With the NFL Draft now over, the Indianapolis Colts and Chris Ballard are at work making some changes to their personnel and scouting staff.
Teams often do this following the draft, especially with a new GM coming in, and this year for the Colts is no different. We’d heard of some firings that the team has made, but we hadn’t yet heard of any additions. That is, until now.
According to ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, Brian Decker is now the Colts’ Player Personnel Strategist. And it seems like a very interesting hire.
Last year, Wickersham wrote a terrific profile on Decker that is well worth your time to read. He’s a former Green Beret for the U.S. Army, and after that he ran the Special Forces Assessment and Selection program for the Army. He revolutionized the process of evaluating Green Berets, looking for people who really wanted to be great and focusing on a number of things, such as intrinsic motivation and emotional intelligence. As he did this, moving on from the way that things had always been done, the washout rate was 30% lower than when he started.
He’s not unfamiliar with football, however. He was hired by the Cleveland Browns in 2013 because Joe Banner, Michael Lombardi, and Rob Chudzinski were very intrigued by what he could do - and Lombardi and Chudzinski had actually visited a Special Forces camp to see what they could learn. Banner hired him to “do for football what you did for the military,” but before Decker even started the Browns had fired Banner, Lombardi, and Chudzinski. He stayed on with new GM Ray Farmer, however, and Farmer even let Decker handle some of the Combine interviews and evaluate prospects with character concerns. But before long, in typical Browns fashion, Farmer was fired too - and Decker with him. Last offseason, Lombardi set up a five-hour meeting with Bill Belichick at the NFL Combine and another meeting at a later date, but the Patriots realized that Decker basically provided them with something they had already been doing, so they didn’t hire him.
Last year, Lombardi told Wickersham what it would take for Decker to be hired by a team: "It's going to take a team with a fresh approach.”
It seems like Decker has now received that next opportunity from the Colts, who apparently have hired him as their Player Personnel Strategist. It seems like a really good and intriguing fit for the Colts, something that’s certainly worthwhile for Indianapolis to pursue. There’s an obvious connection there, as Rob Chudzinski seemed to be on board with Decker when he was the Browns’ head coach - and now Chud is the Colts’ offensive coordinator. Furthermore, Chris Ballard seems to be a guy who will embrace and encourage a different way of thinking, plus the opportunity to work together to accomplish the process of building a team. In Wickersham’s article he told the story of a coach who liked Decker but who said that his team’s GM would never want another voice in the draft room, so if Ballard truly does encourage working together and different ideas, then it’s perhaps a place for Decker to fit in. Additionally, it sounds like Decker didn’t really feel like his evaluations had enough time to really have enough of a sample size, and with Ballard in his first year with the Colts he’s got some job security (unlike with the Browns).
It remains to be seen what Decker will be doing with the Colts, though it’s almost certain that he’ll be doing a lot of evaluation to attempt to find guys with the right intangibles. So even this, given Ballard’s emphasis on the importance of the locker room, also makes sense and fits in with the Colts. Decker will probably help evaluate players and prospects with that focus in mind, though whether that’s the extent of his responsibilities or not is unknown.