Colts’ hiring of Jeff on Saturday makes a mockery of the NFL’s meritocracy and moves the goalposts for black coaches again

There were plenty of twists and turns during Monday night’s news conference at Indianapolis Colts headquarters. While it was ostensibly intended as an introduction to manager Jeff Saturday, it was much more for team owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard, who seized the moment to air their grievances to the local media.

But one of the things he said Saturday was laughable:

“You have to earn your place here.”

A man with no coaching experience beyond a 20-16 record at a small Georgia high school had just been handed one of the 32 most coveted jobs in pro football, by a man who just happened to inherit one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in this country.

And on Saturday he had the audacity to speak winning the.

Rich people handing out big jobs to completely unskilled friends is nothing new. The past and present are littered with C-suite residents who only got there because their dad was running the audience or asking them for a favor.

But this trade happened in the NFL, where we’ve been told ad nauseam that it’s all about value.

The clipboard slot doesn’t matter. if you can play you can play and if you can’t give your tablet away.

You’ll be considered a coordinator or head coach only after spending time working your way up the ladder, toiling for hours as a low-level underpaid assistant, earning your trust as a position coach, and maybe getting to run a unit if you commit the assets your to a guy who is one of the lucky ones and gets hired to coach an entire team.

And on Monday, in an embarrassing decision, one he tried to justify with that comically bad press conference, Irsay debunked the myth of meritocracy: Experience doesn’t matter if you can hire your friend.

Colts owner Jim Irsay (center) and new coach Jeff Saturday (right) aren’t ideal people to talk about “winning” something like an NFL coaching position. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Why should there be grumbling about the Colts’ remaining staff

Saturday was difficult as a player and a good leader as a playerand somehow in Irsay’s mind that makes him the best candidate to take over a lackluster NFL team in the middle of the season as its head coach.

As colleague Charles Robinson noted, Monday night’s availability with Irsay, Ballard and Saturday felt a lot less like an interim announcement — has any team owner in recent years held a press conference like this for an interim? — and much more like a coronation. Especially when Irsay showed his cards when he said Saturday he was taking over the final eight games of the regular season and “hopefully more.”

And Saturday, who according to Ballard and Irsay had turned down their previous offers to join the organization as an assistant coach or assistant coach, suddenly became interested in coaching when given the opportunity to skip all the usual, supposedly required , steps. and become head coach.

He didn’t win that part.

Great players don’t always make great coaches. Smart people don’t always make great teachers. The toughness it takes for an offensive lineman to play center for 14 years like he did Saturday has no real value when you’re a head coach trying to lead a team.

It would be understandable if not all players are. It would be understandable if not all assistant coaches.

The seemingly hasty selection of Irsay is a slap in the face to every coach in the Colts organization, several of whom have more than enough experience to try to hold the team together as this season winds down. It’s also a slap in the face to assistants around the league, some of whom have worked for decades for any kind of head coaching opportunity, interim or otherwise, and proof that he has the power to lead a team.

Same old story for aspiring black coaches in the NFL

And while we’re on the subject of coaching and diversity in the NFL, Saturday’s move is another example of how the league’s ownership class really feels about black men. Just last month, the NFL proposed another tired topic of a black assistant coach being asked to clean up a (usually white) head coach’s mess in an interim role, but very likely being passed over for a full-time gig.

No amount of interview requirements, lies about the “pipeline,” sermons on patience, or acceleration programs can change the fact that NFL team owners as a group do not believe that black men should be full-time head coaches.

In 2020, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank tapped Raheem Morris as interim head coach and said Morris would be a “candidate” for the job if he led the team to an 11-0 finish after firing Dan Quinn to start with 0-5. . In October, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper said Steve Wilks would be considered for coaching if he did an “unbelievable” job over the final twelve games of the season.

Morris and Wilks have over 30 combined years of NFL coaching experience. Wilkes was the head coach for one season with Arizona, then was fired when the Cardinals brass felt Kliff Kingsbury and his sub-.500 record at Texas Tech was a better hire. Morris, currently the Rams’ defensive coordinator, coached in Tampa Bay from 2009-2011 and is still waiting for a second chance to lead a team. Meanwhile, Josh McDaniels, who got his first head coaching gig the same year Morris was mired in scandal and was fired before finishing two seasons in Denver, is in his third head coaching opportunity. he turned down those same Colts in 2018, retired the night before his official induction after getting others to sign on to be on his staff, and was hired by the Las Vegas Raiders earlier this year.

A week before he was fired by Indianapolis, Frank Reich fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, even though it was Reich, not Brady, who called the plays during games. Brady, you guessed it, is Black. He would probably be a good play-caller option with Reich fired. Instead, on Saturday he chose assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier, who is 30 years old and has never played at any level.

OK then.

Jeff Saturday had a temporary job, and according to his boss, it’s clear there’s a good chance he’ll take the job full-time in January. No lines, no waiting.

Don’t even win it.

Who needs value when you’re white and friends with the owner?

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