Sports Illustrated Reporter Calls for Irsay to Stop ‘Meddling’

Jim Irsay, owner of Colts at Charity event

Getty Indianapolis Colts Jim Irsay (in hat) celebrating the 100th birthday of writer Jack Kerouac with musician Stephen Stills (second from right).

Love him or hate him, Jim Irsay is anything but quiet. As owner of the Indianapolis Colts, Irsay is one of the most powerful men in the NFL.

But until Irsay stops “meddling” in football operations, the Colts will continue on a path of mediocrity, according to Drake Wally of Sports Illustrated’s Horseshoe Huddle website.

“If the Indianapolis Colts are going to return to their old, successful ways, then owner Jim Irsay will need to get back to letting his employees make football decisions,” Wally wrote in a December 9 opinion piece.

It’s now been eight seasons since the Colts last won a postseason game. They’ve missed the playoffs altogether in five of the past seven years and, at 4-9-1, will undoubtedly not advance this season.

“It’s time to look at the man who was pulling the strings during the Colts’ disastrous 2022 campaign,” Wally wrote.

The ‘Meddling’

The Colts were 3-5-1 when Irsay fired head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady on November 7, a day after losing 26-3 to the New England Patriots. Second-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who had been elevated to starter after Reich benched veteran Matt Ryan on October 25, threw for 103 yards and an interception.

Firing Reich, who was 40-33-1 in his four-plus seasons as head coach, was unusual, Wally wrote.

“The owner did two very uncharacteristic things in the process,” he wrote. “First is that he fired a coach mid-season, which Irsay had never done before. Second, he fired Reich over the phone. The latter was outright unfair to do to a man who had dedicated four-and-a-half years to your franchise and was given a different Day-1 quarterback in each of his seasons.”

Irsay had traded away 28-year-old quarterback Carson Wentz in March before acquiring Matt Ryan, who was about to turn 37, and restructuring his contract to guarantee him the $53.9 million left on the contract he’d signed with the Atlanta Falcons, according to ESPN.

Before his benching, Ryan would lead the league in interceptions with 13. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio wrote on October 25 that Irsay was the driving force behind the decision to sit Ryan in favor of Ehlinger.

Then, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeted on October 30 that Irsay, Reich and general manager Chris Ballard “were in ‘lockstep’ on the move.” One week — and one bad start by Ryan’s successor at quarterback — later, Reich was out as head coach.

Irsay’s “meddling” did not stop there, according to Wally. In a stunning move, Irsay hired Jeff Saturday, who had zero experience coaching at any level, as interim head coach.

In his November 7 press conference announcing the hiring, Irsay was defiant with the media. When questioned on Saturday’s inexperience, Irsay told the media he was “glad” Saturday didn’t have experience and told reporters, “Your opinion doesn’t matter.”

Under Saturday, the Colts are 1-4. “His hiring has not aged well after Irsay told reporters that Saturday was ‘highly qualified for the position,'” Wally wrote.

Previous History of Success

Even though the Colts have not a won a playoff game since 2014, Irsay has had great success in his 24 years of ownership, including a Super Bowl win (2006), another Super Bowl appearance (2009), only two missed playoffs from 2000 to 2014, and the fourth most wins in the league since the year 2000.

In the past, Irsay, who once told The New York Times that he was an “NFL owner by day, and rock ‘n roller by night,” left the Xs and Os and football decisions to coaches such as Tony Dungy and general managers such as Ballard and Bill Polian before him. And the results spoke for themselves.

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