This is where I have to tell the truth. Saturday is a friend of mine. I covered him from afar as a player and then worked with him at ESPN. We played golf together, broke bread together and talked as much about family and life as we did football. I have long thought of him as an advocate for the fight for equality and meritocracy, but that is no longer the case. Not in this case.
That doesn’t mean I don’t encourage its success, because I do. He’s one of the best men I know. But he was lucky enough to follow suit and didn’t, in this case.
Coaches always talk about making personal sacrifices for the greater good. This may mean less contact or repeat sharing. Do what is necessary for the team to succeed. Saturday could have made a real statement about the importance of equality and meritocracy by turning down Irsay’s offer.
Before you called me naive, among other things, it was done. Two years ago, the Texans had a strong interest in hiring former quarterback Josh McCown as their head coach. Like Saturday, he had no coaching experience beyond high school, but he was extremely close to decision makers. Instead of taking the opportunity, McCown told them they should consider others who had been slow for such a shot, even citing a minority coach he had worked with.
“My wife and I were praying about it, and I wanted a player to have a chance,” I was told on Sunday Sunday. “I’ve seen the Boones of the world go straight from TV to coach the Yankees. I’ve seen basketball players go straight to head coaching and get opportunities. I haven’t seen that in the NFL, and I said to my wife, “It doesn’t just happen. It’s not something arbitrary.” And I felt very passionate and convinced that if I get up and do a good job, and people can see the way ex-players can lead a group of men…
“I don’t claim to be the smartest manager in the team; I pale in comparison and mix [sic] no words. But I know how to lead people, be it coaches, players or an organization. And I know a lot of men who are like me with whom I lived, with whom I broke bread, I played with and against. And I want us to have a chance. I want players to have a chance. I didn’t know if (Irsay) was coming with me, but I just told my wife that I felt the Lord leading me here. The other side for me personally is that I care about this organization. It’s not just a job; it is the organization in which I lived and my adult life was forged. My wife and I all have our children here. I told them on day one, it’s not just about players, it’s not just about coaches — although I love them and their families, and I understand the seat they’re sitting in — but, brother, the equipment room, the media relations, the training room, I love them and I care about them. I know I can help them and help this organization turn around and get the [sic] they need. Maybe I break through and different owners turn around and say, “Hey, maybe we’re giving guys chances, and maybe it starts with people who have played for the organization.” “
In theory, that sounds good, but various candidates generally don’t have the kind of personal relationship with NFL owners that Saturday has with Irsay. That said, I will continue to want nothing but success on Saturday, because he is a good man. And he’s someone who can lead (yes, I know it takes a lot more to be a good head coach, but the first step is to get others to follow).
Listen to running back Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 147 yards and one score on 22 carries, when asked what Saturday brought to the team.
“He gave us the passion,” he said. “Every time he talks to us, every time he’s on the pitch, you can just feel the passion he has, given the history he has with this organization. It’s not about to give him a bunch of wins. It’s not about him being at the He just wants to see the men and women of the Indianapolis Colts succeed, the whole organization, whether it’s the kitchen staff giving us the great food, or whether it’s the equipment staff making sure we’re ready to go.
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