Former Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas spent his entire career in Cleveland and played for a lot of coaches along the way.
But Thomas expressed his displeasure with the recent hiring of his fellow former NFL offensive lineman Jeff Saturday.
The Colts named Saturday their head coach on an interim basis after the team fired Frank Reich following the team’s 26-3 loss to the New England Patriots Nov. 6.
“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 on “Good Morning Football” Friday.
“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.”
From Thomas’ perspective, the Colts owner’s hiring of Saturday served as an insult to other coaches working toward being a head coach in the league.
But Irsay pushed back against critics of the hiring and claimed he was “glad [Saturday] doesn’t have any NFL experience.”
Isray added during a press conference following Saturday’s hiring he was happy the former Colts center lacked fear.
“I’m glad he hasn’t learned the fear that’s in this league because it’s tough for all our coaches,” Irsay said, via The Score. “They’re afraid, they go to analytics, and it gets difficult. … He doesn’t have that fear.”
The Colts’ struggles since the unexpected early retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck have been well documented.
Luck was a four-time Pro-Bowler who helped lead the Colts to four playoff appearances in his first six seasons.
Since then, the team has started Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and Sam Ehlinger at the quarterback position. None of those options have panned out, and many began wondering if the Colts were planning to lose out in hopes of drafting a quarterback in April 2023.
Indianapolis’ record sits at 3-5-1. But Irsay claimed that naming Saturday interim coach does not mean the team will stop playing to win games this season.
“We’re in this thing; 9-7-1 get us in, no question about it. … We’re not tanking the season. Whoever says these things, that we’re not playing [quarterback] Matt [Ryan] because [of an effort to tank]… That’s not true. We’re going to do what it takes to win. I don’t know who people think we are. They don’t know us. We don’t tank in Indianapolis,” Irsay said.
The hiring also raised flags as it relates to a potential loophole in the Rooney Rule. Saturday claimed his tenure would serve as a test case before the organization started searching for a head coach after the season.
“My role here is for eight games. When this is over, they will do an exhaustive search and pick whoever their best candidate is to be the head coach of the Colts. If I’m considered, I’d be honored. I have no idea where this thing is gonna go. Not even a little bit,” he told reporters.
“I’m completely comfortable with who I am as a man. I know I can lead men. I know I know the game of football, and I’m passionate about it. I have no fear of ‘Are you as qualified as someone else?’ I spent 14 years in a locker room. I went to the playoffs 12 times. I’ve got five dudes in the Hall of Fame that played with me. You don’t think I’ve seen greatness? You don’t think I’ve seen how people prepare? How they coach? How they GM? How they work? I won a Super Bowl, been to two.”
The Rooney Rule does not apply to interim head coaching positions, but the team must comply with the rule at the conclusion of the season and before a permanent coach is named, a league spokesperson told the Indianapolis Star.
Saturday’s first test as an NFL coach comes Sunday when the Colts travel to Las Vegas to play the Raiders.