According to team owner Jim Irsay in an interview on ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Countdown,’ embattled Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard will return next season:
"Chris Ballard will be our general manager" https://t.co/SBL94KYLSn— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) December 26, 2022
Set to play on primetime against the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s been a highly disappointing season for the 4-9-1 Colts, who entered the 2022 campaign ‘with all chips in’ following a shocking late season collapse to the 2021 campaign. The franchise had an offseason change at starting quarterback and the additions of other key veterans—which was expected to bring much needed consistency and leadership.
It’s a squad that once had serious playoff and divisional title aspirations, but those had been all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason picture several weeks ago.
Benched twice starter Matt Ryan has struggled in what figures to be his sole season in Indianapolis, while the league’s highest paid offensive line, which was once formidable, only further compounded the issue, by shockingly regressing into a below average starting unit.
Ballard can’t be blamed for everything that’s gone wrong, as even the Colts standout offensive linemen such as Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith, and Ryan Kelly haven’t played up to their usual high standards (although he takes serious fault for the lack of quality starters and depth at left tackle and right guard).
For also once preaching that the Colts weren’t going to win with just one guy (i.e., Andrew Luck), building a complete team around their starting quarterback position regardless, Indianapolis still hasn’t found a way to replace #12 four years later. Further, this roster is more than a high level quarterback away right now (although some improvements at a few key positions would certainly help right the ship in otherwise stormy waters).
It’s an offense that aside from Jonathan Taylor, that lacks elite playmakers, and this season, with the issues at starting quarterback and along the offensive line, hasn’t had the weapons to help compensate for the deficiencies elsewhere. It’s an offense that has struggled to consistently score points in the high teens, which has caused them to lose a lot of games.
It’s the second time that Irsay has issued a vote of confidence to Ballard during this rocky season—which has seen changes at head coach and offensive coordinator already.
The former 2018 PFWA executive of the year is still highly regarded for his football scouting acumen, but the Colts are highly paid at positions that may be deemed ‘irrelevant’, while they lack elite talent at the NFL’s premium positions—when it comes to winning games.
His roster construction of building through the NFL Draft makes sense bigger picture, but his prudence in free agency (not even to shore up a few critical deficiencies such as at left tackle) and tendency collectively to be risk adverse—particularly at trying to find a significant long-term answer at starting quarterback through the NFL Draft, has ultimately cost the Colts.
If Ballard can make some adjustments to his arguably archaic approach, he has the chance to return to being regarded as one of the league’s best general managers again.
It’s a fair question of who may be the head coach he works with though, as while Irsay called interim head coach Jeff Saturday “an outstanding candidate,” he’s stopped short of indicating the former Colts All-Pro center will be the guy going forward in 2023—instead noting that it will be an open offseason search with several highly qualified candidates.