Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning said he was “surprised” to learn the news that longtime teammate Jeff Saturday had been picked for the interim head coaching position with the Indianapolis Colts, but expressed hope that the former player could help the team “get turned around.”
Saturday, who spent 13 seasons with the Colts, was introduced in a press conference on Monday, just hours after the organization announced it was parting ways with Frank Reich.
Manning said during Monday night’s broadcast of “Manningcast” that he first learned of the news from an ESPN report, adding that he believes it will be a “big challenge.”
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“I was surprised. I didn’t know anything about it,” Manning said. “I’m surprised. I talked to Jeff. It’s a big challenge. Jeff’s made of the right stuff, he was the ultimate teammate. My locker was right next to him. He’s a high-character guy. He’s a great leader.”
He continued, “He’s going to have to rely on these players to kind of get him comfortable and try to just get a win there in Indianapolis. A win can kind of solve a lot of things. Hopefully he can get in there and help the Colts get turned around.”
Manning also noted that he was “disappointed” with the news of Reich’s firing, calling him a “good friend.”
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“It’s a sad day for coaching as well. But I’m happy for Jeff and this opportunity.”
The Colts have received some backlash over Saturday’s hiring due to his lack of professional or collegiate level coaching experience. Owner Jim Isray defended the decision during Monday’s presser.
“I'm glad he doesn't have any NFL experience. I'm glad he hasn't learned the fear that's in this league because it's tough for all our coaches,” Irsay said. “They're afraid, they go to analytics, and it gets difficult. … He doesn't have that fear.”
“We don't build rockets to go to Mars. We're not nuclear scientists; that is none of our jobs here. It's a very simple job that we do here.”
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Saturday, a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro selection, served as an analyst for ESPN after he retired from the NFL in 2013. He also briefly played for the Green Bay Packers.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.