Rob Issa, FISM News
Jeff Saturday was shocked when Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay called to offer him the team’s head coaching job Sunday night.
So, the devout Christian prayed about it.
“So we had that conversation and we talked about it, prayed about it and then as the day progressed this morning we finally came to a conclusion, but it was a 12-hour whirlwind,” Saturday said.
Mr. Irsay keeps later hours than I do, so it was a late call. Like I said, we had those conversations. I had real come-to-Jesus conversations. Listen, if you think I was surprised I’m going to be asked to be a coach, that would be silly, right? I knew going in what the expectation was going to be, the questions that were going to be asked. I feel fully capable. I’m excited about the opportunity — eight games. Here’s the great part about my career, I came in and nobody expected anything. I’m here and no one expects anything. If it goes well, hopefully it will go extremely well. But I have no preconceived notion that I’m going to be some spectacular anything. I know I’ve got to work hard.
Irsay’s decision to fire Frank Reich midway through his fifth season wasn’t much of a surprise considering the Colts have struggled this season. They are 3-5-1 and have lost three straight games.
But turning the team over to Saturday was a stunning move. Saturday, who was a six-time Pro Bowl center during his career with the Colts, has little coaching experience. He had a four-year stint as head coach at a Georgia high school and was working as an ESPN analyst.
The 47-year-old former All-Pro broke into the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens in 1998 but was cut before playing in a game. The Colts gave him an opportunity and he made the most of it, becoming one of the best players at his position over a 13-year span.
“You know it’s an intuitive decision,” Irsay said.
When I hired Tony Dungy, it was done very methodical. You operate like the CIA, it’s very analytical, it’s very unemotional (and) it’s very methodical with in-depth experience and knowledge and trying to get the feeling for what’s right. Then I wanted a winning coach, a winning playoff coach, a winning coach that was proven to come in with our franchise. Now, I am glad he doesn’t have any NFL experience. I’m glad he hasn’t learned the fear that’s in this league because it’s tough for all of our coaches. They’re afraid. They go to analytics and it gets difficult. I mean, he doesn’t have all that. He doesn’t have that fear and there was no other candidate. We were fortunate that he was available. He has tons of experience. He knows this game inside and out with relationships with coaches and players and has been a consultant for us for several years.
Saturday’s success in football was fueled by his Christian faith. He has described his mother as a “strong Christian” who would wake up to read the Bible at 4 a.m. When he wasn’t selected in the NFL draft, she told him it was part of “God’s plan.”
When he joined the Colts in 1999, veterans Tony McCoy and Mark Thomas encouraged Saturday to become more serious about Christianity. He says he stopped cursing on the football field and worked to eliminate foul language from his vocabulary. He stopped gawking at cheerleaders and talking about them.
“I knew I was going to be different in the locker room now,” Saturday said.
I knew I wasn’t going to be the coolest guy in the locker room because I’m not hanging out like I used to. I knew people were going to look at me and go, ‘Wow, what happened to him?’ I never had to be the guy who beat the Bible in the locker room. I just tried to live my life differently and left the opportunity for people to ask me questions. And it was amazing how quickly I gained credibility in the locker room for being a guy who was different and being a guy who people could depend on and ask advice from.