Colts owner Jim Irsay made the stunning decision to hire former Pro Bowl center Jeff on Saturday as the team’s interim head coach on the advice of his team’s top executives, who have tried to talk Irsay out of it, sources said.
It was the latest push by passionate and sometimes impulsive Irsay, who also coached veteran quarterback Matt Ryan’s bench two weeks before Irsay fired head coach Frank Reich on Nov. 7, the sources say. .
A member of the Colts’ ring of honor and Super Bowl XLI winning team, Saturday had never coached above the high school level and was recently employed by ESPN as a television analyst. He has natural leadership traits, which sources say were already on display as Saturday navigated an unprecedented situation with coaches and players to prepare the team for today’s game against the Raiders in Vegas.
But the unorthodox rental has come under intense scrutiny, both inside and outside the building.
Colts president Pete Ward and general manager Chris Ballard, among others, have spoken to Irsay and expressed their reservations, sources say. The Colts have former head coaches John Fox and Gus Bradley on staff, as well as a rising star in special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone. But sources say Irsay was determined to hire Saturday, who revealed Irsay called him during last Sunday’s loss to the Patriots to ask about Indianapolis’ problems on the offensive line.
Within 24 hours, Irsay called Reich – the owner remained in the Boston area after the game – to inform him that he was released. Ballard spoke to the team about the decision. And Irsay convinced Saturday, who said he prayed and decided he was called to Indianapolis for a reason, to take the job.
One of Saturday’s first tasks was to determine who would call the offensive plays, since Reich had taken on those tasks and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady was fired Nov. 1. Sources say quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich was offered the job without any revisions to his existing contract. , and he refused. So the Colts pivoted to 30-year-old passing game specialist and assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier, who is considered a great young coach but has never called plays in the NFL and will make his debut on Sunday under difficult circumstances.
Saturday said in his initial Monday night press conference that Sam Ehlinger would get his third NFL start on Sunday against the Raiders. But Ryan – who suffered from a shoulder injury while on the bench – will be active for the first time since the switch. If things don’t go well, another QB change isn’t out of the question, the sources say.
Saturday, 47, held his first team meeting on Wednesday and reiterated much of what he said during his press conference: He took the job because he loves the Colts, he’s relies on the coaching staff to help him and he’s not afraid to jump for the next eight games, maybe more.
“Here’s the deal: I’m completely comfortable with who I am as a man,” Saturday told reporters Wednesday. “I know I can lead men. I know I know football and I’m passionate about it. I have no fear whether you are as qualified as anyone else. Brother, I have Spent 14 years in a locker room I’ve been to the playoffs 12 times I’ve got five guys in the Hall of Fame who played with me Don’t you think I’ve seen greatness? that I’ve seen how people prepare? How they train “How they GM? How do they work? I won (a Super Bowl), been to two.
“Here’s the deal: None of us have the promise of a good job. Maybe I’m terrible at that, and after eight games I’ll be like, ‘God bless you. I’m no good.’ I could be really good at it. I have no idea. But I definitely won’t back down.”
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