Much has been written and said this week about the way-outside-the-box decision from Colts owner Jim Irsay to make former Colts center Jeff Saturday the interim head coach, despite Saturday having only three years of coaching experience, all at the high-school level.
Former Browns left tackle Joe Thomas shared his thoughts on the situation earlier today, on NFL Network. Thomas did not mince words.
“When I saw this, I thought it was a joke,” Thomas said. “It was the most egregious thing I can ever remember happening in the NFL, and I went 1-31 my last two years in the NFL.”
That comment came near the end of the three-minute rant. Here’s how it started.
“When you hire your drinking buddy to be the head coach of an NFL football team, it is one of the most disrespectful things I’ve ever seen in my entire life to the commitment, the lifestyle, and the experience that it takes to be an NFL coach — any coach — much less the head coach of the Indianapolis Football Colts,” Thomas said. “You have got to be kidding me that this is something that Jim Irsay and Jeff Saturday, who’s not blameless for accepting the job, could have talked and decided that this was the best thing for the Indianapolis Colts at this juncture of the season.”
Saturday definitely isn’t blameless. As pointed out earlier this week, the Colts twice tried to hire Saturday as an assistant coach. If he’d taken the job, it would have been much easier to sell the notion of putting him in charge.
So why didn’t Saturday pounce on the opportunity to become a position coach? Did he not want the hours and stress unless he was the head coach? Regardless, he’ll be getting all the hours and stress he can handle, and then some.
“The commitment that it takes to be a head coach is beyond what people can even comprehend, unless you’ve been in that locker room,” Thomas said, pointing to the example created by one-and-done Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski. “He saw his children one time every week. . . . If it was a home game, he would get to see his kids two times every week. . . . That’s a lifestyle. That’s who you are. That’s not something that you can just show up for. It’s not something you sign up for. This is something that changes your life when you decide to be a coach. It’s one of the reasons I don’t want to coach. Because I want to see my children. I want to have a life outside of football.
“When you’re a coach in the NFL, you do not have a life outside of football. Why do you think coaches never retire? What are they going to do? They’ve never developed any other parts of their life.”
And so, instead of entrusting the job to someone who already has made that commitment, Irsay plucked a former player from a much easier lifestyle as an ESPN analyst. It was an affront to all of the people who have put in the time, demonstrated the effort, and honed their skills through work and work and work.
“The disrespect that NFL coaches have to feel when they saw that this hire was made is higher than almost anything I can ever possibly remember in the NFL,” Thomas said. “And then to defend the decision by saying, ‘I’m happy that he doesn’t have any experience because he’s not scared.’ Like, if you didn’t already insult every person that’s worked their entire life to be a coach in the NFL then to go up there and say, ‘I like that he has no experience because all of y’all NFL coaches are scared because you use logic and analytics to make decisions’?”
Thomas is right, and not just because he’s saying things we’ve already said. (But it helps.) No self-respecting coach should agree to interview for the Colts’ head-coaching job after the season, especially since it already feels as if Irsay will find a way to justify giving the job to Saturday, even if he goes 0-8.