NFL Playoff Rules Affect Colts’ Search for HC

Jim Irsay

Getty Colts owner Jim Irsay will be involved in the HC search during the team's second round of interviews.

As the NFL playoffs enter conference championship week, the Indianapolis Colts will be unable to speak to some candidates in midst of the search for their next head coach.

Per The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, NFL rules state that teams are unable to interview coaches that are still in playoff contention. Therefore, the Colts are unable to conduct a potential first interview with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. They also won’t be able to host a second round of interviews with offensive coordinators Shane Steichen (Philadelphia Eagles), Brian Callahan (Cincinnati Bengals) and Eric Bieniemy (Kansas City Chiefs) until January 30.

After interviewing with the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans, Ryans’ initial interview with the Colts was canceled so he could prepare for the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round. It’s currently unclear if Ryans’ interview will be rescheduled.

As of now, the Colts have interviewed 13 candidates. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay has not been involved in the first round of interviews. The shortlist of candidates will shrink “later this week” and Irsay will help lead in person interviews in the next stage.

Jeff Saturday’s Candidacy

Saturday received an official interview for the Colts’ head coach position on January 19. Per Pelissero’s report posted to Twitter, Saturday still remains a candidate for this position.

“Irsay believes in him and wants him to have a chance despite his 1-7 record as interim head coach,” Pelissero said. “However, I am told Irsay will be open-minded in this process.”

Irsay brought in Saturday, a Colts Ring of Famer, to lead the team after the team started 3-5-1 and fired head coach Frank Reich.

Zach Hicks, who is the lead analyst for Horseshoe Huddle, tweeted that he doesn’t think the team will advance Saturday to the second round of interviews.

“The fanbase has been peppering him with anti-Saturday stuff and we know he can be swayed by public opinion,” Hicks said. “I just don’t see it anymore.”

Despite the criticism Saturday’s interim hiring brought, Sports Illustrated reporter Albert Breer said Saturday is still in the thick of candidacy to become full-time Colts head coach.

“Jim Irsay, obviously, likes the guy,” Breer said in a story. “If Saturday’s going to win the job, he will have to be able to put together a high-level staff.”

Other Potential Candidates

The current list of names will soon be cut down, but there are still potential head coaching candidates who have not been interviewed by the Colts.

The most notable, Sean Payton, is interviewing with the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Broncos and Texans. The Colts are the only team with a head coach vacancy that hasn’t submitted a request to speak to Payton.

It’s been reported that multiple teams are willing to trade a first-round pick to the New Orleans Saints to acquire Payton. With a current double-digit number of candidates, the Colts could go without interviewing Payton, as paying the price of a first-round pick is hefty. The Colts possess the No. 4 pick in the draft.

Another coach that has been brought up is Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo due to the Bengals’ strong postseason performances.

“I’m a little surprised the Colts have requested this many interviews and not called Lou Anarumo,” The Indianapols Star reporter Nate Atkins tweeted. “Maybe that will change after today (the Bengals’ January 22 win over Buffalo).”

If the Colts decide to interview Anarumo, they’ll have to wait another week to do so, although the team might be satisfied with the current pool of candidates. Anarumo was rumored to be a potential head coaching candidate in mid-December, but he has not yet been requested to interview with a team.

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