Friendship with Jim Irsay isn't enough to save Meyer's job

October 02, 1991|By Tim Cowlishaw | Tim Cowlishaw,Dallas Morning News

His overall record with the Indianapolis Colts was above .500. During his four-plus years with Indianapolis, Ron Meyer won just two fewer regular-season games than Miami's Don Shula, despite having inherited an 0-13 team in 1986.

But that didn't keep Meyer from being fired yesterday.

Colts general manager Jim Irsay, who played briefly for Meyer at Southern Methodist University, fired Meyer and offensive coordinator Leon Burtnett yesterday morning. Defensive coordinator Rick Venturi, 45, was named head coach for the remainder of the season.

"Sometimes football decisions are made without real knowledge of how the game is played," Meyer said. "That's not sour grapes. That's just how it is."

The Colts are one of the league's three 0-5 teams, with an offense that has produced just 40 points in five games.

Colts owner Robert Irsay, who according to rumors had been wanting to fire Meyer for weeks only to be held off by his son, met with son Jim on Monday night. The two agreed a change had to be made. Meyer will be paid through the 1992 season at approximately $450,000 per year.

"I have known Ron since the 1970s, so I just thank him for everything he did for the organization," Jim Irsay said. "It was tough, but my decision was not based on our friendship or how long I've known him. It was based on what was best for the organization."

Meyer began the year with a 36-30 record in Indianapolis, but injuries exacted a huge toll on the offense. Three offensive linemen, three tight ends and a running back are on injured reserve. Two more offensive linemen and leading tackler Jeff Herrod, an inside linebacker, were injured in last Sunday's 31-3 loss to Seattle.

"The injuries are there, but I'm tired of talking about them," Irsay said. "Our job is to win games."

Venturi will take over a staff of just three offensive and three defensive assistants, tiny by NFL standards. His first game will be Sunday night against Pittsburgh, where Chuck Noll has 11 assistants.

"We will work with what we have here," said Venturi, whose only head coaching experience was at Northwestern from 1978-80. His record there was 1-31-1.

Venturi plans to call the offensive plays and the defensive signals, a dual role few NFL coaches assume. "I look forward to this week's challenge," Venturi said. "You live in seven-day life cycles. We have no time to waste."

Speculation on a new coach for the Colts in 1992 should include Raiders quarterbacks coach Mike White, who was head coach at Illinois when Colts quarterback Jeff George transferred there from Purdue.

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