NFL execs confused about Colts hiring Jeff Saturday: ‘Insane’, ‘never seen anything like this’

The Colts have confused people around the NFL.

“It’s hard to understand what’s going on there,” wondered an executive who opposed the team.

That’s the consensus of several executives surveyed. sports and anonymity for this story so that they can speak freely after the Colts fired coach Frank Reich and temporarily replaced him Saturday with former center Jeff, who has no coaching experience in the NFL or college and worked as an ESPN analyst.


Additionally, Colts owner Jim Irsay chose Saturday over some of the qualified candidates who were already on the job. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and senior defensive assistant John Fox have 20 seasons of NFL head coaching experience. In such situations, teams typically promote a veteran head coach, as the Panthers did with Steve Wilkes last month after Matt Ruler was fired.

Another possibility is that the Colts could have had a tryout with Raventron, the task force coordinator seen as a rising coach. Or, if they’re more interested in the emotional line by hiring someone from the Colts’ 2006 Super Bowl roster, wide receiver coach Reggie Wayne and assistant linebacker coach Catojon are also on staff. How do Ventrone, Wayne and June see their future at the organization now?

Further down the rabbit hole, if NFLPA leadership experience is enticing — Saturday was a key member who was instrumental in negotiations during the 2011 lockout — Colts assistant offensive line coach Kevin Mawae ) was the PA president for the 2008-12 season.

Some of these certificates are clearly more important than others. But put it all together, it’s one reason why other teams were so shocked by Saturday’s unconventional hiring. Other staff have similar qualifications to Saturday — all with more coaching experience.

“Never seen anything like this,” the executive said. “Never see anything like this again.”


Of course, it comes down to Ilsai’s strong relationship with Saturday. Every owner has the right to make these decisions. But these decisions, especially unconventional ones, always send some type of message, whether intentional or not.

How would the rest of the staff perceive leapfrog? How will the players respond?

After all, the Colts are 3-5-1 and just 2.5 games behind the Titans and Chargers in the AFC South’s final wild-card spot. While the Colts haven’t been playing as consistently as a team that has shown second-half game prowess, the 2021 Raiders proved a midseason coaching change where different leadership voices can sometimes be enough to energize a team .

Irsay believes Saturday can provide that spark.

“Because he’s a better fit,” Ilsai said Monday night when asked why the Colts chose the team’s own assistant on Saturday. “He’s the best person for the job, there’s no doubt in my mind. I’ve been around it for a long time. The last interim coach I hired was Bruce Arians. That’s right So, (Saturday), the best guy. That’s why. There’s no mystery behind it.”

“I’m glad (Saturday) without NFL experience,” Ilsay said. “I’m glad he didn’t learn the fear in this league because it’s tough for all of our coaches. They’re scared. They go to analyze and it becomes tough. I mean, he doesn’t have all of that. He There’s not that fear, and there’s no other candidate. We’re lucky he’s available. He’s got a lot of experience.”


Now, however, one can wonder how potential candidates will view the stability of the position if the Colts try to hire their next head coach over the next few months? If Saturday was a hand-picked replacement by the owners, respondents to the next round would be wary that something like this could happen again, according to one former NFL head coach. Those with head coaching experience tend to be more selective about their next job opportunity because they know it might be their last chance, and now that might be a factor.

Two opposing team executives and an assistant coach used the same word to describe Monday’s game: “crazy.”

The confusion didn’t necessarily stem from the defense of Reich, who is respected by his peers but understandably under fire after his third straight loss — a 26-3 uncompetitive blowout in New England. The situation was criticized. It was a turning point for a team with high ambitions this season, with a 20-20 draw against the Texans and a 24-0 loss to the Jaguars before the opening game. Frustration is increasing almost every week due to the team’s poor performance, especially on offense.

Now, rival executives, including several general managers, are thinking about the future of GM Chris Ballard.

“They’ve been scoffing at the QB position since he took office,” said one league executive.

While that was worth it, Ballard — and Reich — also dealt with some misfortune at the top of the game. Ballard arrived in 2017, and the team’s quarterback Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 season due to shoulder surgery. Lucky returned in 2018 and made his fourth Pro Bowl while leading the Colts to the playoffs, but he unexpectedly retired during the 2019 preseason.

Ballard signed Philip Rivers in 2020, and he believed the veteran would play for several years, but he retired after one season despite leading the Colts to the playoffs. The Colts then traded Carson Wentz in 2021 and Matt Ryan in 2022 without the quarterback out. Ryan was benched last month.

Ballard has only drafted two quarterbacks in six years — Jacob Eason in the fourth round in 2020 and Sam Allinger in the sixth round in 2021. Eisen was with the team for 17 months, and Allinger had a few tough games in his audition for future consideration.

The Colts are in danger. Ilsai could have promoted Bradley or Fox as a last-ditch effort to save the season, but he chose to deal with the optics of Saturday’s eight-game tryout.

It was a confusing decision as it happened on a Monday afternoon. If it doesn’t work and the season is really lost, this will only be the beginning of the fallout.

(Photo: Justin Casterling/Getty Images)

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