INDIANAPOLIS – The mounting losses, spiraling season and long hours haven’t diminished Jeff Saturday’s passion or long-term objective.
Given the opportunity, he’ll gladly swap his interim head coaching position for a permanent arrangement with the Indianapolis Colts.
“Sure. Yeah, absolutely,’’ he said Tuesday. “I plan on interviewing. As long as they give me the interview, I’m in.
“I have a vision of what this could look like in the future, plan to work that way. That’s what I do every day is to work towards that goal and understanding what that looks like.’’
Saturday’s world changed dramatically Nov. 7. That’s when owner Jim Irsay fired coach Frank Reich following the team’s listless 26-3 loss at New England and replaced him with one of the franchise’s iconic players who had been a paid consultant with the team as well as an ESPN analyst.
Per NFL rules, Saturday was hired on an interim basis, but the door certainly was left open for something grander.
“At the end of the season, there will be a full process reviewing (for) permanent head coach,’’ Irsay said at Saturday’s introductory press conference. “This is for eight games and hopefully more.
“Obviously we think he is one of those candidates that should be a very promising candidate to be the long-term head coach, but we have to go through that process.’’
That includes adhering to the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires a team with a coaching vacancy to interview minority candidates.
Saturday, 47, has spent the past five-plus weeks getting acclimated with the extensive, exhaustive aspects of running a professional football team. There have been endless meetings, occasional tweaks to the daily practice schedule and four games.
The Colts responded to Saturday’s first game as interim coach with a 25-20 win over the Raiders in Las Vegas, but have since dropped three straight: 17-16 to Philadelphia, 24-17 to Pittsburgh and 54-19 at Dallas.
The team’s continued failures – 4-8-1 heading into Saturday’s road game against the Minnesota Vikings – haven’t lessened his desire to dive headlong into a head coaching career. Saturday’s only previous coaching experience involved three years at the high school level in Georgia.
He accepted Irsay’s overture with eyes wide open. The lopsided loss to the Patriots was the Colts’ third straight and dropped them to 3-5-1.
“I’ll be honest with you . . . as expected,’’ Saturday said. “I knew this was going to be a challenge. Anytime you’re coming in halfway through a season, there’s nothing pretty about what’s happening. And I don’t just mean because of what happened with Frank, but what goes on in the locker room, with the coaching staff, just life of what it looks like.
“I knew what the challenge would be. I’m disappointed we haven’t finished some games better. Like I felt in Philly we let one get away, Pittsburgh we didn’t play well enough, and obviously Dallas where it’s a two-point game and we end up getting the doors blown off of us.’’
The second three-game losing streak of the season has essentially eliminated the Colts from playoff consideration – they have a 3% chance of reaching the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight.com – and convinced their fan base to worry more about positioning in the April draft. Indy currently has the 7th overall pick.
The Colts close the season against 1-11-1 Houston at Lucas Oil Stadium but face three teams with winning records prior to that: the 10-3 Vikings, the 7-6 Los Angeles Chargers Dec. 26 at Lucas Oil Stadium and at the 7-5-1 New York Giants Jan. 1.
“I’m disappointed, definitely not discourage,’’ Saturday said. “As I look at it, I’m pretty realistic about making improvements, but that’s not good enough in my estimation. I want to be able to finish stronger and put guys in position.
“And (when) we’re in position to make plays, we’ve gotta make ‘em, right? At some point this is about we’ve got to go make the plays we’re capable of making, and that’s what I’ve tried to fuel the guys.’’
Again, the optimism remains.
“I’m not wavering, man,’’ Saturday said. “I’ve loved it. I’ve had a great time. I know I’m the most popular guy in the room right now, right? This has been fantastic. It’s crazy for me because I’ve went from being in the media to not paying any attention purposely. I’m sure not everything written about us or me is positive. I’m good with that.
“I knew what I was signing up for. I’ve loved this. I’ve had a great time. This has been a lot of fun. Again, W’s make things a lot more fun, but that’s where we’ve got to get to.’’
Another staff change
The offensive staff has taken another hit. Klayton Adams, who’s been with the Colts since 2019, has been named the offensive line coach and run-game coordinator for new Stanford coach Troy Taylor.
Adams was in his second season as Indy’s tight ends coach after serving two seasons as assistant offensive line coach.
“Excited for that opportunity for he and his family going back close to home,’’ Saturday said. “Obviously we will miss him here.’’
Assistant offensive line coach Kevin Mawae will replace Adams while receivers coach Reggie Wayne will offer assistance to the tight ends with their route concepts.
Adams’ departure follows the firing of Reich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady. Parks Frazier has been the playcaller since Reich’s dismissal.
“Just asking fewer guys to do more,’’ Saturday said. “We’ll be fine. Just a little bit longer hours here.’’
The Colts signed tight end Nikola Kalinic to the active roster from the practice squad and waived wideout Keke Coutee. They also signed wideout Robert Foster to the practice squad.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.