Jeff Saturday is one of four reported finalists so far for the Colts head coaching job. It’s a growing list, one that could reach at least seven candidates and features former head coaches, Super Bowl-winning assistants and current coordinators.
They are coaches with experience and reputations in the coaching profession, which Saturday is not. His inclusion in this finalist group for this kind of job, has rubbed a portion of the Colts fan base the wrong way.
Now, they’re 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 launched Wednesday afternoon, and by the evening, it had more than 900 verified signatures.
Shawn Ward, the fan who launched the page, directed its 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 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 just a small segment of Colts fans, especially compared to the 60,000 fans who 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 survey on coaching candidates with more than 2,000 responses, 93% voted against the idea of hiring Saturday.
With general manager Chris Ballard running the search, the Colts have interviewed 13 different candidates so far. But the final decision will rest with the man the tweets and petition are aimed at.
“Ultimately, Mr. Irsay makes the final call. There’s 32 teams, 32 owners. They own the team,” Ballard said. “We give him, here’s our thoughts, and Mr. Irsay is a good listener. Ultimately, he’ll make the final call but he will lean heavily on our work and what we do to get the coaching candidates in place.”
Irsay’s affection for his 13-year center became clear when he hired him at midseason to take over a 3-5-1 team despite having not coached above the high school level. Saturday won his first matchup with the Raiders before losing out to finish 1-7.
Fans signing the petition were bothered by the lows along the way, bringing up 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 implored the franchise to make him an offensive line coach instead, given his playing experience and the strides 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’s promised he’d submit a very different plan of attack in interviews for how he’d run the team with a full run-up to a 17-game season. Players like DeForest Buckner and Shaquille Leonard spoke up the accountability he brought to the team, though it did not amount to results on the field.
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He’s going up against a finalist group so far that features a two-time Super Bowl champion in Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, a long-time 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 needed. They have met the terms of the Rooney Rule, as Bieniemy, Evero and Morris are minority candidates from outside the organization, and the Colts also interviewed Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
But as long as Saturday remains in the running, some fans fear a decision has already been made.
“Love Saturday the man, but we need to be better than last year,” Colts fan Josh Cunningham wrote on the petition. “Going this route is dedication to losing and I won’t support that.”
Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.