Parks Frazier

Colts Execs Attempted To Dissuade Jim Irsay From Jeff Saturday Hire

Of the 43 interim head coaches hired this century, the Colts’ Jeff Saturday move generated by far the most attention. Saturday’s inexperience headlined last week’s NFL news cycle, and high-ranking Colts staffers aimed to convince Jim Irsay to go in a different direction.

Both GM Chris Ballard and team president Pete Ward expressed reservations about Irsay’s plan to hire Saturday, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. Others joined Ballard, who is in his sixth year as GM, and Ward, who has been with the Colts since before their 1984 Indianapolis move, in advising against the decision. But Irsay steadfastly pulled the trigger on Saturday, who is now 1-0 as Colts HC.

Irsay called Saturday during the Colts’ Week 9 loss to the Patriots, discussing the team’s protections. That discussion led to an offer to become Indianapolis’ interim HC. Had Saturday not accepted the job, Irsay would not have fired Frank Reich, Zak Keefer of The Athletic notes (subscription required). That points to Irsay’s conviction on the inexperienced coach while also revealing an obvious lack of desire to promote one of Reich’s assistants to the post.

[RELATED: Irsay Reaffirms Commitment To Ballard For 2023]

Some of Reich’s assistants have expressed displeasure with Irsay’s call, and it is safe to say the Colts’ staff will look considerably different next season. Following last week’s report of quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich turning down the opportunity to call plays, Rapoport and Pelissero confirm as much and note the Colts’ play-calling offer did not include any adjustments to his current contract. Milanovich, a former Grey Cup-winning head coach, has been Indy’s QBs coach since 2021, when the team promoted Marcus Brady to replace Nick Sirianni. The Colts fired Brady earlier this season.

Milanovich and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery — each of whom having play-calling experience, though most of it coming outside the NFL — will play a big role in game-planning, Saturday said. But Parks Frazier has made the unusual leap from assistant QBs coach to play-caller.

Saturday also had the freedom to bench Sam Ehlinger and reinstall Matt Ryan as the starter, a choice Irsay does not appear to have made available for Reich. The five-year Colts HC did not back the Irsay-driven pivot to Ehlinger, and Keefer adds the players were not behind the Ryan benching as well. Despite Ryan’s nine interceptions and 11 fumbles through seven games, Keefer notes the Colts’ roster viewed the veteran as the player who gave the team its best chance to win. Recovered from his shoulder injury, Ryan received first-team reps during Colts practice last week, Keefer tweets.

The Colts did enjoy the opportunity of facing a Raiders defense that has slipped from below average — under current Colts DC Gus Bradley — in 2021 to one of the league’s worst units. Las Vegas ranks 28th in both points allowed and total defense. The Colts still entered Week 10 as underdogs, and their Saturday-Frazier-Ryan direction nevertheless led to a victory. Moving to 4-5-1, the Colts remain a fringe AFC contender — record-wise, at least — and outings like Sunday’s will provide ammunition for Irsay’s hope of Saturday sticking around beyond 2022.

No interim HC has been retained since Doug Marrone kept the Jaguars’ reins, after the team fired Bradley, in 2016. Saturday moving into position to buck this trend would add to the scrutiny engulfing the Colts, but it is safe to say traditional norms regarding interim HCs do not apply here. This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting interim stretches in modern NFL history.

Assistant QBs Coach Parks Frazier To Call Colts’ Plays

NOVEMBER 9: The Colts announced Wednesday that Frazier will be the team’s play-caller for the rest of the season. The young staffer may not have been the first choice, with quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich believed to have been offered the job as well. But a big opportunity awaits.

NOVEMBER 8: Another twist in the Colts’ coaching plan is expected to ensue. The now-Jeff Saturday-led team is expected to move assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier into the play-calling role, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com report (on Twitter).

While this may not be the team’s permanent plan, Frazier is set to move into this key position against the Raiders in Week 10. Frazier, 30, has been Indianapolis’ assistant QBs coach since 2021. He was previously at the quality control level. Frazier is not believed to have called plays at any level, Stephen Holder of ESPN.com tweets.

The Colts are bypassing the likes of Scott Milanovich and Scottie Montgomery by making this decision. Milanovich is in place as Indianapolis’ quarterbacks coach, while Montgomery — the team’s running backs coach — drew offensive coordinator interest this offseason. Montgomery, 44, came to Indianapolis after stays as East Carolina’s head coach and Maryland’s offensive coordinator; Milanovich, 49, is a former Toronto Argonauts HC who served as the Jaguars’ play-caller after the team fired Nathaniel Hackett during the 2018 season. Milanovich won a Grey Cup while coaching the Argos in 2012.

[RELATED: Colts To Retain GM Chris Ballard]

Frazier joined the Colts as Frank Reich‘s personal assistant in 2018, moving to Indiana after a stay as a graduate assistant at Arkansas State. This is an unorthodox move by Saturday. Then again, it does not come especially close to the shock level of Jim Irsay‘s decision to name Saturday interim head coach.

The Colts fired their top two offensive staffers this season, canning OC Marcus Brady in October and bailing on Reich midway through his fifth season. Reich had served as the team’s play-caller throughout his tenure.

Although the Colts were a surprise divisional-round entrant in Reich’s first season, Andrew Luck‘s stunning retirement threw the franchise off track. Reich still had the Colts’ offense ranking 16th in scoring during Jacoby Brissett‘s second Luck-relieving season (2019), and the team ranked ninth in points during both Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz‘s one-and-done stays. The team, of course, could not sustain that trajectory this season.

Frazier will take over with the Colts ranked 32nd in scoring (14.7 points per game). Indianapolis’ Irsay-influenced decisions regarding Matt Ryan and Sam Ehlinger have led the Colts to a nosedive offensively, despite the team having doled out big-ticket extensions to Pro Bowl linemen Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith and Ryan Kelly. The team’s issues staffing the other two O-line spots, along with Jonathan Taylor‘s first notable injury, have contributed to the freefall as well. Ehlinger will remain Indy’s starter, and Frazier will be the one tasked with elevating the 2021 sixth-rounder’s play during what promises to be one of the most interesting coaching experiments in modern NFL history.

Scott Milanovich Turned Down Colts’ Play-Calling Duties?

Jim Irsay‘s unusual decision to name Jeff Saturday as his team’s interim head coach has not been well-received around the league. Among Frank Reich‘s holdover staffers, a fair amount of unrest has emerged.

Saturday is going with assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier as his offensive play-caller in Week 10, but Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post reports Frazier was not the first choice. QBs coach Scott Milanovich, a former Jaguars play-caller who helmed the Toronto Argonauts to a Grey Cup as head coach in 2012, turned down the chance to call plays.

Milanovich called plays in Canada and for a short stretch with the Jaguars. He has been on Reich’s staff since last year. While Frazier has been with the Colts since Reich’s 2018 arrival, the 30-year-old does not have play-calling experience and was on the quality control level as recently as 2020. The Colts also have former East Carolina HC and Maryland OC Scottie Montgomery on staff as running backs coach; Montgomery was on the Panthers’ OC radar this offseason.

[RELATED: Reich Aiming For Another HC Job]

Irsay’s decision to hire Saturday has caused tumult among staffers and players, according to La Canfora, who adds Matt Ryan and other veterans were “irate” when informed of the Reich-for-Saturday swap. Some vets have said they do not want to play for the team any longer, though the trade deadline having passed limits players’ options. GM Chris Ballard, whom Irsay said was not in danger of being canned, told players the Saturday decision came “directly from the owner.” Irsay made that plain with his comments this week.

Irsay being behind the firing of offensive coordinator Marcus Brady is not surprising, but La Canfora notes the owner overruled Reich on quarterback selection. Reich did not view Sam Ehlinger as ready to play, and although the since-fired HC did not want to bench the struggling Ryan, he would have gone to Nick Foles before Ehlinger. Reich said this offseason he had wanted to acquire Foles in previous years. Prior to Ehlinger replacing Ryan, he moved past Foles as Indy’s QB2. It does not appear Reich backed that move.

The Colts are 0-2 with the 2021 sixth-round pick starting, and although Ehlinger drew praise from Reich, some around the league believe the Colts are tanking with their Saturday-Ehlinger-Frazier strategy. Irsay vehemently pushed back on that notion (via The Athletic’s Bob Kravitz), but the Colts — who also traded Nyheim Hines‘ through-2024 contract to the Bills at the deadline — will be far less experienced in key spots when they face the Raiders on Sunday.

That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard, that we’re tanking,” Irsay said. “That’s bulls—. 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 Matt because [of an effort to tank], that’s all bulls—. 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 also said, via Kravitz, Ryan could play again this year. Previously, the thought was Reich’s 2023 injury guarantee will keep him sidelined. Ryan has missed time with a shoulder injury, but upon switching to Ehlinger, Reich said the move was not injury-related. The longtime Indianapolis owner said it is inaccurate to suggest he forced the QB switch on Reich, indicating Saturday will have free rein to change quarterbacks. Irsay has, however, taken a hands-on role regarding quarterbacks this year. He forced the trade of Carson Wentz and instructed Ballard to finalize the Ryan deal, so his fingerprints being on the Ehlinger move would not be a stretch.

The Colts won the Andrew Luck sweepstakes 10 years ago, going 2-14 in 2011. But the team losing Peyton Manning for a full season led to that pick, rather than a full-fledged tanking effort. Though, the Colts certainly benefited from losing at the right time. Indianapolis has yet to find a Luck replacement; the team will certainly be linked to first-round passers in 2023.

Reich’s staff also includes DC Gus Bradley, a four-year Jaguars HC who has been on the coordinator level for over a decade, and former Panthers, Broncos and Bears HC John Fox, a senior defensive assistant. Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone is viewed as a rising talent in the coaching ranks. The Saturday decision and Irsay’s defense of the choice has drawn criticism from other staffers around the league, Kimberley Martin of ESPN.com tweets.

The Rooney Rule does not apply to interim hires. Rod Graves, the director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said (via CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson, on Twitter) that should change going forward. The NFL’s expanding of the Rooney Rule in recent years certainly points to the possibility it will later apply to interim hires. It is not yet known if the league will discuss that matter for potential 2023 application.

Colts Make Staffing Additions

The Colts are just about finished rounding out their coaching staff for 2020. We heard earlier this week that they had hired former Eagles OC Mike Groh to be their new receivers coach, and now we have a few new additions to pass along. They’ve hired Brian Baker as defensive line coach and Tyler Boyles as assistant to the head coach, with Parks Frazier being promoted to offensive quality control coach.

They also named Kevin Patullo as their pass game specialist. Patullo had previously been receivers coach, but was reassigned when Groh was hired. Baker is a longtime veteran of the coaching game with 36 years in the business under his belt. Most recently, he served as an associate head coach and defensive line coach at Alabama last year. He spent 19 years as an assistant in the NFL from 1996-2014. Boyles is more of a fresh face who spent the past handful of years at Middle Tennessee State. This will be his first NFL experience.

Frazier had previously served as assistant to the head coach, the role Boyles was just hired for. He came from the college ranks as well, and interestingly also had a stint at Middle Tennessee in 2015. Overall Indy is retaining both of their coordinators, and Frank Reich has had very little turnover on his staff since taking over.