Why Does Jeff Saturday Even Want This Job?
12:22 PM EST on January 10, 2023
If there's one way for an NFL head coach to endear himself to the media, it's to be what is often described as "refreshingly honest." Reporters absolutely love it when football men are refreshingly honest. Media members spend so much of their time being fed platitudes or being grumbled at by Bill Belichick that they can't help but be excited whenever a coach actually talks to them like a human.
Jeff Saturday, who went straight from ESPN's TV studio to the Indianapolis Colts' sideline in the middle of the season, was no doubt keenly aware of this dynamic when, during his introductory press conference, he said to reporters, "I may be terrible at this, and after eight games, I’ll say, ‘God bless you, I am no good.’"
The time to say "God bless you" is now. The Colts' season ended with a one-point Hail Mary loss to the lowly Texans on Sunday, bringing to an end one of the most unsuccessful interim coaching spells in league history. Saturday's tenure in charge of the Colts was a series of humiliations, from the way it started (being impulsively hired by a raging Jim Irsay in the middle of the night), to how it developed (Saturday being unable to find a coach on staff willing to call plays; everyone in the world laughing at the Colts), to how it ended (the Colts going 1-7 in their final eight games and failing to beat a Texans team that was engineered to lose). Saturday, who had no head coaching experience to speak of when he was handed the job, got exactly the sort of results you'd expect a person totally unqualified for their job to produce.
And yet, it doesn't look like he has any intention of living up to the refreshingly honest expectation he set for himself when he was first hired. Instead of saying "God bless you, I am no good," and getting out of the way for someone who actually knows how to coach a football team, Saturday has thrown his hat in the ring for the full-time position:
The question I feel compelled to ask is this: Why the hell would Saturday even want this job on a permanent basis? Every story that has been written about the Colts this season has made them sound like the most dysfunctional organization in the league. It's nice to have an addled maniac call you at 1:30 a.m. and offer you a dream job, I suppose, but do you really want to tie your career to a boss who is capable of doing things like that? I'm sure the money is good, but so is ESPN money! Saturday's gotten just a little taste of what it means to work for Jim Irsay, and he wants more of that? He wants to be closer to this?
After a Week 6 road loss to the Titans — the team Irsay hates to lose to more than any other — the owner stepped in, pushing Reich to change quarterbacks late that night. A day later, the coach reluctantly announced the decision to bench Ryan for Sam Ehlinger. Ryan’s shoulder separation was real, but not serious, and the Colts went out of their way to stress the move wasn’t injury-related. Reich couldn’t flat-out reveal that Irsay made the call — given the choice, the coach would’ve gone with Nick Foles before Ehlinger — but as he tiptoed around that reality, Reich offered a lens into what their discussions had been like the night before.
“He’s a one-man crew,” the coach said of Irsay’s influence.
The Colts lost two straight with Ehlinger, and Irsay felt the team was slipping, not only in performance but accountability.
Maybe there's something about coaching a bad NFL team that imbues a person with a humiliation fetish, or maybe there it's just intoxicating to be an important person inside an NFL locker room. I assume that Saturday had a nice life while he was working at ESPN, but being on TV can't ever replace what it feels like to be situated inside the NFL machine, especially if you get to be the guy in charge. The allure of that is so strong that it can lead to a guy like Saturday begging to be given a job he's already proven himself incapable of doing, just so that he can be further embarrassed. Football really can cast a spell on people.