revelation.

The move immediately caught pushback from every side of the NFL community. The current coaching staff in Indy, which boasts the likes of former head coaches John Fox and Gus Bradley, was reportedly blindsided by this move. Rumblings around the organization indicate that some current coaches felt ‘disrespected’ by the decision to bypass them for a guy with zero NFL coaching experience.

Another issue that immediately came to the forefront centered around the Rooney Rule. As many know, the Rooney Rule is in place to guarantee that minorities get a fair shake when it comes to the hiring process. We can debate about how effective this has been, and the long list of loopholes that franchises have found to take power away from the rule.

On that last issue, the Rooney Rule itself does not apply to head coaches that are granted interim head coach status. The reason for this caveat is that an interim head coach is typically picked from the staff in place, meaning it is not always feasible to satisfy the rule in those circumstances.

Things only got worse for the Colts during Monday night’s introductory press conference for Jeff Saturday. Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard sat with Saturday and answered questions ranging from on-field concerns to inquiries on why Saturday was the right man for the job.

During this press conference, with the NFL world watching, Jim Irsay was in peak Jim Irsay form. Love it or hate it, the Colts’ long-time owner is never shy to speak his mind — and in his own special way.

Irsay is not going to give traditional, formulaic answers. He is as big of a personality as Jerry Jones is in Dallas and, like Jones, he flexes his authority as the owner when deemed necessary. There are no concrete reports on this, but simply judging by body language, it is clear that Jeff Saturday was an Irsay decision — not a Chris Ballard one.

While a large contingency of Colts fans has grown impatient with Chris Ballard’s style of team building, Irsay announced that he is committed to keeping the incumbent general manager for the 2023 season. I would consider this an audition year, or in players’ terms, a prove-it year.

That being said, do not expect Ballard to have as much free rein as he has in the past. Jim Irsay is not getting any younger, and with each passing season, his chances of seeing the Colts hoist a Lombardi Trophy goes down — and he knows it.

Irsay will never admit desperation, but Monday’s press conference reeked of it. Numerous times, in trademark Irsay fashion, the Colts owner cut off questions and rambled on and on about the success of his team from the 2000s. It was reminiscent of Jerry Jones talking about the 90s Cowboys.

One of the funniest quotes from the press conference reads like a quote directly from a Seth Rogen film. Irsay stated, “I don’t know how to make sausage. I don’t know what goes into making sausage. But I do know how to build a football team. I have been doing it for 50+ years”.

To be fair, I also have no idea what goes into sausage or the process of making it. I’d rather keep it that way too!

Perhaps the most puzzling quote (which is a lofty claim) came when Irsay seemingly downplayed analytical decisions in football. He essentially said that Saturday brings a fresh approach because he won’t be “scared into using analytics”.

If you were shocked when you heard of Jeff Saturday’s hiring, just imagine how Saturday felt. He told reporters that he received a phone call from Jim Irsay Sunday during the Colts game against New England asking “what is wrong with the offensive line?”.

Little did Saturday know that Irsay was already laying the groundwork for his shocking hire a day later. Saturday’s jaw hit the floor when he received the offer. The Colts legend prayed on it and received the clarity he was searching for, leading to the former Hebron Christian Academy head coach taking the same role for Indianapolis.

Saturday enters a locker room that likely consists of many who doubt his qualifications to be a head coach in the NFL. He must earn the respect of the 53-man roster, but also of his peers on the coaching staff. Given the initial reactions to Saturday’s hiring, it will be an uphill battle to accomplish this in only eight games.

I have to give credit where credit is due. Jeff Saturday doesn’t sound like a guy who is in over his head. He is a likable guy, and as a player, he was one of the most respected during his time in the league. There is a big difference between snapping the football and leading an entire NFL organization.

I am rooting for Jeff Saturday, but I fear he has been named captain of a sinking ship. The Colts would never tank on purpose; it goes against their DNA. But, it is hard to look at the Sam Ehlinger move, Nyheim Hines trade, and Jeff Saturday hire and not see a team waiving the white flag in 2022.

It is a shame. The Colts’ defense is among the best in the league, and they have accomplished this without All-Pro LB Shaq Leonard for a majority of the season.

Calling the offensive side of the ball a disaster would be far too kind. The WRs are stepping up, but the offensive line, once a strong suit for the roster, is one of the worst in the league in 2022. Running back Jonathan Taylor has dealt with injuries on and off all season, leaving the Colts without a true identity as a team.

The Colts’ remaining schedule is not an easy one. They go to Las Vegas to play the Raiders and host the Steelers and Texans later in the season, but the other five games are against teams with a combined record of 32-8.

This coming offseason is a turning point for the Indianapolis Colts franchise. Will they be able to retool with a new quarterback in the NFL Draft and contend for a playoff spot in 2023? Will they go for another veteran quarterback and hope that the 4th time is a charm?

Getting an answer to the quarterback position is far and away the No. 1 goal on the offseason wishlist. Whoever is tabbed to lead the Colts into the future, whether it is Jeff Saturday or someone else, will have the opportunity to hitch themselves to a quarterback of their choice.

Buckle up Colts fans. The rest of 2022 is going to be a nausea-inducing mess to watch. The offseason could be more of the same if Monday’s press conference is any indication. The Colts are at an impasse. Either they reclaim their spot in the upper quartile of the top quartile of the NFL’s most-winning franchises, or they continue to be the butt of the jokes around the league.