Watching that bizarre Indianapolis Colts press conference Monday night, it dawned on me how unhappy the NFL must be that the firing of a coach Frank Reich and Hail Mary hiring of Jeff Saturday got pushed back so often it leaked into Monday Night Football’s time slot.
So we got a sideshow competing with the league’s premier show.
This thrice delayed affair was for Colts fans and people that rubberneck at the sight of car crashes. Because, with a few exceptions, this was a wreck.
The news first:
Colts owner Jim Irsay Makes GM decision
Colts owner Jim Irsay said Chris Ballard will “of course” return to the team as general manager in 2023. Irsay called Ballard “a winner” and when a reporter challenged him he said, “Your words have no truth to them. All he does is win.”
The Colts have a 44-45-1 record since Ballard became GM in 2017
Irsay, by the way, has a recent history for unreliability. He played a key role in the benching of quarterback Matt Ryan after saying Ryan’s leadership was “right up there with Peyton Manning.”
And he told ESPN on Oct. 30 he was giving “no thought” to firing Reich or Ballard.
Irsay said he hired Saturday, who has never coached in college or professional football, because he’s “a leader” and “a better fit” than any of the assistants on the Colts staff who have NFL head coach experience.
Not long after that Saturday admitted he asked Irsay, “Why am I a candidate for this?” when they first spoke of the job.
Irsay said Saturday is the coach for the team’s final eight games “and hopefully more” but a full hiring process will occur after the season is over.
Saturday said second-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger will remain the starter ahead of Matt Ryan.
Colts Jeff Saturday Offers Hope
Most of the rest of the presser was weirdness punctuated by the small bit of hope Saturday brought to the proceeding.
The most uplifting thing about Saturday, a former Pro Bowl center, is he understands he probably shouldn’t be an NFL head coach today.
Saturday said “shocked would be an understatement” was how he felt after Irsay called about the job.
I’ll get to more Saturday in a minute. First let’s discuss the madness because it offers a peek into why the Colts are off course.
Irsay, 63 but seems older, continually bragged about what a great job he’s done as the club’s steward.
“We’re the fourth winningest franchise in the league since 2000,” he said.
Asked why fans should trust him, Irsay crowed “I’ve never hired a losing head coach. It’s right there in black and white.”
Irsay’s reasoning for hiring Saturday was confusing.
He said “I’m glad he doesn’t have NFL experience” because it means Saturday “hasn’t learned the fear” some coaches have.
“They’re afraid, they go to analytics, it gets difficult,” Irsay said. “He doesn’t have all that. And there was no other candidate. We were fortunate he was available.”
A little later Irsay said Saturday is “fully experienced enough. Yes, he is fully capable.”
Irsay also announced “I don’t know how to make sausage. I don’t know what goes into sausage. But I do know how to build a football team.”
GM Chris Ballard Not Giving Up
Back on Earth …
Ballard seemed more than a little defensive and even testy at times.
He scolded reporters for their criticism of his not selecting receivers high in the draft.
“Y’all have been kicking the s–t out of me for years for not drafting wideouts and all of a sudden I look up and we’re underperforming on the offensive line right now,” Ballard complained.
So the Colts don’t have premier playmakers at wide receiver. And the offensive line Ballard has assembled is not good. And somehow Ballard thinks that’s the media’s fault?
Ballard did accept blame for some of the team’s current struggles:
I don’t sit here and act like I don’t share some of the blame,” he said. “Damn right I do. But I also know we have eight games left and I’m not ready to fire the towel in like everybody else.”
This grand experiment is not likely to succeed despite the fact Saturday is a leader and an Alpha male.
But I’m rooting for Saturday. I don’t mind saying it. He’s an underdog and knows it, but is convinced in his heart he just might surprise everyone.
“Here’s the great part about my [football] career, I came in, nobody expected anything,” Saturday said. “Now I’m here, nobody expects anything.
“If it goes well, hopefully it’ll go extremely well. But I have no preconceived notion that I’m going to be some spectacular anything. I know I’ve got to work hard. I’m auditioning not only for this one but 31 others in this game. And make no mistake, man, the job is to win.”
Amid the craziness, Jeff Saturday winning would be a great tale.