INDIANAPOLIS – Maybe it took rock bottom for Chris Ballard to finally admit a change was necessary.
Ballard has thought before about altering his roster building philosophy.
He said that in the January following the 2021 collapse to end the season and miss the playoffs.
But when a 4-12-1 season arrives, one in which the offensive product was one of the worst the NFL has seen in years, personnel is a clear issue.
“Obviously we’re not good enough,” Ballard said at his season-ending press conference. “You finish 4-12-1, I’m not going to sit up here and act like, ‘You know what? We had a Super Bowl roster.’ No, at the end of the day we’re not good enough. We’ve got to figure out the areas we’re not good enough.
“There’s going to be changes on the roster. When you’re at this level, there’s got to be change. Everybody knows that.”
It would be unfair to say Ballard hasn’t acquired high-level talent at various spots in his 6 years as Colts general manger.
That goes for both sides of the ball, a high draft pick, picks outside of Round 1 and even in trades.
The bigger question comes from where and how Ballard has invested when it comes to positional value.
If you look at arguably the 4 best players in the Ballard era, all of them he acquired:
-LG-Quenton Nelson (6th overall pick in 2018 Draft)
-LB-Shaquille Leonard (37th overall pick in 2018 Draft)
-DT-DeForest Buckner (traded 13th overall pick in 2020 Draft for him)
-RB-Jonathan Taylor (41st overall pick in 2020 Draft)
At different times over the past few years, each of those guys have been the best player and/or a top-5 guy at their respective position.
Yet, the team results haven’t been there.
You haven’t won a division title with those guys and only had one playoff victory.
What if, though, instead of those guys playing positions many other teams don’t value as much, they were a WR, LT, DE, or CB.
Or, in a dream scenario, what if one of them were a QB?
The team results would likely look much different.
It’s why, for a second straight offseason, the question of if Ballard’s roster building approach is correct was a necessary question.
“I’ve got to grow,” the 7th year GM said. “I’m very stubborn and dogmatic sometimes. I do believe we have to be great upfront, that’s in my blood. That’ll be on my grave, and we weren’t good enough this year. We showed signs, and I think there’s potential going forward, but at the end of the day, that’s on me.
“In terms of how we build the rest of the roster, that’s an area we’ll examine hard and move forward and grow.”
How that exactly looks remains to be seen.
Actions will be the true definer in what Ballard has learned.
But there’s no denying a change is needed.
And an early answer on that will come this week.
When Ballard has used the first week of free agency, he’s found some nice hits. But the frequency of spending this time of year has not been enough.
The NFL game has evolved and just look at the final playoff teams over recent years to see where their elite talent resides.
It’s not at running back, guard, defensive tackle and linebacker.
Will the embarrassment of 2022 finally lead to Ballard altering his stubborn approach?
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