Colts name Jeff Saturday interim head coach after firing Frank Reich

The Colts decided to replace their head coach with another former NFL player -- just not the one anyone expected.

Longtime Colts center Jeff Saturday has been named interim head coach following the firing of Frank Reich, the team announced Monday.

The news is, well, shocking. Saturday has zero coaching experience at the collegiate or professional levels, and most recently coached high school football in Georgia. Most of his time spent in the public eye has been with ESPN, where he's served as an on-air analyst since 2013.

Saturday's hiring does not violate the NFL's Rooney Rule, as it does not apply to an interim head coach during the season, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported. It does, however, apply after the conclusion of the team's season, meaning the club would have to fulfill the requirements of the Rooney Rule before hiring a full-time head coach, per Pelissero.

Saturday's ties to Indianapolis are strong. The center entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Baltimore, where he lasted less than two months before eventually signing with the Colts in 1999. He earned the starting job in 2000, coinciding with the rise of legendary Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and forming a bond between the center and signal-caller that would last for more than a decade.

In that span of time, Saturday earned four All-Pro selections, five trips to the Pro Bowl (his sixth came in his final season spent with Green Bay), reached two Super Bowls (winning XLI in the 2006 season) and ended up in the Colts' Ring of Honor in 2015. He remains beloved in Indianapolis, where a statue of his longtime teammate Manning stands outside of the stadium in which Saturday will launch his NFL coaching career.

A highly disappointing 2022 season brought the Colts (3-5-1) to this point, but only after they benched veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, and terminated head coach Frank Reich.

Indianapolis is familiar with letdowns in recent years. The Colts collapsed late in the 2021 season, missing out on the playoffs in a fashion so spectacularly embarrassing, they moved on from quarterback Carson Wentz after just one season. In a passionate speech delivered from an airport tarmac, Jim Irsay pledged the organization would correct their mistakes.

Since then, the Colts have only moved further backward. While Saturday's hiring will generate goodwill from fans who know and love him from his many years spent as Indianapolis' trusty center, it has frustrated qualified assistant coaches around the league, especially those who are minority candidates, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on NFL NOW. The decision will also be viewed skeptically at best by many associated with the NFL.

After wading through two and a half seasons without a long-term answer at quarterback, it would be understandable if Indianapolis played out the remainder of the 2022 season with an eye on the top passers in the 2023 draft class. They'll proceed forward with a coach who will certainly generate plenty of headlines, for better or worse.

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