During the press conference Monday evening, Indianapolis Colts team owner Jim Irsay expects currently embattled general manager Chris Ballard to return for the 2023 season—in the midst of a disappointing campaign that just saw head coach Frank Reich fired (via The Athletic’s Zak Keefer):
Jim Irsay is asked if he believes Chris Ballard will be back next season as GM.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) November 8, 2022
"Of course I do."
Unlike former head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson of the past regime, Reich and Ballard don’t appear to be ‘tied to the hip’ here—although to be fair, Pagano ultimately outlasted Grigson a season.
That being said, while Irsay just issued Ballard a vote of confidence, this situation remains entirely fluid. After all, it was a little over a week ago, where Irsay said Reich’s job was ‘safe’—when obviously his standing was already on shaky ground (i.e. sand).
The 53 year old Ballard has been well regarded for his scouting acumen, especially at particular positions, and for his candor, but the Colts entered the season with several key deficiencies which he failed to reasonably address this past offseason.
While Reich shares some of the season’s blame, so does Ballard—which he regularly admits.
The former PFWA NFL Executive of the Year is the middle of his sixth year with the franchise, and even though there have been some clear bright spots—including his crushing of the 2018 NFL Draft with two perennial NFL First-Team All-Pros, the Colts have one playoff win and zero divisional titles during that same span under his leadership.
At some point, results have to matter.
The Colts cannot slow play this thing for the better portion of a decade with Ballard, when in reality, the average NFL GM gets 3 to 4 seasons to actually show something meaningful.
Much less give Ballard the opportunity to select a top rookie quarterback prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft, when he’s already gotten the opportunity to pick three other starting quarterbacks since Andrew Luck retired—and the franchise is still searching for a long-term answer.
Ballard remains a very good scout, but his inability to adapt to how football is played in the modern era and finally address lingering critical positional deficiencies once and for all continues to cost the Colts both in the near and long-term. He’s been way too conservative in free agency.
Before today, Irsay was a big proponent of continuity and not making any rash decisions—which makes sense why Ballard may be brought back. But after a wild past 24 hours in Colts land, nothing can be ruled out either—as the eccentric owner’s feelings can change rather quickly.