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ESPN: Colts Frustrated with Jim Irsay Before Saturday Hire; Franchise a 'Clown Show'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVNovember 15, 2022

BLOOMINGTON, MN - AUGUST 9: Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay speaks during an NFL special league meeting at the JW Marriot in Bloomington on Tuesday, August 9, 2022. The Walton-Penner group was unanimously approved by fellow owners to assume ownership of the Denver Broncos. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts interim head coach Jeff Saturday was juggling more than just preparation for the Las Vegas Raiders during his first week in the new position.

ESPN's Stephen Holder reported one staff member of the franchise called it a "clown show" under owner Jim Irsay, who has been met with skepticism and frustration at times this season. The shocking hiring of Saturday only exacerbated that, although the head coach managed to navigate the situation and lead the Colts to a win over the Raiders.

To say the decision to hire Saturday came as a surprise following the firing of Frank Reich would be quite the understatement. After all, his only coaching experience came at the high school level in Georgia, and he was recently working at ESPN as a commentator and for the team as a consultant.

He is a franchise legend from his time as a six-time Pro Bowl center, though, which helped him recognize how trying the situation was for the players.

"The fatigue on these guys has to be insane," Saturday said. "From the emotional fatigue, the physical fatigue of where we are in the season—all of those things."

While the coach deserves credit for how he handled things and drew praise from quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Jonathan Taylor, among others, the frustration with Irsay extends beyond the decision that general manager Chris Ballard said led to a "spirited" debate.

Holder noted those feelings date back to January when the owner publicly suggested it was time to end the Carson Wentz experiment at quarterback. The fear was such comments would decrease the trade value the Colts could get in return for the signal-caller, who they eventually moved to the Washington Commanders for two draft picks.

What's more, Irsay's influence in the decision to bench Ryan for the young and unproved Sam Ehlinger led to more tension within the organization.

Saturday went back to Ryan on Sunday, and the veteran responded by going 21-of-28 for 222 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions while even adding 38 yards and a score on the ground.

The 4-5-1 Colts are now not far behind the 5-4 New England Patriots in the race for the final AFC wild-card spot. A playoff run under Saturday would certainly help Irsay justify the move, but the owner apparently still has some work to do to improve his reputation within the organization.

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