INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts interim head coach Jeff Saturday took his place in front of his new team for the first time, and he did it with a delicate mix of boldness and humility.
Saturday bounced around the building Wednesday, conducting his first team meeting with the boundless energy he displayed as a player. At the same time, he made no effort to hide from the realities surrounding his stunning hire — that he assumes this role with no coaching experience above the high school level.
“We can’t run from whatever narratives are being said,” Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin said. “We’re not going to treat it like the elephant in the room. We’re going to be men and acknowledge it, and I think he did a great job at that.”
Center Ryan Kelly, a team captain, greatly appreciated Saturday’s approach.
“He addressed it in the right way,” Kelly said of Saturday. “He didn’t just come in and demand respect. … He did it the right way. That comes with the territory of being in this league for a long time. You know that [players] can easily smell out bulls—. He did a great job.”
Asked about his players’ reaction, Saturday responded the only way he knows — candidly.
“It’s me, dude. I ain’t gonna change,” he said. “I told them if I’m not authentic, bro, we got nowhere to go. But this is, it’s who I am.”
Saturday’s daily media session on Wednesday was largely a continuation of Monday night’s introductory news conference with owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard.
Among the unanswered questions that were addressed: Why do this? Saturday is putting himself squarely in the crosshairs by taking this job under the circumstances, which include the Colts’ three-game losing streak; their embattled, anemic offense; and his role governing a coaching staff that likely has mixed feelings about his surprising hire.
Saturday has been thrust into an awkward situation in which he is taking over for their former boss, Frank Reich, who fired Monday.
So, why would he want anything to do with this?
“Because I care,” said the 13-year Colts veteran offensive lineman who is enshrined in the team’s ring of honor. “I told the guys this morning, I care about the players, care about their families. I’ve sat in their seat. Man, this sucks, right? … I love Frank, man. I was working with Frank, right? So, I’m working with him every week, talking to him. I consider Frank a friend.
“So I understand from [the players’] perspective. I’ve sat in that seat. They love Frank, man. That’s their coach. They played for this dude. So, I don’t minimize that at all.”
But Saturday also alternated approaches during the news conference, shifting eventually to the confidence that made him a six-time Pro Bowl selection. He once again addressed the questions about his coaching inexperience, and he did it forcefully.
“Here’s the deal,” he said. “Everybody talks about my [inexperience]. I’m completely comfortable in who I am as a man. I know I can lead men. I know the game of football and I’m passionate about it. … Bro, I spent 14 years in a locker room. I went to the playoffs 12 times. I got five dudes in the Hall of Fame that played with [me]. You don’t think I’ve seen greatness? You don’t think I’ve seen how people prepare, how they coach, how they [manage], how they work?
“I mean, won a Super Bowl, been to two. Here’s the deal, man. None of us are promised a good job. I may be terrible at this and, after eight games, I’ll say, ‘God bless you. I’m no good.’ I may be really good at it. I’ve got no idea, but I dang sure ain’t going to back down.”