Is Jeff Saturday’s interim record a sign of how he’ll fare for Colts? Here’s what history says
The Indianapolis Colts are interested in Jeff Saturday despite a 1-7 interim head coach record. Do interim records correlate with coaching success?
There’s a real possibility that Jeff Saturday may become the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Currently, he is one of seven candidates that had a second interview with the Colts for their head coach opening. Although Saturday is a franchise legend and fans will love him forever for his contributions as a player, fans are doing everything possible to keep him from becoming Indy’s next head coach. The main reasons why fans aren’t interested in Saturday coaching the team is that there are several available candidates with impressive coaching resumes, and Saturday was just 1-7 with some embarrassing moments in his eight-game stretch as interim head coach.
After the Colts fired Frank Reich in the middle of this past season, Jim Irsay surprised everyone with his decision to hire Saturday. At the time, Jeff Saturday was working at ESPN as an analyst, and his only coaching experience was at a high school in Georgia for a couple of years. Regardless, Irsay believed in the leader that Saturday is and he still does. However, others aren’t so sold after watching Saturday go 1-7.
Saturday argued in his end-of-season press conference that this eight-game stretch wasn’t truly reflective of what a Saturday-coached team would look like. Making the case that with a full year to create a staff, roster, and culture, Saturday believes he could be more successful. Adam Vinatieri also said the same thing in support of Saturday and Chris Ballard also explained that the 1-7 record won’t be held against Saturday because of the circumstances he inherited. But should it? Should Saturday’s interim record be used as a preview of how he’ll perform as the team’s actual head coach?
Fans and members of the media are certainly already using the 1-7 record against Saturday. Is that fair? Only the future, and history, can tell. Jeff Saturday is not the first interim head coach that may become a head coach and he won’t be the last. So how do interim records usually correlate to head coaching success?
Are interim records reflective of actual coaching records?
To get an idea of how interim records relate to the records of coaches when they have the official job, let’s take a look at recent interim head coaches from the last 10 years. Of the 21 interim coaches since 2013, 14 of them were head coaches either before or after their interim stints. Here’s how their interim records compare to their records as a team’s official head coach:
- Wade Phillips, interim record: 3-7, non-interim record: 79-57
- Tony Sparano, interim record: 3-9, non-interim record: 29-32
- Dan Campbell, interim record: 5-7, non-interim record: 12-21
- Mike Mularkey, interim record: 2-7, non-interim record: 34-46
- Pat Shurmur, interim record: 1-0, non-interim record: 18-46
- Doug Marrone, interim record: 1-1, non-interim record: 37-59
- Anthony Lynn, interim record: 0-1, non-interim record: 33-31
- Steve Spagnuolo, interim record: 1-3, non-interim record: 10-38
- Gregg Williams, interim record: 5-3, non-interim record: 17-31
- Joe Philbin, interim record: 2-2, non-interim record: 24-28
- Bill Callahan, interim record: 3-8, non-interim record: 15-17
- Romeo Crennel, interim record: 6-9, non-interim record: 26-54
- Raheem Morris, interim record: 4-7, non-interim record: 17-31
- Steve Wilks, interim record: 6-6, non-interim record: 3-13
All that shows is that there is no real correlation. Being an interim head coach is a completely different experience from being a team’s head coach. There have been coaches with quality records as interim head coaches but bad records as actual head coaches, and vice versa. The NFL is a sporadic environment that creates unique circumstances each season. Look at Bill Callahan, whose son is a candidate for the Colts, for example. In Callahan’s first season as a head coach with the Raiders in 2002, he led the team to an 11-5 Super Bowl appearance. The next season, the Raiders were 4-12.
No year is like the next. Just because a coach excels in an interim role doesn’t mean that they will be successful as a head coach. The inverse is true as well. A coach can have an abysmal stretch as an interim head coach and have a phenomenal run as an actual head coach. So as it pertains to Jeff Saturday and the Colts, it’s fine to not want him as Indy’s next head coach and people can even make cases as to why he won’t be a good head coach. However, his 1-7 record as an interim head coach isn’t sufficient evidence to say he’ll do a bad job if he got the head coaching position.