BY TYLER O’KEEFE | Ball State Sports Link
On Sunday, owner Jim Irsay announced that Chris Ballard will become the new General Manager of the Indianapolis Colts. The decision to hire Ballard came just eight days after the Colts parted ways with former General Manager, Ryan Grigson.
“Chris has a solid reputation throughout the National Football League as a heavyweight executive and our extensive discussion with him confirmed that reputation,” Irsay said in a statement. “He’s a savvy, organized and thorough talent evaluator, but beyond that, he’s a terrific person our community will be proud of.”
Ballard is coming to the Indianapolis fresh off a four-year stint with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“My vision is for us to work together as an organization, build a winning culture that competes for championships year-in and year-out,” Ballard said. “That’s easier said than done. It will take all of us coming together as one. We’ll set high standards throughout the organization and winning becomes our edge. It has to happen in every level of the organization.”
In 2013, Ballard was hired by Kansas City as the director of player personnel before receiving a promotion in 2015 when the organization decided to name him director of football operations.
During his time with the Chiefs, Ballard helped the organization reach a 43-21 regular season record as well as three playoff appearances and one division title.
The Colts have not seen a division title since going 11-5 in 2014, before falling to New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
In 2015, Ballard helped the Chiefs draft University of Washington cornerback, Marcus Peters.
Peters was dismissed from the Huskies football program during his junior year in 2014 before entering the draft. He was selected as the 18th pick in the first round of the 2015 draft.
In his rookie season, Peters tallied eight interceptions and was named the 2015 National Football League’s co-interception leader, along with Reggie Nelson of the Cincinnati Bengals. The rookie cornerback was also named the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year. Peters was additionally selected to participate in the 2015 and 2016 Pro Bowls.
Ballard also helped draft Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowlers Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
It’s no surprise Ballard drafted such successful players. The former director of football operations spent 12 seasons with the Chicago Bears. During 11 of those seasons he was staffed as an area scout.
During his debut press conference Monday afternoon, Ballard elaborated on his ability to draft such strong players.
“Each position has certain traits,” Ballard said. “The tape tells you everything and I’m telling you the really good ones pop off that tape fast and they do it consistently.”
Ballard also promised to make past Indianapolis Colts proud and encouraged them to return to Indianapolis and spend time around young Colts. When asked about his decision making process Ballard was direct.
“[Chuck Pagano and I] will make decisions together in the best interest of the Indianapolis Colts.”
Ballard will be a general manager for the first time, as was previous Colts GM Ryan Grigson was when he took over in January 2012. But unlike Grigson, Ballard has been viewed as a fast riser among league insiders. He has drawn significant interest from other teams when general manager jobs have come open, including the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers in the past year.
“I wasn’t ready to coach Al harris, but I figured it out,” Ballard said. “I wasn’t ready to be an area scout, I figured it out. I’m probably going to screw something up. I have enough good people around me and they’re gonna help guide me.”
Irsay is ecstatic about the opportunity to let Ballard take over his team. The Indianapolis Colts owner added, “I know his optimism is going to turn into reality.”
As for the draft, Ballard says he’s been scouting players all year and he doesn’t feel behind at all.
“We’ll get rolling,” Ballard said. “We have plenty of days before the draft. We’re in good shape and we have plenty of time.”
Colts fans will be keeping a close eye on Ballard after Indianapolis finished the last two seasons with a record of 8-8 and missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons.