INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay pushed back on recent characterizations of his handling of the team’s coaching change and the firing of coach Frank Reich, telling ESPN, “It’s not personal. It’s the complete opposite of being personal.”
Irsay’s comments were prompted in part by statements from Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, a former Colts assistant and Reich mentee, who made impassioned post-game comments after Sunday’s win against the Colts in Indianapolis and after the 17-16 The crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium captured the victory on video: “That s— was for Frank Reich.”
In his post-match press conference, Sirianni added: “You guys don’t want to know what I think about whether he should be here or not, but you can probably guess what I’m really thinking.”
Irsay, also disturbed by some accounts of his decision to hire Jeff Saturday as caretaker manager, offered a strong defense of his managerial-related decisions.
“Frank is a valued friend of my family and all of my daughters,” Irsay said. “We go back a long, long way. I am very, very close to Frank and have known Frank for many decades. He’s like family.”
Irsay said he demonstrated his commitment and belief in Reich by agreeing to a contract extension with him earlier this year, though Reich still has two seasons left on his original contract. Irsay said he was reluctant to extend Reich when Reich raised the idea because of the remaining term of the previous contract and because Irsay had concerns about the team’s offensive consistency after the disappointing end to the 2021 season. But, Irsay said, he went against his earlier stance and made the decision to proceed with a new deal that locked Reich in for five more seasons.
Irsay said the team announced extensions to Reich and general manager Chris Ballard in August 2021, and said it was a more recent agreement between the team and Reich.
“I’ve been doing this for over 50 years and I’ve never, ever, ever given a coach an extension with two years left on their contract,” Irsay said. “But [I did it] because of the closeness to him and our family, and because I hoped that maybe it would be something that would strengthen him in his position and his own faith.”
Irsay drew a comparison to the Colts’ decision not to run back Edgerrin James after the 2005 season because of the team’s worsening salary cap situation, and said that decision — like firing Reich — was made with the right intentions became .
“I had to tell Edgerrin James there will be no contract,” Irsay said. “And he still asked me to induct him for the Hall of Fame because people get it. I just think that needs to be clarified because I don’t know where anything personal comes in terms of the organization as if we wronged someone. You have to make a decision that you believe is in the best interest of the future of the franchise. It’s not personal.
The change to Saturday, who took over the post, although he never worked as a coach beyond high school, was heavily criticized in some quarters. Irsay also dismissed those criticisms, saying Saturday’s hiring was a most unique situation.
“You have to understand that Jeff is a very unusual person who was in a very unusual position to have the kind of qualities that would enable him to make a transition like this,” Irsay said. “Most of the time it’s going to be pretty difficult. Could I find such a setting again? Probably not. I mean, if I’ve been lucky enough to live long enough to do this for 75 years, it’s probably once in 75 years. I mean it was a rare thing because of the circumstances that presented themselves.
Irsay specifically denied the idea that he hired Saturday, a former ESPN analyst and Colts consultant, solely because of their relationship or his status as a former Colts player.
“I mean, I didn’t want to pick up the phone and hire Dallas Clark or Dwight Freeney,” he said. “No, they would not be ready.”
Asked if the team’s course has changed under Saturday’s leadership – the Colts are 1-1 since his hiring – Irsay had a lot to say.
“The trajectory has changed,” he said. “People can write their stories and everything else. But look, we won a tough street game in Las Vegas after that [previously] actually not competitive. And we’re coming in and we’re playing a team that’s probably going to be in the NFC championship game (the Eagles) with just one notable quarterback.
“People think Jeff would be a miracle worker. I mean what kind of delusional journey have they been on? They have their original narrative and anything that contradicts that narrative, they don’t want to write until they have to. And eventually they will. You will see the light. But all we can do is focus on Pittsburgh, and then when the off-season comes around, we’ll have a serious and dedicated interviewing process, which I look forward to.”
https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/35100935/colts-jim-irsay-critics-frank-reich-firing-not-personal Colts’ Jim Irsay to critics — Frank Reich firing ‘not personal’