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#pounditThursday, May 23, 2024

Jim Irsay addresses Rooney Rule criticism for Jeff Saturday hire

Jim Irsay looking ahead.

Aug 7, 2021; Canton, Ohio, USA; Edgerrin James, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Centennial Class (right) poses with his presenter Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay during the induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay faced a lot of criticism after he fired Frank Reich and named Jeff Saturday the team’s interim head coach. One of the knocks against him was that he chose a coach with zero experience without interviewing any minority candidates. Irsay says everything came together so quickly that there was no time for that.

Irsay sat down for an interview with ESPN’s Michelle Beisner-Buck that aired during the “Monday Night Football” pregame show. He described the process of hiring Saturday following Indy’s Week 9 loss as “very unusual.” When asked if the Colts would have made a coaching change if Saturday turned the job down, Irsay said “certainly not that week.”

That led to a question about the Rooney Rule, which does not apply to interim coaches. Irsay said the Colts will comply with it after the season.

“It was something where we were right in line with the Rooney Rule and we were under great pressure, believe me,” Irsay said. “It wasn’t until 1:30 in the morning, almost, before it was gonna be clear that Jeff was gonna become our head coach. There’s no time to go through the longer Rooney Rule process, but (he) is an interim coach. At the end of the year, that’s when the process steps forward.”

There is a reason the Rooney Rule does not apply to interim head coaches. Teams typically do not extensively interview replacements when they fire a coach in the middle of the season. In this case, some critics felt Irsay should have given an experienced minority candidate a chance to audition for the gig rather than hiring Saturday.

The Colts won their first game after naming Saturday interim head coach. They have lost five straight since. Irsay was accused of hiring an inexperienced coach in an attempt to tank, and he issued a very strong response to those allegations. Whether that was his intention or not, the results have been about what most people expected.

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