This is where I need to get clean. 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, talked as much about family and life as we talked about football. I always considered him an advocate for the fight for equality and merit, but I don’t anymore. Not in this case.
This does not mean that I do not reach for his success, because I do. He is one of the best men I know. But he had a chance to walk the talk and he didn’t in this case.
Coaches always talk about making personal sacrifices for the greater good. Maybe that means fewer touches or reps. Do what is necessary for the success of the team. Saturday could have made a real statement about the importance of equality and merit by rejecting Irsay’s offer.
Before you call me naive, among other things, this has been done. Two years ago, Texans had a keen interest in hiring former quarterback Josh McConne as head coach. Like Saturday, he had no coaching experience after high school, but he was very close to the decision makers. Rather than seize the opportunity, McCown told them they should consider others who put in the time for such a shot, even citing a minority coach he worked with.
“My wife and I were praying for this, and I wanted the player to have a chance,” he told me on Saturday. “I’ve seen Boones of the world go straight from TV to the Yankees team manager position. I’ve seen basketball guys go straight into the head coaching job and get chances. I didn’t see that in the NFL, and I told my wife, ‘It just doesn’t happen.'” It’s just not an arbitrary thing.” And I felt very passionately and convinced that if I progressed and did a good job, people could see the way past players could lead a group of guys…
“I don’t pretend to be the smartest coach in the coaching staff; I’m pale in comparison, and I mix up [sic] No words. But I know how to lead men, whether they are coaches, players or an organization. And I know a bunch of guys just like me who I lived with, I broke bread, and played with and against. And I want us to have a chance. I want the players to have a chance. I had no idea if he (Irsay) would go with me, but I had just told my wife that I felt like the Lord was leading me here. The flip side for me personally is that I care about this organization. This is not just a job. This is the organization I lived in and my adult life was shaped. My wife and I all have our children here. I told them on day one, it’s not just about the players, it’s not just about the coaches – though I love them and their families, and understand the seat they’re sitting in – but, bro, the equipment room, the media relations training room I love and care about them. I know I can help them and help this organization come back and get direct directions [sic] They need. I would probably hack it and different owners would turn around and say, “Hey, maybe we’ll give youngsters chances, and maybe it’ll start with the people who played in the organization.” “
In theory, that sounds good, but the diverse candidates usually don’t have the kind of personal relationships that Saturday’s NFL owners have with Irsay. Having said that, I would desire nothing but success for Saturday, because he is a good man. And he is someone who is capable of leadership (yes, I know there are a lot of things that should lead to being a successful coach; but the first step is to get others to follow).
Listen to running back Jonathan Taylor, who ran for 147 yards with a score of 22, when asked what Saturday had brought for the team.
“It gave us passion,” he said. “Anytime he talks to us, any time he’s on the field, you can just feel the passion he has, given his history with this organization. It’s not about him getting a bunch of wins. It’s not about him being up front. He just wants To see the men and women of the Indianapolis Colts succeed, the entire organization, whether it’s the kitchen staff serving us the right food, or whether the equipment crew making sure we’re ready to go.”
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