Jeff Saturday is one of four reported finalists to date for the Colts head coaching job. It’s a growing list, one that could reach at least seven candidates and includes former head coaches, Super Bowl-winning assistants and current coordinators.
They are coaches with experience and reputation in the coaching profession, which Saturday is not. His inclusion in this finalist group for this type of work has left some of the Colts fans in the wrong way.
Now they are trying to do something about it.
Colts fans are sharing a Change.org petition titled, “Don’t hire Jeff Saturday as head coach.” It was launched Wednesday afternoon and by evening it had more than 900 verified signatures.
Shawn Ward, the fan who launched the page, sent his message to owner Jim Irsay.
“As Colts fans, we will always love the memories of the (Super Bowl) XLI team, but we don’t want Jeff Saturday as the head coach of this team!” Ward wrote. “Hire someone with experience and keep your fan base from rioting.”
By signing and sharing the petition and tweeting the #SaturdayLeave hashtag on Irsay, fans are expressing their frustrations at the man who is ultimately in charge.
A Twitter hashtag and petition on Change.org represent only a small fraction of Colts fans, especially compared to the 60,000 fans who fill Lucas Oil Stadium. But Irsay is the most active NFL owner on Twitter.
The comments indicate that hiring Saturday would be an unpopular move with some fans. In an IndyStar Twitter poll on coaching candidates with more than 2,000 responses, 93% voted against the idea of hiring on Saturday.
With general manager Chris Ballard leading the search, the Colts have interviewed 13 different candidates so far. But the final decision rests with the man targeted by the tweets and petition.
“At the end of the day, Mr. Irsay makes the final decision. There are 32 teams, 32 owners. They own the team,” Ballard said. “We give him, here are our thoughts, and Mr. Irsay is a good listener. Ultimately, he will make the last call, but he will rely heavily on our work and what we do to get the coaching candidates in place.”
Irsay’s affection for his 13-year-old center became apparent when he hired him mid-season to take over a 3-5-1 team despite not coaching above high school level. On Saturday, he won his first game with the Raiders before losing to finish 1-7.
Fans who signed the petition suffered the lows along the way, leading to the biggest collapse in NFL history against the Vikings, the worst fourth quarter in NFL history against the Cowboys, and a -87 point difference in those eight games. Some pleaded with the franchise to make him an offensive line coach instead, given his playing experience and the progress the Colts made in that area after he took over.
Saturday inherited a poor offense and a short coaching staff midway through the season, and he has promised in interviews that he would present a very different attack plan for how he would lead the team with a full run-up to a 17-game season. . Players like DeForest Buckner and Shaquille Leonard spoke of the responsibility he brought to the team, even though it didn’t lead to results on the field.
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He’s up against a finalist group so far that includes a two-time Super Bowl champion in Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, a longtime defensive coordinator who finishes in the top five for a second straight with the Cowboys in Dan Quinn and the rising Broncos -defense. coordinator in Ejiro Evero, who has also received interviews with the Broncos and Texans.
The group is expected to grow another three or four candidates, depending on whether the 49ers’ defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans decides to reschedule the first interview he canceled with the team last week. Ryans is one of the few Colts candidates preparing for playoff games this week, along with Bengals Offensive Coordinator Brian Callahan, Eagles Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen and Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
The Colts have promised a fair and thorough trial that could last until February if necessary. They have met the conditions of the Rooney rule, as Bieniemy, Evero and Morris are minority candidates from outside the organization, and the Colts also interviewed Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
But as long as Saturday is still in the running, some fans fear a decision has already been made.
“Love Saturday the man but we need to be better than last year,” Colts fan Josh Cunningham wrote on the petition. “Going down this route is a commitment to losing and I will not support that.”
Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.