Colts' Jeff Saturday learning to deal with mounting losses

Jeff Saturday said he's leaning on his experience from the 2011 season, when Indy went 2-14, while dealing with the current situation. Interestingly, the Colts went through a major overhaul after that season. Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Indianapolis Colts averaged nearly 11 wins per year during Jeff Saturday's 13 seasons with the team. He enjoyed an era of unprecedented success since the team's arrival in Indianapolis, with the Colts playing in two Super Bowls, winning one, and posting 12 or more wins on eight occasions.

Saturday is experiencing vastly different results in his current capacity with the Colts.

This time, Saturday isn't the team's Pro Bowl center. He's its interim coach. And that means the Colts' 1-3 record under his leadership will be attached directly to his name, because that's how it works in the coaching world.

That includes Sunday night's 54-19 thumping by the Dallas Cowboys in front of a national television audience, a game marked by a stunning 33-0 fourth-quarter surge by Dallas.

"This is new for me," Saturday said afterward. "This doesn't happen very often."

Sunday night felt like a low point for the Colts (4-8-1), who have endured numerous valleys in 2022. No one man can fix a team that has committed 30 fumbles, and on Sunday night, inexplicably turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions in the final quarter (leading to the highest-scoring quarter by a Colts opponent in club history).

"Listen, I knew what I was signing up for," Saturday said. "You're not changing coaches in the middle of the season if it's not bad."

The Colts fired Frank Reich on Nov. 7 and replaced him with Saturday, who was working as an ESPN analyst and Colts consultant when owner Jim Irsay hired him to take over.

Saturday hasn't expressed any regret about the decision but sounds like a man coming to terms with the gravity of the job before him.

"You talk about a gut check," Saturday said. "We're gonna find it. We're gonna fix it. It's not gonna be quick. A Band-Aid can't fix this."

Asked about the poor execution that led to the flurry of turnovers, Saturday acknowledged the difficulty of making substantive improvements in the middle of a season.

"We're playing a little bit of catch-up, obviously, trying to figure it out," he said. "Like you said, it's not one area, right? We're all playing a part in it. And that's the frustrating part because you know, it's not something you can just snap your fingers or change a player, and all of a sudden, fix it."

It was easier to make the argument that progress was happening after Saturday's first game, a win over the Las Vegas Raiders. It was even a reasonable argument to make when the Colts dropped a one-point loss to the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles that was Indianapolis' game to win before a late Jalen Hurts score.

But the messaging got really messy after Sunday night.

"I've played football for a long time, and I've never looked at a scoreboard and seen that much of a differential," receiver Parris Campbell said. "That was embarrassing."

It's much too early to speculate on what happens to Saturday after the season. The Colts have committed to a full-scale coaching search at the season's conclusion, but Irsay also said after hiring Saturday that the move was for "eight games but hopefully more." The enthusiasm that Irsay expressed after Saturday's hiring has presumably subsided as the results have remained unchanged from before Reich's dismissal.

Saturday said last week he has leaned on the experience he gained in 2011, his worst season with the Colts. Quarterback Peyton Manning missed the season and the Colts finished 2-14. How the Colts coped with that rare losing season provides him some insight on how to approach the current situation, he said.

But what's interesting is that season resulted in a complete overhaul of the roster, one that included the decision to move on from a number of veterans, including Saturday, whose contract was expiring. Coach Jim Caldwell and his staff were fired, too.

What becomes of Saturday after this rough season? That will be decided later. But for a guy who isn't used to losing in this fashion, the experience so far has been an eye-opener and answers remain elusive.