Chris Ballard says Colts “failed,” points to QB instability
INDIANAPOLIS — Colts General manager Chris Ballard, who admitted the 2022 season was a “failure,” laid out a plan Tuesday that includes considering Jeff Saturday as a candidate in the team’s coaching search and is open to trading for the first pick. NFL draft to solve team’s year-long quarterback problem.
In discussing the most disappointing season of his six-year tenure, Ballard acknowledged the growing criticism of his decisions and publicly weighed in on the significant challenges facing the Colts (4-12-1).
“I failed,” Ballard said. “I’m not going to sit here and make excuses. I’ve failed a lot of people.”
A major reason for the Colts’ struggles that led to the firing of former coach Frank Reich in November has been the team’s approach to the quarterback position, Ballard said. The Colts have had different starting QBs to open each of the past five seasons, and the team has had three different quarterbacks — Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles — start games in 2022.
“Looking back, when you’re changing quarterbacks every year, it’s tough,” Ballard said. “It’s tough for everybody. It’s tough for the team. It has little to do with settling that position. [the team’s predicament].”
The Colts, who have the No. 4 pick in April’s NFL draft, hope to select a quarterback. When asked directly if he was willing to be aggressive, perhaps even trading up to No. 1, Ballard didn’t flinch.
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” said Ballard, who has expressed reluctance to invest in a rookie quarterback in the past. “If we thought there was a player that made the franchise and the team better, that’s what we would do.
“We understand the importance of the position. Getting one you can win and being right is the most important thing, not if we get one or not. It’s being right.”
Ballard detailed other mistakes that weakened the team, such as a poor move at left tackle that led to a revolving door at one of the team’s most critical positions.
“You get a vet quarterback and, well, here’s the hope: We’re going to the Super Bowl,” Ballard said. “… Well, there were holes there, and our job is to fix those holes.”
There has been much speculation about Ballard’s level of authority, given that owner Jim Irsay has recently exercised his decision-making power.
On that subject, Ballard publicly acknowledged for the first time that he disagreed with Irsay’s decision to install him as the team’s interim coach on Saturday following Reich’s firing. Other specific internal candidates were not discussed, Ballard said. “It never got to that point,” Ballard said.
At the time, Saturday was a part-time analyst for ESPN as a Colts consultant. The former Colts’ All-Pro center had no college or NFL coaching experience when he was hired.
“This is unprecedented, and we’re putting ourselves in a very dire situation here,” Ballard recalled telling Irsay.
However, after going 1-7 and suffering several losses in historic fashion, Saturday is a candidate in the team’s coaching searchas expected, Ballard confirmed.
Ballard also addressed the perception that Irsay has denied him the ability to make consequential decisions, which would be a significant departure from the past.
“Mr. Irsay lets me do my job,” Ballard said. “He’s a good man and a good owner, and he has a lot of experience in this league, and we talk about everything.
“We don’t always agree. If we agree all the time, I’m not doing my job.”
As this current coaching search unfolds, Saturday’s close relationship with Irsay is seen as a possible advantage. Ballard denied Saturday would have an unfair advantage over other candidates. The team has already requested permission to interview several coaches, among others Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and Los Angeles Rams Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.
“[Saturday’s] It’s good that he knows the inner workings and was able to see the inside of what he wants to fix,” said Ballard. “But we will have a process that will be the same for everyone.”
Even after the firing of Reich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and the quarterback machinations that benched Ryan twice, Ballard was adamant that the Colts are not far away.
“I think there are some building pieces here,” Ballard said. “They have to play better. Our best players have to play at their level. But I don’t think we’re without talent. We need to add more talent. There are areas we need to improve. But I don’t think, ‘I don’t think we’re without talent.’
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