Former Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas played with a lot of coaches during his 11 years in the NFL. Six different ones, to be exact. He's seen coaches come from all walks of life and experiences.
So when he heard the Indianapolis Colts fired head coach Frank Reich and replaced him with former Colts center Jeff Saturday, he was flabbergasted.
"It is one of the most disrespectful things I’ve ever seen in my entire life to the commitment, the lifestyle and the experience that it takes to be an NFL coach — any coach — much less the head coach of the Indianapolis Football Colts," Thomas said on "Good Morning Football" on Friday. “You have got to be kidding me that this is something that Jim Irsay and Jeff Saturday, who’s not blameless for accepting the job, could have talked and decided that this was the best thing for the Indianapolis Colts at this juncture of the season.”
Thomas noted how difficult being a coach can be and even explained how former Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski spent 4-5 days away from his family every week in 2013 because of how much time he spent in the office working on weekly game plans. So from Thomas' perspective, Irsay insulted all the other coaches on the staff by picking his friend with no coaching experience and then claim Saturday's lack of experience is a positive because "he's not scared."
“The disrespect that NFL coaches have to feel when they saw that this hire was made is higher than almost anything I can ever possibly remember in the NFL,” Thomas said. “... When I saw this, I thought it was a joke. ... It was the most egregious thing I can ever remember happening in the NFL, and I went 1-31 my last two years in the NFL.”
"It was the most egregious thing I can ever remember happening in the NFL...
and I went 1-31 my last two years in the NFL..."@joethomas73 on the hiring of Colt's interim Head Coach Jeff Saturday pic.twitter.com/qRMWRTqfKE
— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) November 11, 2022
Irsay's decision to hire Saturday sealed the Colts' fate this season after four years of an identity crisis following Andrew Luck's sudden retirement in 2019. It also brought to light a potential loophole in the Rooney Rule, which Saturday tried to quell in his first solo news conference on Wednesday by claiming his time as interim head coach would be an eight-game test case before a real search began this offseason.
Regardless, the decision is perhaps the biggest example of nepotism in the NFL and made a mockery of the league's meritocracy for one of the most coveted positions in the sport. And Thomas made that sentiment abundantly clear Friday in his three-minute soliloquy.
There isn't much in the way of remedying this situation, either.
If Saturday succeeds, it could create an even bigger problem in the NFL — and not just because of the Rooney Rule implications. The league's coaching hiring is — typically — built on the bedrock of experience with traditional through-line up the ranks. Irsay shattered that ideology with the Saturday hire. If Saturday fails, the Colts either look like a laughingstock or perhaps something a little more concerning in the eyes of competitive spirit.
This could shape up to be one of the most intriguing storylines in the second half of the 2022 season.