According to NBC Sports Edge’s Patrick Daugherty, the Indianapolis Colts’ Chris Ballard is currently the 17th best general manager in all of football:
17. Chris Ballard, Colts
Chris Ballard has lost control of this ride, but he doesn’t want off. At one point famous for assembling one of the league’s most complete rosters, Ballard is now better known as the general manager who loves elderly or washed-up quarterbacks, sometimes at the same time. Not anymore. Ballard took owner Jim Irsay’s not-so-subtle Jeff Saturday hint. No more thinking small. Ballard shattered his Philip Rivers mold with April’s selection of Florida QB Anthony Richardson. Quite literally everything Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan were not, Richardson arrives with the widest range of potential outcomes as any quarterback in recent memory. Thankfully, he won’t be working with Saturday. Ballard made a solid hire at head coach when he plucked Shane Steichen away from the Eagles. In his two short years under Nick Sirianni, Steichen gained invaluable experience with dual-threat quarterbacks, run-based offenses and more pass-heavy schemes. He will be ready for whatever Richardson’s inexperience throws at him. That’s good because the rest of the roster has fallen from its 2019-20 heights. Now that he has finally settled his biggest question, Ballard can get back to work on rebuilding his offensive line and stockpiling defensive difference makers.
The 53 year old former PFWA Executive of the Year in 2019 has seen his stock slowly slide in more recent seasons—as the Colts have rather unsurprisingly been unable to replace former franchise quarterback Andrew Luck (*and blindside bookend left tackle Anthony Castonzo for that matter), and the offensive line play has steadily declined collectively.
The Colts saw injuries and/or regression limit a number of their top players last season including Ryan Kelly, Shaquille Leonard, Kenny Moore II, Quenton Nelson, and Jonathan Taylor. They’ll need bounceback seasons from a good majority of that group if the Colts are looking to be a darkhorse candidate to be a sneaky AFC South playoff team.
As a credit to Ballard though, he hasn’t shied away from the recent criticism—especially given the lack of the Colts difference-makers at premium NFL positions (and having big salary cap hits elsewhere) and took a huge, grand slam swing with the 4th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, selecting the uber young and talented Anthony Richardson.
It marked a considerable contrast to the stopgap or reclamation veteran QB solutions that the Colts have attempted over the past three seasons since #12 shockingly retired.
Richardson has ‘boom or bust’ potential, and while the floor could admittedly be very low, the ceiling could be a Top 5 starting NFL quarterback again—if he truly hits. He seems like a natural pairing with new Colts head coach Shane Steichen, the man that Ballard was ultimately responsible for hiring following an unprecedentedly thorough coaching search.
The Colts will hope that Steichen can eventually replicate the same significant success he had with dual-threat NFL MVP candidate Jalen Hurts last season—maybe even more so, given Richardson’s upgraded size, speed, athleticism, and arm strength.
Although yes, initial patience will be required with Richardson—particularly regarding growing pains in the passing game.
Ballard isn’t on ‘borrowed time’ with the Colts by any means. He’ll be given ample time for a fair evaluation of Ricardson over the next few seasons—to see how he properly grows and develops, but his long-term future with the franchise could very well hang on whether the very young quarterback ultimately becomes the real deal and fulfills his sky-high potential.