Coaching Records Don’t Back Up What Media is Telling You

Are you following the coaching search with the Indianapolis Colts?

If so, you have probably heard that if the team hires Jeff Saturday it will mean the following:

  • The Colts are an absolute joke in the NFL
  • Owner Jim Irsay is running the team, and not GM Chris Ballard
  • The Colts are doomed because Saturday has no NFL coaching experience
  • The Colts are doomed because they didn’t hire an offensive guru
  • The earth will stop spinning on its axis and the apocalypse will ensue

Yeah, OK, I kind of made up that last one. But seriously, how many sports pundits are losing their minds over the idea that Saturday might end up being the coach?

Let’s review. Saturday was hired as the interim coach in mid-season, inheriting a team with no good quarterback, an injured running back who only played in 10 games (and basically none after Dec. 4) and an offensive line with more holes than a truckload of Swiss cheese. Yeah, it was an awful last half of the season with Saturday on the sideline. But wasn’t it going to be awful no matter who was there? Wait, let me answer that. You bet your sweet bippy it was.

Before we bow to the sports media icons, let’s get a few things on the record regarding Irsay, GM Chris Ballard and of course Saturday.

To begin with, the idea that Saturday has no experience doesn’t bother me even a little. I’m pretty tired of the oft-repeated notion that it’s a requirement for success. The stats don’t bear that out (read on) and the thing is, we’re not building a space shuttle here. This is football. Maybe it’s football at the highest level, but it’s still football. An NFL coach is like the CEO of the team (not the franchise, mind you – the players). Do you think Lee Iacocca knew how to build a Chrysler? I doubt it, but he surely knew how to lead a company.

Ballard, on the other hand, is the CEO of the franchise. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t too long ago people were calling for his head. Maybe with some justification. After all, his job is to give the coach the tools to win. So far, the Colts haven’t done that much with Ballard at the helm.

And lastly, Irsay is getting harpooned. Yet, using my little CEO analogies, he’s the chairman of the board for the entire entity. Should he let his coach coach? His GM manage? Of course. And he has for an awful long time. Did we ever hear Tony Dungy or Bill Polian say otherwise? But when things go off the rails – as they have ever since Andrew Luck left the team high and dry when he quit 20 days before the season opener in 2019 – isn’t it the owner’s job to do something? Since the Luck debacle, the Colts have failed to win the AFC South, the worst division in pro football. Reich and Ballard were equally blamed.

Say it again . . . Isn’t it the job of the owner to step in at some point? Wouldn’t you?

And let’s not forget the fact that Irsay grew up in this franchise. He’s worked a ton of different jobs, including GM. For those who don’t know, Irsay played college football (a little) at SMU. After graduation in 1982, he went to work for his Dad, Robert Irsay – owner of the then-Baltimore Colts. Two years later young Jim was named VP and GM. A decade later his father suffered a stroke and Jim took over the day-to-day work. By my count, that means he has worked for the organization in all kinds of different jobs for, oh, 41 years! Funny, he’s been on the job longer than some of his critics have been alive, much less covering sports.

And no one is claiming he didn’t get breaks because his Dad owned the team. But still, if you worked in an organization for 41 years don’t you think you might have at least some idea of how things work? He must have because he was the one signing checks while the team enjoyed an awfully long streak of success.

We never hear that though. We hear about him being an eccentric. The sports media seems to be happy to forget facts and simply focus on whatever furthers their argument.

Ultimately, Saturday may or may not be the best coach for the Colts. We’ll see. And in the meantime could we hold up on the happy horse hockey about him being a joke if he’s hired? Could we pump the brakes on the idea that we have to hire some offensive genius? Last I heard, Josh McDaniels qualified as exactly that when he was calling plays in New England as the offensive coordinator. Of course Tom Brady was the guy executing those plays, but never mind that. McDaniels has been a head coach in this league for a total of three years and his teams – the Denver Broncos and Los Vegas Raiders – have never had a winning record. His overall mark is 17-28, including 6-11 this last year.

Maybe he is a genius. But watch and listen to him in press conferences or video of him talking to his team. No one, and I mean noooooobody, is lining up to run through a wall for him. He appears to have the leadership skills of a buck private on KP.

But hey, he’s an offensive-minded coach.

What might be more preferable is a coach who understands how to lead – and Saturday certainly seems to fit that just fine. Let’s not forget he was credited with being a main force in the NFL lockout in 2011. To recap, ownership and the union looked to be digging in for a long work stoppage. But Saturday, by many accounts, was the guy who got both sides to find common ground. And he stayed at it until a new contract was signed.

What experience did he have at contract negotiations? I don’t think any. But he made it work.

Look up Saturday on the internet and you will see example after example of him being an overachiever. From high school to college and to the pros. At almost every stop, he was judged as not being good enough, or of being too small. The powerhouse SEC schools didn’t want him even though he grew up in Georgia. No NFL team drafted him. Yet he had a stellar playing career. Does that mean he’ll be a top-notch coach? No, but between the successes on the field and in the NFL boardroom, what is there not to like? When it comes to football, what hasn’t he been successful at?

Let’s take a look at the stats mentioned above. A quick check shows that seven NFL teams parted ways with their head coaches after the 2020-21 season. Of those seven, only two had winning records the next year.

Two. As in one-two.

(Oh, and just for the record – the two had identical records of 9-8. Winning seasons, but not quite Hall of Fame levels.)

Maybe it was a bad year. Let’s move forward. After the 2021-22 season, eight teams fired their coach. Only four of those teams had winning records last year.


(Back to the record, three of the four were two at 9-8 and one at 9-7-1.)

If I’m using my fingers and toes correctly, that means out of 15 NFL coaches being hired – all guys with previous NFL coaching experience that is so vital (according to the media), only six had winning seasons, five barely.

Huh! Imagine that. Fifteen coaches hired. Forty percent win right away. Yet hiring a coach with NFL experience is indispensably important?

Here’s hoping Saturday gets the job. Why? First, because I’m a Colts fan and think he’ll turn things around. But also because if he keeps doing what he has done at every step of his football life, it’ll be fun to listen to all those pundits tell you what a great idea hiring Saturday was.

Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically in The Times. Timmons is the chief executive officer of Sagamore News Media, the company that owns The Noblesville Times. He is also a proud Noblesville High School graduate and can be contacted at