Jim Irsay explains hiring of Jeff Saturday as Colts interim head coach: 'He's fully capable' 

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay changed the course of his franchise Monday and stunned the NFL world in the process.

In a long and winding news conference Monday night, Irsay underscored it was a tough decision to fire head coach Frank Reich. He then highlighted Jeff Saturday's understanding of the game and playing experience as reasons to why he was the right man to be named interim head coach despite having no NFL coaching tenure.

"I'm glad he doesn't have any NFL experience," Irsay said during the presser, in which he was joined by general manager Chris Ballard and Saturday. "I'm glad he hasn't learned the fear that's in this league, because it's tough for all our coaches. They're afraid. They go to analytics and it gets difficult. He doesn't have all that. He doesn't have that fear. And there was no other candidate. We were fortunate he was available. And he has tons of experience. He knows this game inside and out with relationships with coaches and players.

"I understand that he's fully capable of doing this."

With the Colts having hobbled out to a 3-5-1 start, Irsay decided to move on from Reich -- which he described as "very difficult and tough" -- and to Saturday, but Irsay said that Ballard will remain general manager.

"Of course, yes I do," Irsay said when asked if he expected to keep Ballard, who was seated at his right.

Irsay and Ballard talked Sunday in regard to bringing on Saturday, who was as gobsmacked as anyone that he's currently the new head coach of the Colts, interim or not.

"Shocked would be an understatement," Saturday said. "We had the conversation and it escalated quickly."

Saturday and Irsay talked Sunday night and on Monday morning Saturday accepted the job.

"It was a 12-hour whirlwind," Saturday said.

A longtime ESPN analyst, Saturday was asked what his take would be on a situation such as this.

"I would be shocked, as well, and probably the same questions you asked," Saturday said. "I asked Mr. Irsay 'tell me why I'm a candidate you would consider in any role' to do this. Look, I've been consulting here for a couple years with Frank and Chris and [Colts offensive line coach Chris Strausser] and a bunch of different people. I've met with coaches around the NFL and college and I felt very prepared."

Prior to Monday, Saturday had been a paid consultant for the Colts, and Ballard noted the team had offered him a job in 2019 as the offensive line coach.

Believed to be the first former player with no college or pro coaching experience to be named a head coach since Pro Football Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin became the Minnesota Vikings' first head coach in 1961, Saturday's experience on the sidelines came in high school.

He was an assistant for two seasons at Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Georgia, before he took over as head coach from 2017-2019 and garnered a 21-16 record, per the school.

As a player, Saturday was a 14-year NFL veteran and was a five-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro and one-time Super Bowl champion during his 13 seasons with the Colts.

He's diving in quickly, as he announced Monday that quarterback Sam Ehlinger would remain the starter and he was currently interviewing in-house candidates to be the play-caller. Reich previously called plays and former offensive coordinator Marcus Brady was fired prior to Reich's dismissal.

Though his franchise could be considered calamitous right now, Irsay was noticeably excited about bringing Saturday on.

"This is for eight games, hopefully more," Irsay said.

Irsay added he did not know what he and Ballard would have done if Saturday wasn't available or had declined the job. He did note that the team would conduct a full hiring process at season's end. As Saturday has been hired on an interim basis, there was no violation of the Rooney Rule, which Irsay pointed out while adding all protocols would be followed after the current campaign in the subsequent hiring process.

Perhaps fittingly, Saturday's NFL coaching debut will come on Sunday when the Colts face the host Las Vegas Raiders, as Indy is most certainly rolling the dice on the unknown.

Said Saturday, just as his team's owner did: "I feel fully capable."

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