Colts’ Jim Irsay introduces Jeff Saturday as interim coach: Everything to know from team’s press conference

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The Colts made an unprecedented change atop their staff Monday, dismissing coach Frank Reich and replacing him with Jeff Saturday, who is beloved in Indianapolis as a franchise great but enters with zero college or NFL coaching experience. Hours later, team owner Jim Irsay officially welcomed Saturdaythe former Pro Bowl center, to his interim post alongside general manager Chris Ballard, proclaiming the new hire “fully capable” of becoming the Colts’ permanent head coach.

Here’s a rundown of all the main topics addressed during the team’s nearly 45-minute press conference:

When did the Colts call Saturday with the job offer? After a moment of hesitation, Irsay revealed he “picked up the phone” Sunday night, as in hours after Indy’s loss to the Patriots, and less than 24 hours before Saturday’s arrival was announced.

How did Saturday react to the offer? “It escalated quickly,” the new coach admitted. “He asked me and my wife, Karen. We talked about it, prayed about it. … It was a 12-hour whirlwind.”

Does Saturday understand the skepticism about his qualifications? “I’d be shocked as well,” he said. “I’ll be frank, I asked Mr. Irsay, ‘Tell me why I am a candidate you would consider in any role.’ … (But) I felt very prepared.” Saturday added that he’s spent roughly five years preparing to begin a coaching career, studying with Colts staffers and previously with 49ers GM John Lynch.

Did the Colts consider other interim coaching candidates? Nope, Irsay said. “It wasn’t offered to anyone else.”

Is Saturday a legitimate candidate to be the permanent coach? “There’s no talk of permanence at this point,” Irsay said, adding the Colts are “following the Rooney Rule to a tee” and will conduct a full interview process with additional candidates, including minorities, after the season. Much of Irsay’s commentary, however, suggested Saturday has long-term prospects: “Obviously we think he is one of those candidates. … This is for eight games, hopefully more.”

Why should fans trust Irsay’s judgement here? “It’s an intuitive decision,” the owner argued. “When I hired Tony Dungy, it was done very methodical [sic]. Then, I wanted a winning playoff coach that was proven. … Now, I’m glad (Saturday) doesn’t have NFL experience. I’m glad he hasn’t learned the fear that’s in this league. … (Coaches) are afraid, they go to analytics, and it gets difficult. He doesn’t have that fear. (And) he has tons of experience. He knows this game inside and out.”

But, really, why should fans trust him? “I don’t know how to make sausage,” Irsay said. “I don’t know what goes into sausage. But I do know how to build a football team. Because I’ve been around for 52 years. … I understand that (Saturday) is fully capable of doing this, and more than capable. … You wanna bet against this guy? Put your money down, people. Love to see it. … We don’t build rockets to go to Mars. We’re not nuclear scientists. … It’s a very simple job that we do here: we cultivate winning cultures, we cultivate toughness, we live by our integrity, and we don’t expect anything more than we expect from ourselves.”

Does Saturday envision a real future as a head coach? He sure does. The former center made it clear he has to earn the respect of the Colts ‘locker room during his eight-game stint replacing Reich, but he expressed confidence in his potential. “I’m auditioning not only for this one,” he said, “but for 31 others.” He also feels personally “called” to the opportunity, he said.

Did the Colts ever pursue Saturday before? Yes, “a couple times,” according to Ballard, first in 2019 as offensive line coach, then again in 2022. Saturday added that he’s “been consulting here for a couple years” with Reich and Ballard.

What are Saturday’s immediate plans at quarterback? Sam Ehlinger will remain the starter for Week 10 against the Raiders, with Matt Ryan remaining on the bench.

Where does Ballard stand in all this? “There’s no question” the GM will return in 2023, according to Irsay, and that he will be part of the offseason search for a permanent head coach. “You guys can try to diminish (Ballard) all you want,” Irsay said, even making a comparison to NBA legend Michael Jordan. “The guy’s a winner.”

Amid the chaotic nature of this process, why should Colts fans be optimistic? “I’ve never hired a losing head coach,” Irsay said, repeatedly championing his team’s track record since 2000. “We’re better than most of ’em. It’s that simple. Our record proves it over a period of time.”

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