Jeff Saturday could help solve Colts’ key issue; praise for Malik Willis: AFC South analysis

Perhaps stranger than the Indianapolis Colts’ decision to hire Jeff Saturday as interim head coach, a franchise legend with no coaching experience beyond the high school level, was owner Jim Irsay’s logic in explaining it Monday at night.

Irsay, an ESPN NFL analyst days ago, insisted Saturday that he was the “best man for the job,” despite having several veteran NFL coaches on his coaching staff, including two with head coaching experience. to defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and senior defensive assistant John. Fox, that would make an abrupt midseason transition smoother. Irsay said Saturday he had “enough experience,” with five seasons as a high school coach, including just three as a head coach, being his only experience.

Irsay invoked legends like Don Shula and Tony Dungy to talk about Saturday. He boldly said he’s glad Saturday doesn’t have any NFL experience, because there’s supposedly a “fear” among traditional NFL coaches to marry analytics with scheme.

A dizzying press conference led by Irsay leads me to this dizzying conclusion: Landing a Colts interim head coaching job for which he’s ridiculously underqualified on Saturday might be worth it if he can help improve Indianapolis’ offensive line.

“It’s an intuitive decision,” Irsay said of Saturday’s hire. “He knows this game inside and out with coaching and player relationships and he’s been a consultant for us for a number of years — a paid consultant, giving Chris (Ballard) and I and other people in the organization his opinions “.

Jeff Saturday was named interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts | THE MANAT

Jeff Saturday was named interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts |  THE MANAT

NFL reporter Albert Breer joins Colin Cowherd on The Herd to discuss the Indianapolis Colts’ decision to move from former head coach Frank Reich to interim head coach Jeff Saturday.

Quarterback has been a problem for years for the Colts, but terrible starting play has been at the core of their offensive problems in 2022. They can’t pass block, whether it’s Matt Ryan or Sam Ehlinger under center (Ehlinger was sacked nine times by the New England Patriots last week). And they can’t run block, whether it’s been Jonathan Taylor or someone else in the backfield.

According to Football Outsiders, Indianapolis ranks second-worst in adjusted line yards (3.86), an advanced metric that quantifies the offensive line’s responsibility on return moves across various game situations (down, distance, situation , etc.). He is fourth-worst in adjusted sack percentage (9.5%), which takes into account downs, yardage and opponent in sacks allowed. Overall, the Colts have the second-worst offensive line in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. And no team has devoted more cash and head to their O-line than the Colts. Shuffle the headlines has made no difference. The initial shortcomings have been nothing less than an abject failure.

And here is a place that could help on Saturday. He knows the intricacies of the offensive game as a perennial former Pro Bowl center. He also knows specifically how the Colts want to play up front, considering he played 13 seasons, won a Super Bowl and is a Ring of Honor member with the franchise.


Being great at something doesn’t mean you can be great at teaching it, but Indianapolis is providing that opportunity on Saturday.

“It doesn’t take long to figure out that he has real leadership in him, very special in that regard,” said Ballard, the team’s general manager. “Through this eight-game stretch and where we’re at, we thought we were going to do really well.”

With Saturday’s lack of coaching experience, hiring him as some sort of offensive line coach would have made more sense if his experience was as desired as Irsay made it known.

“We tried to hire him a couple of times,” Ballard acknowledged. “We tried to hire him in 2019 as offensive line coach. And we tried to hire him again this year. It just didn’t work out. The timing didn’t work out.”

Now it worked. They found a way to bring him into the building as head coach, on an interim basis, after a midseason layoff.

And perhaps this is the only way to make sense of this strange situation.

The talent is there for the Titans Malik Willis. Don’t forget that.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid, delving into an answer about how his defense made adjustments in the second half en route to a dramatic 20-17 win over the Titans on Sunday night, touched on the rookie quarterback Tennessee’s Malik Willis, making his second career start with Ryan. Tannehill sidelined, when he didn’t have to.

“I think he’s going to be really good down the road,” Reid said of Willis.

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs defeat Titans in OT, KC 1st in AFC West | The first is the first

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs defeat Titans in OT, KC 1st in AFC West |  The first is the first

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs needed overtime to defeat the Derrick Henry-led Tennessee Titans in Week 9.

Reid, one of the greatest offensive minds in NFL history who has helped shape the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick, praised the unsolicited third-round pick. And remember this, too: Back in August, after a preseason game between the Titans and Ravens, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson also spoke highly of Willis, saying “he’s going to be good in the league.” The praise from these two, a Super Bowl-winning coach and a former league MVP, speaks volumes for Willis’ potential.

So while observers may be justified in saying the former Liberty star doesn’t look like a true NFL quarterback, who’s to say he can’t become one in time?

In the first half against the Chiefs, we saw interviews. As in the first quarter, on third-and-14 from the Kansas City 39, he avoided two sacks, going out of one and away from the other, to keep a drive alive. Like in the second quarter, on a rolling snap and the running back facing pressure to his right, he threw an unbalanced one-leg throw to tight end Austin Hooper for a 16-yard gain. How later on that same drive, he threw a dime down the sideline to wide receiver Chris Conley that should have been caught. Com gave receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine a chance on a 50-50 ball down the sideline that would have given the Titans first-and-goal in the fourth quarter. As a whole, he made big strides since his first career start against the Texans in Week 8.

A dynamic runner, Willis isn’t polished as a passer, of course. He has attempted just 26 passes in two starts, completing just 40% of them. At times he has tucked the ball to run too fast, giving up on passing plays. Accuracy and decision making are inconsistent. His ability to keep a play alive at times has caused him problems at the back. Still needs development. A lot of it.

But it’s on the right track. Opposing teams notice.

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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