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According to NBC Sports Edge’s Patrick Daugherty, the Indianapolis Colts’ Chris Ballard is the league’s 6th best general manager overall in 2021:
6. Chris Ballard, Colts
When it comes to the biggest question of football team building — quarterback — it is easier to be wrong than right. Chris Ballard, who keeps coming home with incompletes, just wants an answer one way or the other. Trade acquisition Carson Wentz will be Ballard’s fourth starter in five years on the job, and the riskiest of the lot. If Wentz can rekindle his supposed early-career chemistry with ex-Eagles OC Frank Reich, Ballard can finally begin putting the finishing touches on a roster he’s generously provisioned on defense and along the offensive line. The skill corps has proven to be a tricky spot, though sophomores Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman are the Colts’ most exciting young playmakers since T.Y. Hilton. Ballard has not been perfect, even in the draft, where his classes have been spottier since his monster 2018. He simply continues to make more good moves than bad ones. It’s tempting to say that is more than half the battle for an NFL general manager, but that would be incorrect. It’s the whole ballgame in a profession where mistakes are a part of daily life.
The 52 year old football executive has compiled a 32-32 record since joining the Colts, making the playoffs in 2 of his first 4 seasons—having dealt with a great deal of starting quarterback turnover (and uncertainty) following the injuries/shocking retirement of former cornerstone Andrew Luck.
Ballard’s typically done well when he’s had at least an above average starting passer behind center for the Colts—making the playoffs in both seasons.
On an individual level, Ballard was named PFWA’s 2018 Executive of the Year, after a grand slam of a loaded draft class that included two, 3x NFL All-Pros: Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard.
The Colts’ GM has built an all-around strong roster that is young and continuing to ascend—especially on defense. The hope is that recently acquired former Philadelphia Eagles franchise quarterback Carson Wentz can be the missing long-term piece offensively.
Ballard also had a major coup by trading for another All-Pro, DeForest Buckner, in the 2020 offseason for a mere mid-first round pick—who instantly became a defensive force in Indy.
Ballard’s emphasis is on ‘building and reinforcing the trenches’ and continuing to draft well and develop/retain his own homegrown players—instead of splurging exorbitantly in free agency for guys who haven’t earned it.
He covets high character players and leaders in the locker room, who are hungry for more.
Has he been infallible?
Clearly not. No NFL GM bats 1.000, but the Colts are in very good hands with Ballard calling the football ops shots—as he remains one of the NFL’s consensus top general managers (*even though there are times where fans would admittedly like to see him be a little more aggressive). He’s a shrewd football mind, who handles himself with the utmost class.
While Ballard is presumably hoping to ultimately add some Super Bowl hardware to his already sterling reputation, the Colts winning an elusive AFC South title would be the first serious step for a franchise with plenty of realistic playoff aspirations ahead of 2021.