INDIANAPOLIS — Colts general manager Chris Ballard admitted he “failed” by having a flawed approach to the 2022 season, laying out a plan Tuesday that involved Jeff Saturday being considered as a candidate in the team’s coaching search and showing willingness to trade up to the first pick in the NFL Draft for a solution. The team’s dilemma that lasted many years.
In discussing the most disappointing season of his six-year tenure, Ballard acknowledged growing criticism of his decisions and publicly acknowledged 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.”
One of the main reasons for the Colts’ struggles, which led to the firing of former head coach Frank Reich in November, Ballard said, was the team’s approach to the quarterback position. The Colts have had different starting QBs to open each of the past five seasons, and the team has had three different starting quarterbacks — Matt Ryan, Sam Ellinger and Nick Foles — start games in 2022.
“Looking back, when you change quarterbacks every year, it’s tough,” Ballard said. “It’s tough for everybody. It’s tough for the team. Not sorting out this situation has a little to do with it [the team’s predicament]. “
The Colts, who are fourth in the April NFL Draft, are widely expected to select the quarterback. When asked directly if he was willing to be aggressive, and perhaps even make it to number one, Ballard did not flinch.
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” said Ballard, who has expressed some reluctance in the past to invest in a rising midfielder. “If we think there’s a player we’re after that makes the franchise and the team better, that’s what we’ll do.
“We understand the importance of position. Having a position you can win and being right is the most important thing – not if we take one or not. That’s right.”
Ballard identified other mistakes that undermined the team, such as his ill-fated moves at left tackle that resulted in a revolving door at one of the team’s most critical positions.
“You get a vet quarterback, well, here’s the expectation: We’re going to the Super Bowl,” Ballard said. “…Well, there were gaps, and our job is to patch those holes.”
There has been much speculation about Ballard’s level of power, given owner Jim Irsay’s recent exercise of his decision-making power.
On the subject, Ballard admitted publicly for the first time that he and Irsay did not agree with the decision to appoint Saturday as the team’s interim coach following Reich’s dismissal. Ballard said no other specific internal candidates were discussed. “It never really got to that point,” Ballard said.
At the time, Saturday was an ESPN analyst with a part-time role as an advisor to the Colts. The former Colts All-Pro center had no college or NFL coaching experience when he was hired.
“This is unprecedented, and we’re putting him in a really difficult position here,” Ballard recalled telling Irsay.
However, after going 1-7 and multiple losses in historic fashion, Ballard confirmed Saturday as a candidate in the team’s coaching search, as expected.
Ballard also addressed the perception that Irsay had denied him the ability to make dependent decisions, which would be a major departure from the past.
“Mr. Irsay allows me to do my job,” said Ballard. “He’s a good guy and a good owner, he’s got a lot of league experience, and we talk about everything.
“We don’t always get along. If we get along all the time, I’m not doing my job.”
With the development of this current training search, Saturday’s close relationship with Irsay is seen as a potential advantage. Ballard denied that Saturday was an unfair advantage over the other candidates. The team has already requested permission to interview several coaches, including Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.
“[Saturday’s] Ballard said he knew the inner workings and was able to see inside what he wanted to fix. “But we will have a process that will be equal for everyone.”
Even after a season that included the firing of Reich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and a quarterback intrigue that included Ryan sitting out twice, Ballard was adamant that the Colts weren’t far behind.
“I think there are some building blocks here,” Ballard said. “They have to play better. Our best players have to play according to their level. But I don’t think we’re devoid of talent. We need to add more talent. There are areas we need to improve on. But I don’t think we’re completely devoid of talent.”