The Indianapolis Colts fired coach Frank Reich, Monday, with a half-season still to go. But the hiring of Jeff Saturday stunned everyone.
Saturday was a terrific player with the Colts. No one questioned his skills as an offensive lineman or being able to teach that position or motivate players. However, here’s the odd factoid on the Jeff Saturday resume. He’s never coached a game on a level more intense than high school.
Yet that’s what attracted Colts owner Jim Irsay. The lack of NFL coaching experience was a plus. Or as they say, the feature, not the bug.
“Now, I’m glad he doesn’t have NFL experience,” Irsay told reporters. “And that he hasn’t learned the fear that’s in this league.”
The fear, Irsay says, is bucking analytics. When Saturday played for the Colts, coaches went with their well-honed guts as opposed to a set of percentages. Saturday always was considered an undersized overachiever, playing a position that the NFL didn’t prioritize in the draft. He even worked at an electrical supply store after he was cut his rookie season by Baltimore. Then in 1999, the Colts met their new center. Saturday played for Indy for 13 seasons, earning Pro Bowl honors in five of them. He also was a part of Indy’s Super Bowl win over the Chicago Bears.
Jeff Saturday Is Old-School Throwback to Pre-Analytics Days
Typically, the guy who plays center is smart. He’ll make the line calls. Plus, Saturday snapped to NFL legend Peyton Manning. And after retiring from the NFL in 2013, he began showing that knowledge as an analyst on ESPN. Saturday also took a job as head coach at Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Ga, outside Atlanta. He won 20 games over three seasons, qualifying for the playoffs each year.
Irsay said Jeff Saturday was the sole candidate to replace Reich as interim coach.
“He’s the best man for the job,” Irsay said. “And there’s no question about it in my mind. I’ve been around (football) a long time. He’s extremely tough and he’s a leader. You have to be a great thinker, work with people, be open-minded, create a culture where people trust you. You have to have experience, draw on experience in your life. (And) you know it when you see it.”
Of course, Saturday inherits an offense in disarray. Few interim coaches land in a good situation. The Colts are 3-5-1. In Sunday’s 26-3 loss, the offense allowed nine sacks of second-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger. He completed only 15 passes for 103 yards. The Patriots also scored on an Ehlinger pick six. Sunday’s game was the fourth time this season Indy has allowed at least five sacks. So Saturday definitely has work to do.