Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich listens as team owner Jim Irsay speaks following a news conference after the Colts' NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Indianapolis. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced that he his retiring at age 29. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay responded to some of the criticisms of the team’s decision to fire head coach Frank Reich, telling ESPN’s Stephen Holder that the decision was
“not personal. It’s the very opposite from being personal.”

“Frank is a treasured friend of my family and all my daughters,” he added. “We go back a long, long way. I’m very, very close to Frank, and I’ve known Frank for many decades. He’s like family.”

Those comments came in the wake of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni—Reich’s former offensive coordinator in Indianapolis for three seasons—going over to the fans in the final moments of his team’s 17-16 win over the Colts and yelling, “That sh-t was for Frank Reich.”

His defense of Reich continued in his postgame press conference.

“I’m emotional because I love Frank Reich,” he told reporters. “He’s one of the best damn football coaches I’ve ever been around. I was hoping he and I would be able to coach against each other in this game.”

“You don’t want to know what I think about whether [Reich] should be here or not, because you guys can probably imagine what I really think,” Sirianni added. “I love him. So I got a little emotional about that.”

Reich went 40-33-1 in parts of five seasons as Indy’s head coach, leading the team to playoff berths in 2018 and 2020 and one playoff win.

A quarterback carousel in recent years—since Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement ahead of the 2019 season, the team cycled through Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and Sam Ehlinger at the position—didn’t help his cause.

Irsay also came under fire for choosing to hire former Colts offensive lineman Jeff Saturday—who had no experience as a head coach at either the professional or college levels—to be Reich’s interim replacement rather than a more experienced option.

“You have to understand that Jeff’s a very unusual person that was in a very unusual position to have the type of qualities that would make him able to make a transition like this,” Irsay told Holder. “Most of the time, it is gonna be pretty hard. Could I make a hire like this again? Probably not. I mean, if I was lucky enough to live long enough to do this for 75 years, it’s probably once in 75 years. I mean, it was a rare thing because the circumstances presented themselves that way.”

Thus far, Saturday has gone 1-1 in the role, and the Colts nearly pulled off an upset of the 9-1 Eagles before blowing a 16-3 fourth-quarter lead.

Regardless, Irsay stands behind both Reich’s firing and Irsay’s hire.

“People think that Jeff was gonna come in be a miracle worker. I mean, what kind of delusional trip were they on? They have their original narrative and anything that goes against that narrative, they don’t wanna write until they have to. And eventually they will. They’ll see the light. But all we can do is focus on Pittsburgh, and then when the offseason hits, we’ll do a serious and dedicated interview process, which I’m looking forward to.”

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