11:59am: In a surprising move, the Colts have announced former center Jeff Saturday as their interim head coach. The 47-year-old spent all but the final season of his 14-year playing career in Indianapolis, earning a total of six Pro Bowl nods. A member of the team’s Ring of Honor, he has since worked as a consultant with them, along with a role as an ESPN analyst.
The decision to hire from outside the organization is noteworthy, given the presence of far more experienced options in Bradley and Fox. This will mark Saturday’s first coaching role at the college or NFL level, making this a borderline unprecedented hire. A press conference is scheduled for later today.
10:34am: The second in-season head coach firing has taken place in the NFL. Frank Reich has been let go by the Colts, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). The team has confirmed the news.
Reich had increasingly become the subject of scrutiny this season, his fifth leading the Colts’ sideline. The team has run into unexpected offensive struggles, and as the unit’s play-caller, the 60-year-old bore the brunt of criticism. Just last week, however, it had appeared as though his job was safe for at least the immediate future.
Yesterday, Indianapolis suffered a 26-3 loss to New England, representing another low mark on the campaign with respect to the offense. Second-year passer Sam Ehlinger was making his second career start, after being installed as the starter in place of veteran trade acquisition Matt Ryan. That decision, it was later revealed, was driven not by Reich, but rather team owner Jim Irsay.
Another sizeable move came last week, when offensive coordinator Marcus Brady was fired. He did not handle play-calling duties, though, leading to questions of how much of a difference that move would make. It also pointed to Reich’s time with the Colts potentially being in jeopardy barring a significant turnaround. That certainly didn’t take place yesterday, and the team now sits at 3-5-1 on the year.
Indianapolis has faced inconsistency along the offensive line – once the undisputed strength of the team, and one of the best units in the league – and star running back Jonathan Taylor has missed time with injury. Even when healthy, however, he has not played to the potential his first two seasons demonstrated. In the passing game, the team actually ranks in the top-10 in yards per game (257), but Ryan’s struggles with turnovers hamstrung the league’s lowest-scoring team and greatly influenced his benching. The lone move the team made at the trade deadline was sending backup running back Nyheim Hines to the Bills.
Reich will depart with an overall record of 40-33-1. Three of his past four seasons had ended with winning records, but the team’s late-season collapse in 2021 cost them a playoff spot. A return to the postseason was considered a baseline expectation for 2022, especially given the stability Ryan was expected to provide after years of searching for a long-term Andrew Luck replacement. It appears likely the Colts will be kept out of the playoffs once again this year, making the remaining weeks an evaluation period for Ehlinger and the team’s other young players.
The Colts’ remaining staff includes a pair of coaches with HC experience: defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and defensive assistant John Fox. Former DC Matt Eberflus became the Bears’ head coach this offseason, one year after former OC Nick Sirianni departed for Philadelphia to do the same. Now, all three mainstays on Indy’s sideline are gone, with plenty of uncertainty surrounding the team moving forward. Reich joins ex-Panthers bench boss Matt Rhule as coaches now on the lookout for their next employer.