Jeff Saturday is one of four reported finalists for the job as Colts head coach. It’s a growing list, one that could reach at least seven candidates, and includes former head coaches, Super Bowl-winning assistants and current coordinators.
They are coaches with experience and reputation in the coaching profession, which is not the case on Saturday. His inclusion in this group of finalists for this type of job rubbed some of the Colts fanbase the wrong way.
Now they are trying to do something about it.
Colts fans share a petition via Change.org titled “Don’t hire Jeff Saturday as head coach.” It was launched on Wednesday afternoon and by the evening had more than 900 verified signatures.
Shawn Ward, the fan who started the page, directed her message to owner Jim Irsay.
“We as Colts fans will always love the memories of the (Super Bowl) XLI team, but we don’t want Jeff Saturday as that team’s head coach!” Ward wrote. “Hire someone with experience and keep your fan base from revolting.”
By signing and sharing the petition and tweeting the hashtag #SaturdayLeave at Irsay, fans are expressing their frustration with whoever is ultimately responsible.
A Twitter hashtag and a Change.org petition represent only a small fraction of the Colts fans, especially when compared to the 60,000 fans who fill Lucas Oil Stadium. But Irsay is the most active NFL owner on Twitter.
The answer shows that stopping on Saturday would be an unpopular move with some fans. In an IndyStar Twitter poll of coaching candidates with more than 2,000 responses, 93% voted against the idea of hiring Saturday.
With general manager Chris Ballard leading the search, the Colts have interviewed 13 different candidates so far. But the final decision will rest with the man to whom the tweets and petition are directed.
“Ultimately, Mr. Irsay makes the final decision. There are 32 teams, 32 owners. They own the team,” Ballard said. ‘We give him, here are our thoughts, and Mr Irsay is a good listener. Ultimately he will make the final decision but he will be leaning heavily on our work and what we are doing to get the coaching candidates in place.”
Irsay’s affection for his 13-year-old center was evident when he hired him midseason to take charge of a 3-5-1 team despite not having coached past high school level. Saturday won its first matchup with the Raiders before losing 1-7.
Fans who signed the petition were disturbed by the lows along the way, which included the biggest meltdown in NFL history against the Vikings, the worst fourth quarter in NFL history against the Cowboys and a -87 point difference in those resulted in eight games. Some begged the franchise to make him offensive line coach instead, given his playing experience and the strides the Colts had made in that area since his acquisition.
Saturday inherited a poor offense and an understaffed midseason coaching staff, and he has promised he would come up with a very different attacking plan in interviews as he would lead the team with a full run-up to a 17-game season. Players like DeForest Buckner and Shaquille Leonard voiced the responsibility he brought to the team, although it didn’t translate to results on the field.
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He’s up against a finalist group so far that includes Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, a two-time Super Bowl champion, Dan Quinn, a longtime defensive coordinator who is in the top five with the Cowboys for a second straight season, and defensive end the Broncos coordinator in Ejiro Evero, who has also received interviews with the Broncos and Texans.
The group is expected to grow by another three or four candidates, depending on whether 49ers defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans decides to postpone the first interview he canceled with the team last week. Ryans is one of the few Colts candidates preparing for the playoff games this week, along with Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
The Colts have promised a fair and thorough trial, which could last into February if necessary. They satisfied the terms of the Rooney Rule as Bieniemy, Evero and Morris are minority candidates from outside the organization and the Colts have also interviewed Lions defense coordinator Aaron Glenn.
But as long as Saturday remains in the running, some fans fear a decision has already been made.
“I love Saturday the Man but we have to do better than last year,” Colts fan Josh Cunningham wrote in the petition. “Walking down this path is surrendering to losing and I will not support that.”