INDIANAPOLIS – The Chris Ballard tenure is now a half decade old, with another handful of seasons (seemingly) coming after the contract extension he signed last summer.
In Ballard’s 5 seasons, the Colts are 41-40 with 2 playoff appearances, 1 playoff win and 0 division titles.
Let’s examine the 5 years of Chris Ballard as Colts general manager:
-Roster Depth: Just think back to the Christmas win over Arizona this past year for recall on the Colts roster depth showcasing itself. That was the definition of such a 53-man (plus) roster victory. While the Cardinals wilted without key guys, the Colts withstood it, especially on short notice. Ballard has built a deeper roster than his predecessor and that includes tapping into the practice squad at various times.
-Finding All-Pro Talent: Anytime you draft 3 separate All-Pros that’s an extremely impressive note for a GM now 5 drafts into his tenure. From LG-Quenton Nelson, to LB-Darius Leonard and now RB-Jonathan Taylor, Ballard has found three different guys who have turned into All-Pros before the end of their rookie contracts. And two of those guys were selected outside of Round 1. That’s not easy to do.
-Improved Offensive Line Depth: Entering the 2021 offseason, Ballard was not happy with himself for failing in this category the year prior. He took several swings into bolstering the OL depth last offseason and found some answers in signing Chris Reed for the interior and trading for Matt Pryor out on the edge. With injuries and COVID situations popping up on the offensive line, the Colts really needed to rely on its OL depth in 2021.
Losses/To Be Determined
-Roster Building Mindset: With the way Ballard believes in constructing a roster blueprint, he’s found many hits. But is that the correct mindset? Just look at what I wrote last year on the most impactful positions in today’s NFL and the answers the Colts have there (hint: they don’t have many, if any). It’s jarring to see those same questions at QB, WR, LT, DE and CB. Simply, the passing game matters more in the Year 2022 of the NFL. And the Colts do not have enough solutions in that part of the game, on either side of the ball.
-Quarterback: This plays off the thought above. Since Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement in 2019, the Colts have gone with 3 different quarterbacks and could be looking at a 4th different in 4 years, come Week 1 of 2022. They’ve missed opportunities to trade up in the draft and/or acquire a bigger fish via trade. Now, they’ve given up precious resources to acquire Carson Wentz and his future in Indy is very much up in the air. It’s the most important position in sports and the Colts will remain a middle of the pack AFC team until Ballard figures it out.
-Free Agency Approach: Both Super Bowl teams in 2022 have several notable starters acquired via trade/free agency. Too often, Ballard’s approach has shied away from utilizing free agency to patch up holes that can’t be found in the draft. You can find many Ballard hits in free agency, but he just doesn’t use that part of the offseason enough to truly bolster his roster. A stubbornness when it comes to the business of free agency has to be adjusted if the Colts are going to have a roster with enough high-level guys, particularly in those key spots.