Chris Ballard says he ‘failed’ Colts, points to QB instability
2:26 PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS — Colts general manager Chris Ballard, admitting he “failed” by taking the wrong approach to the 2022 season, laid out a plan Tuesday that includes considering Jeff Saturday as a candidate in the team’s coaching search and showed a willingness to trade up to the first pick in the NFL draft to solve the team’s perennial quarterback problem.
In discussing the most disappointing season of his six-year tenure, Ballard acknowledged mounting criticism of his decisions and publicly accounted for 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.”
Among the main reasons for the Colts’ struggles, which 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 last five seasons, and the team had three different quarterbacks — Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles — starting 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 putting that position has a little bit to do with [the team’s predicament].”
The Colts, who hold the No. 4 in April’s NFL draft, widely expected to select a quarterback. Asked directly if he was willing to be aggressive, perhaps even going all the way to No. 1, Ballard didn’t hold back.
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” said Ballard, who in the past has expressed a reluctance to invest in a starting quarterback. “If we felt there’s a player that we’re driven to get that makes the franchise and the team better, that’s what we’d do.
“We understand the importance of position. Getting one you can win and being right is the most important thing — not whether we get one or not. It’s being right.”
Ballard pointed to other mistakes that undermined the team, such as his unfortunate moves at left tackle that resulted in a revolving door at one of the team’s most critical positions.
“You get a vet quarterback and, well, here’s the expectation: 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 owner Jim Irsay’s recent exercise of his decision-making power.
On the subject, Ballard admitted publicly for the first time that he disagreed with Irsay over the decision to install Saturday as the team’s interim coach after Reich was fired. Other specific internal candidates were not discussed, Ballard said. “It never got to that point,” Ballard said.
At the time, Saturday was an ESPN analyst with a part-time role 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 him in a really difficult situation here,” Ballard recalled telling Irsay.
However, after going 1-7 and suffering a historically high number of losses, Saturday is a candidate in the team’s coaching search, as expected, Ballard confirmed.
Ballard also addressed the perception that Irsay has denied him the ability to make important 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 potential advantage. Ballard denied Saturday would have an unfair advantage over 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] the bottom line is that he knows the inner workings and he’s been able to see the inside of what he wants to fix,” Ballard said. “But we’re going to have a process that’s going to be equal for everybody.”
Even after a season that included the firing of Reich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and quarterback machinations that included benching Ryan twice, Ballard was confident the Colts aren’t far off.
“I think there are some building blocks here,” Ballard said. “They need to play better. Our best players need to play to their standard. But I don’t think we’re without talent. We need to add more talent. There are areas where we need to improve. But I not “I think we’re completely talentless.”