The Jeff Saturday experience with Colts is boding terribly for similar future endeavors
The Indianapolis Colts took a chance on Jeff Saturday despite his experience. Could the results of Saturday’s hire impact similar candidates?
Former players becoming coaches in the NFL is certainly not that uncommon, however, the road to glory in question almost always looks the same. Joining a staff via a lower-level position and in turn, like most corporate gigs in America, making your way to the top. Almost always that is until earlier this season when Jeff Saturday went from ESPN analyst (and Indianapolis Colts consultant) to interim HC of the Colts.
We’ve long since been able to accept the reality that Jeff Saturday will be on our television screens by way of NFL broadcasts as a leader of 53 men as opposed to the weekly shows where we grew used to seeing Saturday as an analyst. Now, we wonder if we will ever see him again— on the sidelines that is.
It’s likely safe to say that after the conclusion of the 2022 NFL season, Saturday, at the very least, will rejoin the ESPN staff as an analyst and/or the Colts’ Front Office as a consultant, as he was doing both prior to the unforeseen interim hiring. But what does that mean for similar, future endeavors from former players alike?
Does it set an unfair precedent moving forward? It definitely lowers the bar of expectation for any potential former player (with seemingly no prior coaching experience) that were to get fast-tracked to a head coaching gig, interim or not. Then again, given the last time something like so came to fruition, John F. Kennedy was the newest President of the United States.
The Jeff Saturday hire was heavily criticized
Although there were certainly some egregious takes to be had on the matter, there is no doubt some truth and merit to take away from the criticism. Whether or not you agreed with the vision of team owner Jim Irsay, the lack of confidence regarding the hiring isn’t as outlandish as some may have thought. Former players becoming coaches, more specifically head coaches, in the NFL have no doubt seen success. Don Shula and Tony Dungy immediately come to mind but there are countless others that have at least made the trek to head coach, regardless of success afterward.
The issue, as we know, is that Jeff Saturday had zero prior coaching experience at the NFL or even the collegiate level. Not just head coaching experience, but any coaching experience at all. Saturday had only ever been on the sidelines on Saturdays or Sundays as a player (North Carolina to Indianapolis and Green Bay). Furthermore, Saturday’s prior coaching experience was limited to Friday nights under the lights as he was the head coach at Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Georgia for three seasons.
There’s a first for everything, so the backlash which saw Saturday get called a disgrace for accepting the interim job offered to him is still to this day equal parts unprofessional and embarrassing. It was certainly an unforeseen and unprecedented move, but nobody deserves the kind of flak Saturday received just for chasing a dream.
Has Jeff Saturday’s experience been a factor for Colts?
You’ve seen it headlined everywhere since the birth of Jeff Saturday, the head coach, but it’s such an unprecedented move that it should be rehashed. Although the fact Saturday took over an underperforming team as an interim head coach for the rest of the season (8 games) as opposed to being hired as the guy for the future in the offseason, he still made history.
As presented by Mike Florio of PFT on NBCSports, Jeff Saturday became the first head coach with no college or pro coaching experience in 61 years since NFL Legend Norm Van Brocklin pivoted from record-setting-QB to head coach of the then new expansion team Minnesota Vikings.
Fast forward to Week 16 and Saturday’s Colts are 1-4 (4-9-1 overall) and are fresh off of back-to-back catastrophic collapses on primetime television. The first being in Dallas against the Cowboys, as the Colts entered the fourth quarter down just two points, 19-21, but soon thereafter the wheels would fall off. The Cowboys exploded for 33 unanswered fourth-quarter points and finished the game with a score of 54-19.
The very next week, the Saturday-led Colts would fall victim to allowing the largest comeback in NFL History to the Minnesota Vikings. Up 33-0 in the second quarter, Indianapolis, like the Cowboys game, would soon fall apart. Aside from a second-half interception from rookie safety Rodney Thomas II, the Colts were walked all over in the second half. The Vikings would remain steadfast in their attempt to come back and it certainly paid dividends.
The Colts clearly became much more conservative with their offensive approach in the second half, however, questionable calls such as electing to go for it on 4th-and-short instead of attempting a 54-yard field goal from a kicker who was 5-5 on the day would remain a potentially regretful decision. From the defense giving up the points to the offense failing to put any more on the board, there’s not one side of the ball to blame here (although the offense has remained an unsustainable mess all year).
The fact Jeff Saturday was at the helm for both of these historical downfalls makes the idea of replicating his hiring even more unfathomable. It’s one thing to take a chance on a guy who has at least been in some sort of leadership role as a coach or otherwise, but to bypass any prior experience was always going to inherit some backlash, given it historically felt doomed from the start.
How will Jeff Saturday impact other potential coaches?
It’s hard to envision future endeavors being similar to the elevation that saw Jeff Saturday become a head coach, mainly because such prior resumes like Saturday’s essentially don’t exist (ironic because he was nonexistent, to begin with). Something that hadn’t been done in 61 years is surely a testament to how just fed up owner Jim Irsay has become with his team.
It isn’t solely about matching the resume (or lack thereof) of Saturday, but more so, it sheds a dimmed light on former players who are trying to get into coaching. Now, it may take even longer for the younger, less experienced player-to-coach guys to make headway in their respective staffs. However, those who have coaching experience, professionally or at the college level, may be seen with higher regard moving forward as they look back to the Saturday fiasco.
If any former, or soon-to-be former, player(s) look to take the Saturday or Van Brocklin route, history will tell them to work their way up the coaching tree, or, at the very least, it will suggest them to coach somewhere, in college or in the pros, for at least a season so that they’re not apart of the no prior coaching experience classification.