The Washington Commanders’ laundry list of rivals increased by one this offseason after they acquired Carson Wentz from the Indianapolis Colts. Because of that, fans surely took pleasure in the widespread lambasting of the Colts after they fired Frank Reich as head coach and appointed Jeff Saturday as his replacement.
The move sent shockwaves around the NFL, and understandably so given Saturday’s previous coaching experience didn’t go beyond high school. Working as an analyst for ESPN when he was hired, Saturday finished with a 3-7 record in his final season coaching Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Georgia.
Hiring a head coach with no experience at the collegiate or professional level is unprecedented, and owner Jim Irsay and GM Chris Ballard dumped a gallon of gasoline on the fire during Saturday’s introductory press conference.
Not only has the general media laid into the Colts, but current and former coaches and executives have taken issue with the hiring.
You can add Commanders boss Ron Rivera to that growing list.
Commanders’ Ron Rivera ‘disappointed’ by Colts hiring of Jeff Saturday.
"“Well, it is what it is,” Rivera said, via The Athletic’s Ben Standig. “I just think the disappointment of it is, there’s some veteran coaches that are on that staff, and there’s some minority coaches too that are all clamoring and working to try and get opportunities. But again, I get it, it’s his team, and the owner decided that’s what he wanted to do.”"
Eloquently stated by the Commanders head coach. Think of how many minority head coaching candidates there are around the NFL. The Colts didn’t break the NFL’s Rooney Rule since it doesn’t apply to interim positions, but hiring Saturday only sparks more questions about the league’s controversial hiring practices.
A former nine-year veteran and Super Bowl champ, Rivera had to assemble an extensive coaching resume before he got his first gig in Carolina. Rivera started as a quality control coach with Chicago in 1997, before becoming a linebackers coach with two teams and a defensive coordinator for the Bears and Chargers.
It wasn’t until 2011 that the Panthers hired Rivera as their head coach.
Rivera was then asked whether his long path to become a head coach (the standard for most current HCs) influenced his opinion on the Saturday hire.
"“A little bit,” Rivera said. “I mean, it’s in the middle of the season. It’s something a little bit different. If this had been in January, it would’ve most certainly I think been even worse. But again, just because it happened now and it happened the way it did, yeah there’s some disappointment in it. But again, as I said, it’s [Irsay’s] team and it’s what he decided.”"
Good on Rivera for not holding back, and credit to Saturday for picking up his first victory as interim head coach.
But the fact he’s presiding over a staff that has 14 coaches with at least a decade of experience, including senior defensive assistant John Fox, who’s been two two (!) Super Bowls, is disheartening. And that doesn’t even include the countless minority candidates who didn’t garner consideration.
Jim Irsay gained a lot of support in D.C. for standing against Dan Snyder, but the impulsive owner deserves all the criticism coming his way right now. Even if the Saturday experiment pans out, the NFL took a huge step back with this hire.
Pretty clear Rivera feels that way.