Colts’ Jim Irsay to critics – Frank Reich fires ‘not personal’

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Colts' Jim Irsay to critics - Frank Reich fires 'not personal'
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INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has pushed back against recent characterizations of his handling of the team’s coaching change and the firing of coach Frank Reich, telling ESPN, “It’s not personal. It’s the complete opposite of being personal.”

Irsay’s comments were prompted in part by statements by Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, a former Colts assistant and Reich’s mentee, who offered impassioned postgame comments following Sunday’s win over the Colts. in Indianapolis and was captured on video after the 17-16 victory shouting into the crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium, “That was for Frank Reich.”

In his post-match press conference, Sirianni added: “You don’t want to know what I think whether he should be here or not, but you can probably imagine what I really think.”

Irsay, who was also bothered by some representations of his decision to hire Jeff Saturday as interim coach, offered a strong defense of his decisions regarding the coaching change.

“Frank is a valued friend to my family and to all my daughters,” Irsay said. “We’re a long way back. I’m very, very close to Frank, and I’ve known Frank for many decades. He’s like family.”

Irsay said he demonstrated his commitment and faith in Reich by running a contract extension with him earlier this year despite having two seasons remaining on Reich’s original contract. Irsay said he was reluctant to extend Reich when Reich broached the idea due to the remaining length of the previous contract and because Irsay had concerns about the team’s offensive consistency after the disappointing end of the 2021 season. But, Irsay said, he went against his past stance and made the decision to move forward with a new deal that locked Reich in for five more seasons.

Told that the team announced extensions for Reich and general manager Chris Ballard in August 2021, Irsay said it was a more recent deal between the team and Reich.

“I’ve been doing this for over 50 years, and I’ve never, ever, ever given a manager an extension with two years left on the contract,” Irsay said. “But [I did it] because of the closeness to him and our family, and because I hoped that maybe it would be something that would help him strengthen his position and his own conviction.”

Irsay drew a comparison to the Colts’ decision to leave running back Edgerrin James after the 2005 season due to the team’s tight salary cap, saying that decision — like the decision to fire Reich — was made with the good intentions. .

“I had to tell Edgerrin James there would be no contract,” Irsay said. “And he still asked me to nominate him for the Hall of Fame because people understand. I just think it needs to be clarified because I don’t know where something personal is going in terms of the organization, like if we had wronged someone. You have to make a decision that you believe is in the best interests of the franchise going forward. It’s not personal.”

The decision to hire Saturday, who took over despite never coaching beyond high school, was heavily criticized in some corners. Irsay also pushed back on that criticism, saying Saturday’s hiring was a very unique situation.

“You have to understand that Jeff is a very unusual person who was in a very unusual position to have the type of qualities that would make him capable of making a transition like this,” Irsay said. “Most of the time it’s going to be pretty tough. Could I do a rental like that again? Probably not. I mean, if I’ve been lucky enough to live long enough to do this for 75 years, it’s probably once in 75 years. I mean, it was a rare thing because the circumstances presented themselves.”

Irsay specifically took issue with the idea that he hired a former ESPN analyst and Colts consultant on Saturday simply because of their relationship or his status as a former Colts player.

“I mean, I wasn’t going to pick up the phone and hire Dallas Clark or Dwight Freeney,” he said. “No, they wouldn’t be ready.”

When asked if the team’s journey has changed under Saturday’s leadership — the Colts are 1-1 since he was hired — Irsay had a lot to say.

“The trajectory has changed,” he said. “People can write their stories and stuff. But, look, we won a tough game on the road in Las Vegas, after [previously] really unable to compete. And we go in and face a team that’s likely to be in the NFC Championship Game (the Eagles) with just one standout quarterback.

“People think Jeff was going to be a miracle worker. I mean, what kind of crazy trip were they on? They have their original narrative and everything that goes against that narrative, they don’t want to write so much that they don’t have to. And eventually they will. They’ll see the light. But all we can do is focus on Pittsburgh, and then when the offseason comes we’ll do a process of serious and dedicated interview, which I look forward to.

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