Jeff Saturday is one of four finalists reported so far for the Colts head coaching job. It’s a growing list, which could reach at least seven candidates and includes former head coaches, Super Bowl-winning assistants and current coordinators.
They are coaches with experience and a reputation in the coaching profession, which they didn’t Saturday. His inclusion in this group of finalists for this type of work has riled up a portion of the Colts fan base in the wrong way.
Now they are trying to do something about it.
Colts fans are sharing a petition via Change.org titled “Don’t Hire Jeff Saturday as Head Coach.” It launched on Wednesday afternoon and had more than 2,000 verified signatures by Thursday afternoon.
Shawn Ward, the fan who launched the page, addressed his message to owner Jim Irsay.
“We as Colts fans will always cherish the memories of team XLI (from the Super Bowl), but we don’t want Jeff Saturday to be the head coach of this team!” Ward wrote. “Hire someone with experience and save your fan base from revolt.”
By signing and sharing the petition and tweeting the hashtag #SaturdayLeave to Irsay, fans are expressing their frustrations with the man ultimately.
A Twitter hashtag and a Change.org petition represent only a small segment of Colts fans, especially compared to the 60,000 fans that 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 poll of candidate coaching with more than 2,000 responses, 93 percent voted against the idea of hiring on Saturday.
With general manager Chris Ballard conducting the research, the Colts have interviewed 13 different candidates thus far. But the final decision will rest with the man to whom the tweets and petition are addressed.
“Eventually, Mr. Irsay makes the final call. There are 32 teams, 32 owners. They own the team,” Ballard said. “We give him, here are our thoughts, and Mr. Irsay is a good listener. Eventually, he’ll make the last call, but he’ll lean heavily on our work and what we do to get candidates straight coaching.”
Irsay’s affection for his 13-year-old center became clear when he hired him mid-season to take on a 3-5-1 team despite not having coached above the high school level. He won his first meeting with the Raiders on Saturday before losing to finish 1-7.
Fans who signed the petition were annoyed by lows along the way, unearthing 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 have pleaded with the franchise to make him an offensive line coach instead, given his playing experience and the strides the Colts have made in that area since he took over.
He inherited a poor offense and understaffed coaching staff midseason on Saturday, and promised he would present a very different plan of attack in interviews about how he would handle the team with a full run to a 17-game season. Players like DeForest Buckner and Shaquille Leonard have spoken out about the responsibility he brought to the team, even if it wasn’t about accomplishments on the field.
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He’s facing a group of finalists so far that includes a two-time Super Bowl champion in the Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, a longtime defensive coordinator who earned a second straight top-five finish with the Cowboys in Dan Quinn and the rise of the Broncos defensive coordinator in Ejiro Evero, who has also received interviews with the Broncos and Texans.
The group is expected to grow by another three to 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 handful of Colts candidates preparing for the playoffs 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 full trial that could run through February if necessary. They complied with 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.
“I love Saturday the man, but we have to be better than last year,” Colts fan Josh Cunningham wrote on the petition. “Going down this path is dedication to defeat and I won’t support that.”
Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts: Online Petition Launched to Block Jeff Saturday From Becoming Coach