Just as he has done since he took over as the Colts’ general manager in 2017, Chris Ballard held his annual season-ending press conference on Tuesday after the team’s disappointing 4-12-1 season.
Fans had long awaited to hear what the sixth-year general manager would have to say after the Colts’ worst season (record-wise) since 2017 when Ballard first took over.
Ballard didn’t mince words. He was open, and honest and fielded many questions about how a once-promising team that he had built had quickly become one of the league’s worst over a 17-game season. His first words as he sat down for a nearly 40-minute conference were telling.
“I failed,” Ballard said.
“I’m not going to sit up here and make excuses. “I failed a lot of people. I never take lightly what’s at stake here. It’s not the wins and losses, but people’s lives are on the line — player’s families, coaches’ families, front office people in this building — and I don’t ever take that lightly.”
Ballard took the blame for Indianapolis’ disastrous season. A season that many had believed had the potential to be one of their best after falling short of making the postseason the previous year, especially with the addition of several veteran players like quarterback Matt Ryan entering the equation.
But the Colts’ 2022 season very quickly revealed all the holes within their roster from the start and was far less about the moves Ballard did make and more about the ones he didn’t.
Ballard opted to go with Matt Pryor at left tackle, who, prior to the season, had very little experience at the position. He let Mark Glowinski, a reliable veteran guard, walk in free agency in favor of an unproven Danny Pinter. The smaller moves he made weren’t enough, and Ballard’s building philosophy was quickly exposed.
“Our plan from a roster standpoint wasn’t there,” Ballard said. “I’m not going to sit here and act like, ‘You know what? We had a Super Bowl roster.’”
“I’m disappointed where we’re at,” Ballard continued. “Ultimately, it falls on my shoulders. I won’t walk away from that, I won’t run from it.”
Ballard’s right. It does fall on his shoulders. After all, he’s spent the last six seasons putting together this roster — one that he himself said had the organization feeling like they were a quarterback away from being a legitimate threat. Yet the structure and core of the building philosophies that he’s relied on since becoming the team’s GM in 2017 had underperformed all season long.
The offensive line surrendered 60 sacks on the year. The defense, as great as it was at points during the season, was asked to do far too much and eventually looked worn down. The quarterback play was abysmal. Ballard recognized all of that and vowed to be better because of the team’s experiences.
“I’ve got to grow,” Ballard said. “I’m very stubborn and dogmatic sometimes. I do believe you’ve got to be great up front. That’ll be on my grave. At the end of the day, we weren’t good enough, and that’s on me.
Even though Ballard stood firm in his belief of needing good offensive and defensive line play, he did mention the importance of examining his approach to how he constructs the rest of the roster.
“In terms of how we build the rest of the roster, that’s an area we’ll examine hard and move forward and grow,” Ballard said.
He’s going to need to. You can’t build a Super Bowl roster through just the NFL Draft. Other holes have to be filled. Throughout Ballard’s tenure, his mostly quiet approach to free agency has hurt the Colts, especially in the last several seasons.
“I know there’s doubt,” Ballard said. “There should be. The criticism regarding my job and what I’ve done, it’s warranted.”
Ballard’s been given another chance to correct all of his mistakes and reevaluate his roster-building approach. Despite all that’s transpired over the last several months, Ballard won’t flinch, and he wants to be here in Indianapolis and make things right.
“People are scared to struggle, Ballard said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I like it, but I’m not afraid of it. I’m not afraid of the struggle. To answer your question, no. No other place I want to be.”
Because of their 4-12-1 season, the Colts own the 4th overall pick in April’s draft, with quarterback being the primary need.
Indianapolis’ first order of business will be finding its next head coach. While Ballard is expected to lead the search, the GM did say that team owner Jim Irsay will have the final say in who will be hired.
Aside from finding their next head coach, no other move will be more important than what the Colts decide to do at the quarterback position. Ultimately, Ballard will have to ensure the moves made throughout the next few months are the correct ones because this will be the most crucial offseason for the Colts as a franchise in a long time.