Colts head coach Jeff Saturday attempted to explain his baffling use (or lack thereof) of his timeouts late in Indianapolis’ Monday night loss to the Steelers – though his reasoning was almost as shaky as the game management itself.
With the Colts trailing 24-17 in the closing minute of the game and driving down the field, Matt Ryan took off to scramble on second down with 55 seconds left, sliding just short of first down yardage. Indianapolis had all three timeouts, but with precious time ticking off the clock, Saturday chose not to use one, and Ryan and Co. appeared shell-shocked as they lined up to run a third down play.
The Colts called a run to Jonathan Taylor – who did not pick up the yardage as Indianapolis scrambled to line up. Saturday then did call a timeout, but it was fourth down, and they only had one shot to pick up the yardage. They failed, and turned the ball over on downs with two timeouts left in their pocket.
“I thought we had plenty of time, I wasn’t really concerned,” Saturday told reporters after the game. “We still had timeouts. I wasn’t too concerned.”
The novice head coach – who was a shocking hire by owner Jim Irsay after the team made the decision to move on from Frank Reich – said he didn’t call a timeout on the scramble because he wanted to see if the officials would give Ryan the first down.
“When he was going down, I couldn’t tell where they were gonna start him from going down, right? If he was gonna get the first down. And then we got there, I expected us to get on the ball and have another play, a little bit quicker than that. But again, this wasn’t a press for time. We just didn’t make enough plays.
“I didn’t feel like time was of the essence at that moment. I thought we had a good play, I felt like we would get to it… I felt good about the call before, I felt like we’d have time, we would have timeouts afterwards, we were in striking distance, so I never felt like the pressure of needing the timeout.”
It was a true rookie mistake from Saturday, who took the Colts job earlier in November with no prior coaching experience at the NFL or college level. He was working as a consultant for the team, as well as an analyst on ESPN, when the hire was made.
The hire prompted outrage in NFL circles. Irsay passed over two members of the staff – John Fox and Gus Bradley – who had prior head coaching experience. Saturday got a win in his debut over the Raiders and lost to the NFC-leading Eagles by one point, though perhaps the mismanagement of the clock in this primetime loss was his true welcome-to-the-NFL moment.