In January of 2017, Indianapolis Colts Introduce Chris Ballard as their new general manager. Ballard was a highly regarded candidate and was part of a staff that brought players such as Travis Kelsey, Terrick Hill and Marcus Peters to Kansas City. This seemed like a natural progression not only for Ballard but also for heads like that.
Good organizations generate good candidates for other organizations to harvest. Most Kansas City residents saw Ballard’s loss as significant but not insurmountable given the success of then-General Motors John Dorsey.
Dorsey quickly brought the Chiefs back out of the darkness that was the 2012 season. He got Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith. He had a proven track record in the draft and most importantly made a big business deal to bring in something he hadn’t had in Kansas City in 30 years: the quarterback in the first round.
When Ballard exited the organization, the future looked bright for Dorsey and the Presidents. Until June 22, 2017, when the chiefs announced they would be parting ways with Dorsey, just weeks before the start of boot camp. The move left fans with more questions than answers.
What does this shocking news mean for the selection of Patrick Mahomes? What does this move mean for the future of the list? And did Kansas City let the best general manager candidate go out the door to Indianapolis?
It’s really hard to come to the conclusion that the presidents decided to walk away from Dorsey in just five months. Andy Reed, Clark Hunt and the Presidents Brain Foundation knew there was a chance Ballard would be John Dorsey’s replacement. However, they still let him walk away.
Enter Britt Fitch
In July of 2017, Presidents previously introduced the Eagles Scouts then co-manage the player staff as their new general manager. From that moment on the race between Fitch and Ballard began. Their tenures began only a few months later. Ballard took first place in the midfielder selection and the roster needs an overhaul. Fitch had an aging roster with roof issues and an unknown youthful prospect.
While fans of the Chiefs will always attribute the crafting of Patrick Mahomes to Veach, the reality is that Dorsey made that choice. Fitch’s fingerprints were everywhere, but in the end, Dorsey made the trade to bring the Kansas City champion home. This is significant, because 2017 was somewhat of a “lame duck” season for Veach.
The draft was over, all the major free agents were signed and the roster was practically ready for camp. Ballard had a head start, in a sense, except that the 2017 Colts struggled. Andrew Lack was never healthy, Chuck Pagano was fired and Josh McDaniels bailed out of his commitment to replace Pagano.
Make a difference where it matters
Speaking of Chris Ballard and the success he’s had as general manager, most will start with the 2018 draft. Ballard returned from the No. 3 pick on a business deal with New York Jets And he still got All-Pro level players (Quenton Nelson and Shaquille Leonard).
Both players are formidable and are key factors in the Colts roster. Of course, building a list around All-Pro level players has always been a great place to start. That is – unless they play left-footed and full-back off the ball.
This started a major trend for Ballard—hitting the house on less important positions. For example, Jonathan Taylor is one of the best defenders in the league, yet his dominance couldn’t lift the Colts to the playoffs in 2021. In 2020, the Colts dropped their first-round pick to acquire DeForest Buckner and sign him for a massive deal. Buckner is a game-breaker (there’s no doubt about it), but even with defensive interference in the top five, he hasn’t yet had a double-digit sack season like Colt.
Normally, around March, the NFL media praised Ballard for being able to get the quarterback in only the second or third round or sign Phillip Rivers for nothing. Although it seems smart to be able to get a quarter buck initially in the mid-level picks, you tend to get what you pay for.
The transition from Carson Wentz to the current version of Matt Ryan is not something to celebrate. Additionally, the Colts continue to get holes in some of the most important spots on the list: wide receiver, left-hand tackle, rim and corner trim. The list of ponies is the strongest where they are least important.
It’s important to note that Luck’s unexpected retirement completely changed Chris Ballard’s time in Indianapolis. When he took office, he believed he had an elite quarterback on the roster. Then that all changed in the middle of the pre-season game.
Veach has a future professional football hall of fame in the middle, and Ballard rearranges deck chairs on the Titanic with Phillip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz.
What if the presidents hired Chris Ballard?
Will there still be two Lombardy Trophies at Arrowhead?
It’s hard to argue against the coach-middle combination of Mahomes and Reed, so it’s possible. The biggest difference between Veach and Ballard is their aggressiveness. Veach has made major swings in free agency, recording and cross-trading to make the Chiefs’ roster impressive. He traded for the quick passes (Frank Clark) that was the key to the win Energy fiber. He went out and signed the highest safety score for Freeman (Tyrann Mathieu) to help finish a full defensive rebuild. Ballard was much more conservative in all the menu building items and arguably it cost them.
It was easy to criticize the Veach early on, because he (like all GMs) had a few pitfalls. But overall, the working group speaks for itself. The future of Kansas City is as bright as ever with a young core, upcoming roof space, 12 draft picks in the 2023 draft and a Hall of Fame mix of Mahomes and Reid. While it might be interesting to wonder what Ballard would look like as the Chiefs’ general manager, it’s safe to say that fans were perfectly pleased with the end result – at least one tournament.