Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Jeff Saturday hire has nothing to do with race

On Monday, the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts hired Saturday to coach on Sundays.

Jeff Saturday, that is, a veteran of 13 seasons with the Colts, with whom he made five Pro Bowls and was the starting center on Colts teams that won Super Bowl XLI and represented the AFC in Super Bowl XLIV. 

Were there better qualified candidates available? Perhaps. But team owner Jim Irsay has the right to hire whomever he sees fit as the best candidate to coach his team. Call it a perk, or even a responsibility, if you will, of owning a pro sports franchise. It’s his team, and as such, his decision, as it should be, as would be the case in any other profession. 

At the introductory press conference, despite Saturday’s well-documented  long-established connection with the team,.Irsay was asked about the perception created by bringing in a white interim coach who has no college nor NFL head coaching experience, Irsay noted that, in addition to his analyst job with ESPN, Saturday has also been serving as a trusted consultant to the team for several years.

“Want to bet against this guy?” Irsay exclaimed. “Put your money down … love to see it, because I know what he’s about.”

Irsay confirmed that Saturday’s race had nothing to do with the hire, noting his 2002 hiring of Tony Dungy, who went on to become the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl, and his successor, Jim Caldwell, who is also black. The Colts’ current running backs coach, wide receivers coach and defensive backs coach are also black.

Nevertheless, Saturday’s  hire ruffled feathers league-wide. Those who continue to insist that minorities are under-represented and overlooked when coaching hires are made were vehement, ignoring the league’s “Rooney Rule” mandate that teams must interview at least two minority candidates for each coaching opening. The rule does not apply to interim hires.

“Ain’t no way in hell a black guy getting a job like this!” NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe spewed.

OK, Shannon. Then find us a black candidate for that specific Colts job who has earned the trust, respect and admiration of the team’s ownership the way Saturday has. 

Would we be having this conversation if Saturday was black? No, we would not. But because Saturday is white, those who think hiring a minority is more important than hiring the most logical candidate have lost their minds, again.

On naming Saturday his team’s interim head coach, Irsay stated the interim tag would apply for the final eight games of the regular season, after which the team is expected to conduct a formal coaching search. Irsay said he will comply with the league’s race-based mandate when finalizing candidates, as he always has. But if Saturday does well, he may see the interim tag removed.

“This is for eight games, hopefully more,” Irsay said.

Saturday’s Colts beat the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. He’s 1-0 as an NFL head coach. 

I wonder how Shannon Sharpe’s choice would have done?