“We meet with potential prospects, sometimes on multiple occasions, and conduct extensive research …Most importantly, we have to be more accurate than 31 other teams drafting that day.” – Ballard
FMIA Also Features Ballard’s Thoughts on the Impact of Football and the Best Coaches He’s Worked With
STAMFORD, Conn. – July 8, 2019 – In the latest edition of Peter King’s Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com, Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard provides an inside look into his team’s draft priorities and processes.
Ballard also discusses the off-the-field impact football has on many lives and shares his list of the top coaches he has worked with in his 19-year NFL career.
The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:
THE COLTS’ DRAFT PROCESS
Chis Ballard: “When (Colts head coach) Frank Reich and I sat down for his coaching interview in February 2018…we were in lock step in our philosophies on the makeup of the team. We define football character as a player’s work ethic, passion for the game, football intelligence, competitive nature, and teamness. If any of these areas are weak, the chances of the player busting and not fitting in our locker room becomes greater.”
Ballard: “We go the extra mile to delve into players and see how they’ll fit. You are telling the locker room every time you draft a player, ‘This is what we stand for.’ If you bring in someone with a poor work ethic, or someone who is selfish, or someone who is unwilling to put in the work, you’re telling the locker room that that’s OK.”
Ballard: “When I first took the job in Indianapolis, I wanted to find an expert who could help us get to the core of a player’s football character. We found the perfect person in Brian Decker, a former Green Beret and now our director of player development. He uses a model he developed in the military and applies toward our interview process. He interviews every prospect on our draft board and teaches our scouts specific interviewing techniques…here are the five questions Decker wants to get the answers to:
- Does this player have a favorable developmental profile?
- Does he have a profile that supports handling pressure and adversity?
- Does he have a good learning and decision-making capacity?
- Is he a character risk and, if so, what can we do to help support him?
- Is he a fit?”
Ballard: “There are times that I refer to our draft room as ‘the Room of Candor,’ just like they have for film screenings at Pixar Studios…At Pixar, they meet every few months about their current projects and honestly assess the films they create. They aim to put smart and passionate people in a room with an emphasis on problem solving…Similarly, in our version, it’s a room for honest conversation, where everyone has a chance to present their case, ask questions, and speak to the abilities of each player.”
Ballard: “From our February meetings until draft day, our team pokes holes in the viability of every player. As we enter the draft room, titles get checked at the door. We want everyone in the room to challenge and say what they think.”
Ballard: “Frank Reich is tremendous on draft day. He has a lot of faith in our scouting group and allows us to work. He will also give us his opinion and allows our scouts to challenge him. His open mindedness really is special.”
Ballard: “When we are in draft meetings, we talk about each player’s football character at great length to determine if a player fits our draft board. If a player meets our strict criteria in terms of his football character, he is given a blue card. There might be 10 or 12 blue cards in the entire draft and we want to pick as many of these players for our locker room that we can.”
Ballard: “At the end of the day, the players have to earn their place on the team and we as an organization have a responsibility to develop the player. Once they’re with us, we feel we have everything in place to get them to their ceiling as long we’ve got the football character right. Why? Because players who have football character want to get better and can overcome adversity.”
THE IMPACT OF FOOTBALL
Ballard: “There is nothing that can replicate the euphoric feeling after a big win. I tell everyone that it is hard to beat the first 20 minutes after a big win. I say 20 minutes because shortly after any game, our minds quickly flip to the upcoming week and the next opponent.”
Ballard: “One aspect of Sundays in the NFL that I really cherish are the people and families I’ve had the privilege of meeting along the way. Their stories have nothing to do with X’s and O’s, but when you look deeply, football is really at the root of these stories…Football has the power to bring people together, and game day can be transformational.”
Ballard: “It has been over a year since the tragic death of Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson in a car accident. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Edwin and the impact he made in his short time on earth… The Jackson family created the Edwin Jackson 53 Foundation, which awards scholarships to college students who have a similar sense of service as Edwin. The foundation helps the students use their time and talents to inspire and support youth in their communities.”
Ballard: “Edwin had the gift of being able to connect with people and make them feel inspired when he visited with them. He continuously used his platform for all the right reasons and changed the lives of those who needed it the most.”
TOP COACHES AND EXECUTIVES IN OTHER SPORTS
Ballard: “I have been fortunate to have been around some really special coaches in my career…The consistent thread in their coaching styles is the ability to coach the man before they coach the player. The best that I have been around are my grandfather, David Green; Barry Alvarez; Lovie Smith; Andy Reid; Frank Reich; Rod Marinelli; Matt Eberflus; and Eric Bienemy.”
Ballard: “I spend a lot of time during the summer studying the successful coaches, executives, and teams in not only football but also other sports. I really believe that you can grow by studying the success of others.”
Ballard: “One executive that I have tremendous respect for is (Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations) Theo Epstein. I think he will go down in history as one of the best executives and leaders in sports…His ability to adapt and grow after leaving Boston is very hard to do and what led to one of the great turnarounds in sports history. Epstein went from an analytical approach with the Red Sox to a character-based approach plus analytics with the Cubs.”
Read the full column here.
A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May that King signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Sports Group that included writing a weekly Monday morning NFL column for NBCSports.com; making regular appearances on NBCSN’s and NBC Sports Radio’s PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.
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