Jeff Saturday is one of four reported finalists so far for the Colts head coaching job. It’s a growing list that could reach at least seven candidates and features former head coaches, Super Bowl-winning assistants and current coordinators.
These are coaches with experience and reputation in the coaching profession, which Saturday is not. His inclusion in this finalist group for this kind of job has rubbed some of the Colts fan base the wrong way.
Now they are trying to do something about it.
Colts fans are sharing a petition through Change.org titled: “Don’t hire Jeff Saturday as head coach.” It was launched on Wednesday afternoon and by evening it had more than 900 verified signatures.
Shawn Ward, the fan who launched the page, sent his message to owner Jim Irsay.
“We as Colts fans will always cherish the memories of the (Super Bowl) XLI team, but we don’t want Jeff Saturday as the head coach of this team!” Ward wrote. “Hire someone with experience and save your fan base from revolting.”
By signing and sharing the petition and tweeting the hashtag #SaturdayLeave at Irsay, fans are voicing their frustrations to the man ultimately in charge.
A Twitter hashtag and a Change.org petition represent only a small segment of Colts fans, especially compared to the 60,000 fans that fill Lucas Oil Stadium. But Irsay is the most active NFL owner on Twitter.
The response shows that hiring 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 the petition are directed.
“At the end of the day, Mr. Irsay makes the final call. 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’s going to make the final call, but he’s going to lean heavily on our work and what we’re doing to get the coaching candidates in place .”
Irsay’s affection for his 13-year-old center became evident when he hired him midseason to take over a 3-5-1 team despite not having coached above the high school level. Saturday won his first game with the Raiders before losing to finish 1-7.
Fans who signed the petition were bothered by the lows along the way, leading to the biggest collapse in NFL history against the Vikings, the worst fourth quarter in NFL history against the Cowboys and a -87 point differential in those eight games. Some pleaded with the franchise to make him an offensive line coach instead, given his playing experience and the progress the Colts made in that area after he took over.
Saturday inherited a poor offense and a short-handed coaching staff at midseason, and he has vowed in interviews that he would submit a completely different plan of attack for how he would run the team with a full lead-up to a 17-game season. Players like DeForest Buckner and Shaquille Leonard talked about the accountability he brought to the team, even if it didn’t translate to results on the field.
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He’ll go up against a finalist group so far that features a two-time Super Bowl champion in Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, a longtime defensive coordinator coming off a second straight top-five finish with the Cowboys in Dan Quinn and rising Broncos- defensive coordinator in Ejiro Evero, who has also received interviews with the Broncos and Texans.
The group is expected to grow another three or four candidates, depending on whether 49ers defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans decides to reschedule the first interview he canceled with the team last week. Ryans is one of a few Colts candidates preparing for 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 process that could last into February if necessary. They have met the conditions of the Rooney Rule as Bieniemy, Evero and Morris are minority candidates from outside the organization, and the Colts have also interviewed Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
But as long as Saturday is still underway, some fans fear a decision has already been made.
“Love the man Saturday but we have to be better than last year,” Colts fan Josh Cunningham wrote on the petition. “Going this way is dedication to losing and I will not support it.”
Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.