Bill Cowher calls Jeff Saturday hire 'disgrace to profession' amid reports Colts execs tried to talk Jim Irsay out of it

The Indianapolis Colts' hiring of former player and ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday to replace Frank Reich as head coach was shocking, and criticism continues to roll in.

On Sunday morning, former NFL player and coach Bill Cowher called it a "travesty" in an emotional statement, and we learned that top-level Colts employees weren't in favor of the move.

According to Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, several top Colts executives, including Pete Ward and general manager Chris Ballard, tried to talk owner Jim Irsay out of hiring Saturday, but were not able to convince him to hire someone with coaching experience above a Catholic high school in Georgia.

Irsay was described as "hellbent" on hiring Saturday, but he may have done so without considering the ramifications — not just among players, but the coaching staff as well. Without Reich, who handled play-calling duties, and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, who was fired several weeks ago, there was no one to call offensive plays.

The Colts eventually settled on 30-year-old pass game specialist/assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier as their play-caller, even though he has never called plays in the NFL.

Apparently Frazier wasn't their first choice. According to Pelissero and Rapoport, quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich was the first pick for that job, but Milanovich turned it down after they offered it to him with no revision to his current contract.

So why would Irsay hire Saturday if it was going to cause so much upheaval (and likely grumbling from the numerous Colts coaches with much more experience who were passed over for this job)? The true reason is known only to Irsay, but Saturday's "leadership" qualities were apparently a big factor. Saturday emphasized that he "know(s) how to lead men" during Wednesday's introductory news conference. And those leadership qualities are already coming in handy, according to Pelissero and Rapoport.

[Saturday] does have natural leadership traits, which sources say have already shown through as Saturday navigated an unprecedented situation with coaches and players in preparing the team for today's game against the Raiders in Las Vegas.

Saturday hire continues to draw criticism

While it's news that top Colts execs were reportedly vocal about their reservations concerning Saturday's hire, NFL analysts and former players have continued to hammer the move. CBS NFL analyst Bill Cowher, who spent over 20 years as an assistant and head coach in the NFL, was outraged when he spoke about it Sunday morning. He let loose a blistering rant about the Colts, criticizing the hiring of Saturday as an outright embarrassment to the coaching profession.

"I am speaking on behalf of the coaching profession: I know for a fact that Jeff Saturday was offered an opportunity to become an assistant coach with the Indianapolis Colts multiple times within the past four years," Cowher said. "He declined, citing he had a TV job and wanted to spend more time with family. I get it. Coaching is about commitment and sacrifice. It's not just a job, it is a lifestyle. That being said, Jeff Saturday has taken the position this year as a consultant for the Colts, and he's talked to them weekly from his home in Atlanta.

"Now to find out in a short period of time that he's the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and overseeing a staff he chose not to choose because of a lifestyle — Jeff Saturday talked about in press conference the fact that he's going to use this as a chance to build his resume and to see if he can coach in the future. I say to that, what about the assistants on the staff right now? The guys that were there in training camp and there early in the mornings and late at night? ...Don't they deserve the opportunity? For an owner to hire a coach who has never been an assistant at the college or pro level and overseeing a lot of qualified candidates to build a resume, it's a disgrace to the coaching profession. In regards to how this played out, what happened in Indianapolis is a travesty."

Saturday will make his NFL coaching debut (and Frazier will make his play-calling debut) against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, left, speaks as interim coach Jeff Saturday listens during a news conference at the NFL football team's practice facility Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay reportedly hired Jeff Saturday as interim head coach over the reservations of his top executives. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)