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Indianapolis Colts fire Frank Reich, name Jeff Saturday interim coach

Frank Reich coaches during the Colts' loss to the Commanders last month in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings/AP)
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The Indianapolis Colts’ ever-more-desperate search for answers in a highly disappointing season continued Monday when they fired their coach, Frank Reich, after previously benching their quarterback and dismissing their offensive coordinator.

The Colts went outside the coaching staff for their interim head coach, naming former Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday to that role.

“I don’t know how to make sausage, I don’t know what goes into sausage, but I do know how to build a football team,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said at a news conference Monday night at the team’s training facility. “I understand that. And I understand that [Saturday] is fully capable of doing this and more than capable. No, it wasn’t offered to anyone else. I don’t know, [General Manager Chris Ballard] and I, what we would have done, if anything, if he wasn’t available and willing.”

Saturday played 13 seasons with the Colts between 1999 and 2011 and was selected to five Pro Bowls. (He secured a sixth Pro Bowl selection with the Green Bay Packers in 2012.) Saturday is in the Colts’ ring of honor and had served as an NFL analyst for ESPN. But his only coaching experience came at the high school level with Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Ga.

“Shocked would be an understatement,” Saturday said at the news conference Monday night of his reaction to Irsay’s offer. “I knew going in what the expectation was going to be, the questions that were going to be asked. I feel fully capable, excited about the opportunity. … Here’s the great part about my career: I came in. Nobody expected anything. I’m here. Nobody expected anything. If it goes well, hopefully it’ll go extremely well.”

The Colts said Saturday consulted for them “over the last few years” and visited the team’s training camp last summer. Indianapolis has two former NFL head coaches, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and senior defensive assistant John Fox, on its coaching staff.

The Colts made Reich the second NFL coach dismissed this season. The Carolina Panthers fired Matt Rhule last month following a 1-4 start. Indianapolis’s move came on the heels of a 26-3 defeat Sunday at the New England Patriots that dropped its record to 3-5-1. It trails the first-place Tennessee Titans, who are 5-3, in the AFC South.

The Colts announced Monday morning that they had “parted ways” with Reich. They announced the appointment of Saturday soon thereafter.

Reich had a record of 40-33-1 in 4½ seasons as the Colts’ coach. He took the team to the playoffs twice, going 1-2 in postseason play.

The Colts had a revolving door of quarterbacks during Reich’s tenure, never finding a long-term solution after Andrew Luck retired abruptly just before the 2019 season. Reich and the Colts shuffled through starters that included Jacoby Brissett in 2019, Philip Rivers in 2020, Carson Wentz last season and Matt Ryan to open this season.

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Rivers retired after the 2020 season, leading the Colts to trade for Wentz. That didn’t work, and the team traded Wentz to the Washington Commanders after only one season. The Colts added Ryan, the former league MVP for the Atlanta Falcons, in a trade with Atlanta in March after the Falcons tried but failed to acquire Deshaun Watson.

But the offense struggled. Late last month, Reich sat down Ryan, who had a shoulder injury at the time, and said he intended for Sam Ehlinger to be the starter at quarterback for the rest of the season, even after Ryan was healthy. Ehlinger was sacked nine times Sunday by the Patriots and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Last week, the Colts fired Marcus Brady as their offensive coordinator. That didn’t help, as they managed only 121 yards of total offense against the Patriots.

The move with Saturday was reminiscent of the Houston Texans interviewing former NFL quarterback Josh McCown for their head coaching job despite his lack of coaching experience. But the Texans did not hire McCown, instead promoting Lovie Smith from defensive coordinator in the offseason after firing David Culley.

The NFL’s minority hiring requirements do not apply to an interim coaching position appointed as part of an in-season move. The Colts must fulfill those obligations in relation to their permanent head coaching job.