Recently, Rotoworld’s Patrick Daugherty released his annual ranking of the NFL’s 32 general managers/main decision-makers. Rightfully pulling in the top spot is
Emperor Palpatine head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. Pulling up the rear is, again rightfully, Miami Dolphins Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Mike Tannenbaum.
Prefacing his list, Daugherty said:
For the purposes of this article, I consider the “general manager” to be whomever is believed to have the biggest role in shaping the roster, irrespective of who has the official title. The criteria is the same as always. All front office activity — from players and coaches to draft picks and contracts — is taken into consideration. Past achievements are not written off, but recent history is given greater emphasis. Even in a results-based business, the process is vital.
Coming in at No. 20 was Indianapolis Colts second-year general manager Chris Ballard. Here’s what Daugherty had to say:
20. Chris Ballard, Colts
Chris Ballard’s first year on the job was a 4-12 time bider. Missing his quarterback and suffering through the Colts’ second-worst season since 1998, Ballard kept his eyes fixed on the future. Focused on cleaning up ex-GM Ryan Grigson’s mess, he made moves like cutting D’Qwell Jackson and trading Dwayne Allen. In the draft, he took the best player available at No. 15, S Malik Hooker. This offseason, Donte Moncrief was allowed to walk while Ballard traded back from No. 3 to accrue more picks. That he did so while standing landing one of the class’ most lauded prospects, Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson, has made for a successful spring. Ballard also handed out a discount deal to WR Ryan Grant, who had originally signed for four years and $29 million in Baltimore before mysteriously failing his physical. Ballard is operating as the low-key antidote to Grigson’s years of profligate spending and draft reaching (Phillip Dorsett, Bjoern Werner, etc.). Just because it’s the opposite approach doesn’t mean it’s the best approach, but the early returns are what the Colts needed.
Is the 4-12 season and lack of free-agent spending this offseason what puts him as low as 20? I realize Ballard does not have much of a body of work yet, but neither does San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch, who comes in at No. 18.
We won’t get into the whole thing — we’ve recently highlighted Ballard a couple times here and here — but Ballard’s plan and steady work have earned him a reputation around the league as one of the sharpest decision-makers around. He, like anyone else, is not perfect and will make mistakes from time to time, but the quality job he has done rebuilding this franchise is undeniable.
I do not expect someone who doesn’t cover the team on a daily basis to know all of these things, but Ballard looks like he’s had his fingerprints everywhere. Yes, critical team-building measures have been taken, like making the roster younger, faster and more athletic all without carrying pretty much any bad contracts. However, the Colts have gone so far as to even remodel their facilities and build on to them. The acquisition of Director of Sports Performance Rusty Jones is another key factor, as he should help players stay healthier than in years past and get them to peak shape.
From cleaning up Ryan Grigson’s roster, working around Chuck Pagano’s follies as a head coach for a full season, and being without franchise quarterback Andrew Luck while a woeful roster surrounded replacement Jacoby Brissett, Ballard has done a very respectable job thus far. However, we probably won’t see him coming up ranking boards until the wins start coming in. With or without Luck, that should start happening in 2018.
Where should Chris Ballard rank among NFL decision-makers?
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