INDIANAPOLIS – The message was delivered on his first day at his new gig.
Everyone will be held accountable.
“I’m going to be who I’ve always been,’’ Jeff Saturday insisted on that Nov. 7 evening after being named the Indianapolis Colts’ interim head coach. “I’m going to hold people accountable.’’
Three weeks later, he made it clear that includes pointing a finger at himself when necessary.
A myriad of self-inflicted issues again conspired against the Colts and contributed their latest misstep: two more turnovers, including a botched exchange between Matt Ryan and Jonathan Taylor at the 1-yard line; three more sacks; the defense failing to get off the field on Pittsburgh’s game-winning fourth-quarter drive.
But Saturday spent the hours after the 24-17 loss beating himself up for one particular moment.
“Obviously there are always things everybody wants to do, plays they want back,’’ he said Tuesday afternoon. “I wish I had that third down back.’’
Third-and-3 at the Steelers 26 with 34 seconds remaining. More to the point, it was the hectic seconds following Ryan’s 14-yard scramble that produced the third-and-3. Ryan was ruled down with roughly 50 seconds remaining.
“I wish I would’ve used a timeout,’’ Saturday said.
He watched the video once, twice, maybe a dozen times. Saturday still held all three of his timeouts, but wasn’t concerned with time spilling off the clock even though the ESPN broadcast team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman continually lambasted him.
Aikman: “They’re burning up a lot of time right now.’’
Buck after Ryan’s scramble: “They have got to take a timeout here . . . but they’re not.’’
Saturday believed there was ample time for Ryan and the offense to finish what would have been a 93-yard drive in the final 3:52. That’s open for debate.
But given a mulligan, he would have used his first timeout as soon as Ryan popped up short of the line to gain. He liked the tempo the offense was using, and how it kept the Steelers in their dime package and prevented them from substituting to a beefier package for the third-and-short.
“From a time perspective, I felt good,’’ Saturday said. “But you could tell we were in disarray.’’
As time evaporated, Ryan got the players aligned, set up in the shotgun and handed off to Taylor. Before Taylor could gain any momentum to the right, Steelers’ outside linebacker Alex Highsmith shed the block attempt of rookie tight end Jelani Woods and pulled Taylor down for no gain.
That’s when Saturday burned his first timeout. Ryan’s fourth-down pass to Parris Campbell fell incomplete, and led to the second-guessing about time management. Had Campbell been able to gather in the pass, the Colts would have faced a first-and-10 at the 11, but only 24 seconds would have remained.
Saturday described it as a “learning experience.’’
“I didn’t meet my expectations,’’ he said. “Again, I hold guys accountable. I’m accountable for that. That one is the one that is going to stick with me. So, use it as a learning experience, hopefully get better at it, but frustrated with myself on that.
“I preach about accountability and execution, and I’m living by the same words. So, I’ve got to be accountable to it. When I see the guys (Wednesday), I’ll make sure they know where I stand on that one.’’
Accountability was demanded and embraced during Saturday’s decorated 13-year career as the Colts’ center. It was engrained in him and every player by coaches Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell.
“Those guys were always very transparent with the team and I felt like they were very honest with everybody whether it was public or not,’’ he said. “I believe in that.
“Listen, everybody’s going to have an opinion one way or the other either way, and I’m not concerned with what goes on outside. But inside, I want to make sure everybody feels that you own whatever your portion is and everybody has a role.
“In that moment, in that role, I just feel like I should have done something different. I’m always going to say that and again, hopefully that’s part of earning the trust of this football team and earning the trust of this organization as a whole.’’
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