Chris Ballard

Latest On Colts’ Anthony Richardson Selection

The Colts delivered on their long-stated intention of drafting a quarterback in the first round of last week’s draft, selecting Anthony Richardson with the No. 4 pick. That marked the end of a lengthy evaluation process, but it did not represent a surprise within the organization when it happened.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard told NBC Sports’ Peter King that the team’s intention was to draft Richardson dating back roughly one month. The Florida product was the largest X-factor in the 2023 class, having played far less than most other passers but owning the most intriguing skillset given his physical attributes and rushing ability.

While he thus represented a risk, Richardson was a key target for the Colts in their latest attempt to end their search for a long-term quarterback. Their post-Andrew Luck endeavors resulted in an unsuccessful string of veterans being brought in, pointing the team to adding a young passer this offseason. Despite his relative lack of experience and signficant inconsistencies in his lone season as a starter, Richardson could see playing time as a rookie at the NFL level.

“I would rather take the risk, the risk that he might fail, than pass on him and see him become a star somewhere else,” Ballard said. “We’re taking a guy not only for what he can do today but for what he can become tomorrow.” Echoing that sentiment in a draft documentary, via the team, Ballard added, “I didn’t want to look up and watch him be a superstar somewhere else. If he’s gonna be a superstar, he’s gonna be a superstar for the Colts” (video link).

There was not initially a consensus in the Colts’ front office regarding Richardson. In a breakdown of the team’s evaluation process, ESPN’s Stephen Holder notes that assistant GM Ed Dodds was “deeply skeptical” of Richardson at first, given the concerns regarding experience and accuracy. He, too, grew into the notion of selecting Richardson fourth overall, however, a point where two quarterbacks were expected to be off the board.

That was indeed the case last Thursday, with the Panthers and Texans selecting Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, respectively. Indianapolis considered trading up to No. 3, per Holder, but the team chose against doing so. The Cardinals ultimately moved out of that slot to allow the Texans to draft Will Anderson, leaving Richardson available for the Colts as they had hoped and planned.

The latter will face considerable scrutiny and expectations upon his NFL debut, but the Colts remain firmly committed to him as their long-term solution under center. With Gardner Minshew representing his top competition for the starting job (especially in the absence of Nick Foles), Richardson could see considerable playing time in 2023 and for many years beyond that.

AFC South Notes: Colts, QBs, Texans, Titans

While the Texans may be torn on a quarterback pick, the Colts are a near-lock to select a passer with their first choice. It is now possible every passer but Bryce Young will be available for Indianapolis at No. 4, which would put the retooling team to a decision. The Colts-Will Levis connection may be this draft’s second-strongest tie — after the Panthers-Young match — but Albert Breer of notes assistant GM Ed Dodds is high on C.J. Stroud. Dodds has been with Indy since 2017, becoming Chris Ballard‘s top lieutenant soon after the GM’s arrival.

Ballard, whom Breer adds was high on Levis beginning back in the fall, also is believed to place value on the increasingly popular S2 cognition test; Stroud’s low score has been leaked. Another team moving into the Texans or Cardinals’ spots could end up making the decision for the Colts, but if no trades emerge, Indy might have a fascinating Stroud-or-Levis decision on its hands. The two seem to be trending in opposite directions, but the Ohio State prospect has received higher grades — by scouting outlets and anonymous evaluators — as a prospect.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • With the Texans set for a complex call at No. 2 overall, not much has emerged regarding their No. 12 choice. But Houston, in the wake of the latest Brandin Cooks trade, may be targeting receiving help. Of the receivers, the Texans prefer Jaxon Smith-Njigba, per the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora. Despite missing almost all of his junior season, Smith-Njigba has regained momentum and has the best chance to be the top wideout of the board. With the Packers (No. 13) and Jets (No. 15) connected to the one-year Buckeyes wonder, the Texans could outflank their potential competition. John Metchie is back at work for the Texans, after missing 2022 following a leukemia diagnosis, but the team dealt Cooks to the Cowboys and did not do too much — the Robert Woods pickup notwithstanding — to replace him. The Texans are also considering moving down from No. 12, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who adds teams are not too interested in moving to 2.
  • One of the teams lurking as a trade-up candidate to outflank the Colts, the Titans are now being linked to trading back and accumulating picks. Both La Canfora and’s Jeremy Fowler indicate buzz has emerged tying Tennessee to a trade-down effort from No. 11. Yes, with a few exceptions, most teams are willing to move up or down in each draft. But the Titans do have a decision to make regarding their QB future. The team toured prospects’ pro days but did not exhaust “30” visit resources at the position. Stroud is believed to be the Titans’ preference — assuming Young is out of the equation — and La Canfora views Titans trade-down talk as a smokescreen effort. Tennessee is believed to have dangled Ryan Tannehill in trades.
  • Although Jeffery Simmons staged a minicamp hold-in effort last year and lobbied for a new deal, Breer writes the Titans did not consider trading the standout defensive lineman. Ownership also assured Simmons, who since-fired GM Jon Robinson drafted in the 2019 first round, he was a long-term priority despite Robinson’s ouster,’s Terry McCormick tweets. The Titans made Simmons the NFL’s second-highest-paid defensive tackle, at $23.5MM per year, and gave him the highest D-tackle guarantee. Simmons is also coming off ankle surgery; the fifth-year standout said he underwent a cleanup procedure this offseason.
  • Jimmie Ward‘s issues with a return to cornerback last season became well known, but the longtime 49ers defender — after being moved to nickel corner again in-season — said he told DeMeco Ryans he expected last season to his his San Francisco finale. But Ward said (via KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson) Ryans communicated to him he would be interested in bringing the veteran defender to his HC destination. Ryans followed through on that, with the Texans signing Ward to a two-year, $13MM deal. Ward is back at safety.
  • Jaguars fourth-year cornerback Chris Claybrooks faces misdemeanor charges of domestic assault with bodily injury and vandalism under $1,000 stemming from an arrest earlier this month in Nashville,’s Gerry Smits reports. Claybrooks allegedly grabbed his ex-girlfriend’s arm and threw her cellphone to the ground.

Latest On Colts’ First-Round Plans

Multiple reports have connected the Colts to Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, and the organization is still very interested in the prospect. However, things could get tricky if Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud falls to Indy at No. 4. One NFL scout told ESPN’s Matt Miller that the Colts may prefer Levis over Stroud, while another scout indicated that the Colts are hoping another front office will make the decision for them.

[RELATED: Latest On Colts’ Plans At No. 4]

“The Colts would probably love for someone to jump them and select Stroud so they can take Levis,” the scout said.

The conversation involving the Colts and Levis initially involved Florida’s Anthony Richardson, with most draft pundits assuming the Colts wouldn’t have a shot at Bryce Young or Stroud. Young is still the favorite to go first-overall, but there are now whispers that the Texans may not select a QB at No 2. If the Cardinals are unable to find a trade partner at No. 3, then the Colts could have their choice of the three remaining QBs with first-round grades.

There’s a better chance that trades impact the top-three selections and, in that scenario, the Colts won’t have their preferred target on the board by the time the fourth pick is on the clock. Previous reports indicated that the front office was not interested in making a move up the draft board, but if Chris Ballard and co. are determined to draft a QB and aren’t enamored with Richardson, then they may have no choice than to make a trade for Levis or Stroud.

Of course, all of these reports could simply be a smokescreen while the Colts hide their true intentions. Ballard seemed to question the legitimacy of the recent reports, stating that there’s no incentive to show their hand.

“I always love to read the reports that the Colts love this guy and they love that guy,” the GM said (via Zak Keefer of The Athletic). “Like, who’d that come from? It didn’t come from me. Who’s telling them who we love and who we don’t love? They don’t know.

“…Like, there’s always this assumption we’ve targeted one player,” he said. “This is the main assumption right now. I don’t know if that’s an accurate assumption. Matter of fact, I’d say it’s not.”

Front Office Notes: Ballard, Elway, Raiders, Eagles, Lions

The Colts have three winning seasons and two playoff appearances during Chris Ballard‘s six seasons as the team’s general manager. Even in the midst of a 4-12-1 campaign that featured the firing of head coach Frank Reich, Colts owner Jim Irsay continued to endorse his top decision maker. However, fast forward a few months, and Irsay is now hinting that the Colts will have to perform better on the field if Ballard hopes to keep his job.

“Everyone has to be successful to keep their job, if you’re a general manager or head coach,” Irsay said (via Zak Keefer of The Athletic). “I really feel that he’s not on some quick, hot seat. But the expectations are there.”

As Keefer notes, Irsay has always been fond of his GM, admiring the executive’s drafting prowess and roster-building ability. The owner has also been willing to take part of the blame for the team’s recent inconsistencies, but Ballard was given full control of the recent head coaching search and will be fully responsible for making the Colts’ selection at No. 4 later this month.

In other words, if Ballard fails, it will be on him, and any struggles in 2023 could ultimately lead to the GM’s firing. As Keefer writes, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Colts have to be a playoff contender; rather, Irsay will be looking for “hope, optimism, [or] tangible proof that Ballard can fix the mess he’s made.”

Normally, a GM with Ballard’s resume probably would have been fired a few years ago, but Irsay also indicated that the organization is still reeling from Andrew Luck‘s sudden retirement decision in 2019.

“I’m not gonna make excuses for (Chris) or anyone else, (but) you know, the Andrew Luck card’s never been seen by a general manager before,” Irsay said. “I mean, that’s a tough one, guys. I’d like to see how other teams would respond when you have a 29-year-old who was supposed to be there for the next 10 years and win two Lombardis just walks away, two weeks before the season starts. I mean, that’s a hard one, you know?”

More front office notes from around the NFL…

  • After spending more than a decade in the Broncos front office, John Elway is stepping away. After serving as an outside consultant to GM George Paton in 2022, Elway and the Broncos have decided to part ways. “I’ve enjoyed the relationship with the Broncos for a long, long time,’’ Elway told Mike Klis of 9News in Denver. “I told Greg I’d be happy to be a resource for him and help in any way that I can. I just wanted the flexibility. They’re in great hands. I still plan on being around to watch and be a resource for Greg or George (Paton) if I can.’’ The Hall of Fame quarterback was the Broncos general manager for 10 years before transitioning to President of Football Operations in 2021.
  • Raiders senior vice president and chief of staff Marcel Reece resigned last month, according to Tashan Reed and Vic Tafur of The Athletic. The former Pro Bowl running back joined the team’s front office in 2020, earning a promotion to his last role in 2022. As the writers note, Reece follows a number of long-time executives who have recently left the organization, a group that includes former team presidents Marc Badain and Dan Ventrelle.
  • The Eagles will be heading into the draft with a new front office structure. They’ll no longer be relying on a vice president of player personnel like former execs Andy Weidl or Joe Douglas. Instead, Eagles GM Howie Roseman is going to be completely responsible for running the show. “The responsibility is mine,” Roseman said (via Zach Berman of The Athletic). “I don’t say that in any way other than that I take that very seriously and I think we have a process that has spanned different front offices. Hasn’t always been perfect, but we do have a process and a way of doing things. At the same time, if someone comes in and has an idea that can make that process better, let’s do that. Best idea has to win. … At the end of the day, it’s my job to outline a vision of what we’re looking for, whether it’s at the All-Star games, the combine, free-agent process, the draft process. I think the lines of communication have been great. There are a lot of really great, talented guys we have in our front office, and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
  • Chris Spielman has spent three years in the Lions front office, officially serving as “special assistant to the owner and CEO.” Justin Rogers of The Detroit News has provided some insight into the former Pro Bowl linebacker’s role, with the executive having his hand in draft preparation, weekly opponent scouting, and helping to hire the team’s GM and head coach. “I’ve been given the freedom to define the role, but in order to do that, the one thing I had to get, because it’s a paranoid business by nature, I had to make sure I had everybody’s trust, that I have zero agenda other than winning,” Spielman told Rogers. “Zero. I tell everyone, ‘I’ve already done my thing, man. I have zero agenda. I don’t want another role. I’m not looking for another role.’ My goal is to help everybody succeed to their highest level. When that happens, I feel like I win.”

Colts GM Chris Ballard Addresses Possible Trade-Up

Free agency has yet to begin, but plenty of interest already surrounds this year’s draft with the top pick up for sale. A number of teams could be in play to move up the board, particularly those in need of a franchise quarterback.

The Colts certainly fit that description, and as the current owners of the fourth overall pick, they are well-positioned to land one of the class’ top signal-callers. A trade up the board is something which general manager Chris Ballard spoke about in January, inviting questions about whether Indianapolis will make a push to acquire the top selection. He spoke further on the subject at the combine.

“I know all the speculation out there,” Ballard said, via ESPN’s Stephen Holder“To move up, there’s got to be a guy worthy of it… Everybody has just automatically stamped that you’ve got to move up to [No.] 1 to get it right. I don’t know if I agree with that. But that’s going to be the narrative, and that’s OK.”

The Bears own the top pick, but Ryan Poles has repeatedly voiced his support of quarterback Justin Fields, lending further to the expectation that they will move down the board. With the Texans slated to pick second overall, and facing a dire need for a long-term solution under center, any team wishing to move ahead of them will need to pay Chicago a steep price. Doing so will likely be necessary to have the option of drafting Bryce Young, widely seen as the top QB in the 2023 class.

Owner Jim Irsay made his thoughts on the Alabama product known shortly after Shane Steichen was introduced as the Colts’ new head coach. The latter’s track record of working with young passers played a role in his hire, and his tenure in Indianapolis will all-but assuredly begin with a rookie under center. That could be Young if the Colts are willing and able to move up the board, but other high-end options at the position will still be available if they stay at No. 4. C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson are among the top tier of quarterbacks alongside Young, though several teams in the top 10 will be active in maneuvering to acquire them.

Ballard repeated that he would be willing to pull off a major trade if the Colts were fully committed to Young at the top of the board. A deal involving the No. 1 pick would be a significant development at any time, of course, but it might come in this case before free agency begins later this month. Regardless of how the Bears’ plans shake out, the Colts will be a team to watch through to Day 1 of the draft.

Colts Could Name HC After Super Bowl

Another day, another Colts interview. This time around, it’s Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, who is interviewing for Indy’s head coaching position today. The organization’s head coaching search may not be concluding any time soon, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes (on Twitter) that the Colts might not name a head coach until after the Super Bowl.

[RELATED: Poll: Who Will Become Next Colts HC?]

Considering the breadth of Indy’s head coaching search, it’s not a huge surprise that the process may take at least another week. The Colts initially interviewed a league-high 13 candidates for the position, and a good portion of those individuals ended up moving on to the second round. We heard earlier this week that the organization was considering a third round of interviews, although Joel A. Erickson of the Indy Star says a third wave “is far from set in stone.” Erickson also points out that a team hasn’t conducted a third round of HC interviews in nearly four decades, meaning Indy’s search could be bordering on unprecedented.

“Be patient and take your time, and make sure we have a thorough interview with everybody,” GM Chris Ballard previously said of the search (via Erickson). “I don’t care if it takes until mid-February to hire the head coach. It’s about getting it right.”

It was assumed that the process was taking so long thanks in part to Jim Irsay‘s insertion into the second round of interviews; the team owner wasn’t involved in the initial wave of meetings. Albert Breer of TheMMQB tweets that Irsay has spent one-on-one time with the current candidates, and the current round has been described as “creative” and long, with some interviews lasting up to 12 hours.

As our 2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker shows, there are currently 10 candidates who have either conducted a second interview or been mentioned as a finalist. This doesn’t include Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who has decided to stay in Dallas.

Jim Irsay Still Pushing For Jeff Saturday Hire; Eric Bieniemy, Raheem Morris In Mix

The Colts lost seven of their final eight games, finishing 4-12-1. The team had not lost seven games to close out a campaign since its inaugural season in 1953. But Jim Irsay still looks to be pushing to keep Jeff Saturday, the interim head coach he stunned the NFL by hiring in November.

Saturday is going through his second interview Wednesday, according to’s Adam Schefter, who adds as many as seven candidates will advance to the second round of interviews (Twitter link). That list includes Ejiro Evero, and’s Dan Graziano tweets Rams DC Raheem Morris will receive an in-person meeting. The Colts held virtual interviews with 13 candidates — the most of any HC-seeking team this year — but Irsay was not involved in those sessions. He will be there for the second interviews.

Irsay said in November he hoped Saturday would stay on as a full-time HC, and although no team has made an interim coach a full-time hire since the Jaguars removed Doug Marrone‘s interim tag in 2017, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson notes Irsay is still pushing for Saturday. More pushback has emerged, however. Just as Irsay confidants attempted to dissuade him from hiring Saturday two months ago, Anderson adds (via Twitter) those close to the owner are again attempting to convince him Saturday is the wrong choice.

Indianapolis should also be expected to meet with Eric Bieniemy and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone for a second time. Each remains in the mix, Graziano adds, though no second interviews with either have been scheduled. Bieniemy has generated extensive OC interest around the league, being connected to open jobs and likely on the radar for some that will soon be available, but ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes the longtime Chiefs OC is focused on potential HC gigs. Only the Colts, however, have interviewed him for their job.

Some around the league believe this will come down to Bieniemy or Saturday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk adds. Considering the backlash both the Saturday hire and Bieniemy’s extended time on the HC carousel have each generated, the Colts choosing Saturday in that instance would create more controversy.

Andy Reid has been the Chiefs’ primary play-caller since 2013, and while Bieniemy has been labeled as a poor interviewer at points during his long run as Reid’s right-hand man, the fifth-year OC has been in place in this role throughout Patrick Mahomes‘ QB1 stay. Considering Mahomes is about to win a second MVP award and will do so after the Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill, that should reflect well on Bieniemy. Judging by the Arizona, Carolina, Denver and Houston searches, however, teams are not closely connecting the Reid lieutenant to such success. Bieniemy and Colts GM Chris Ballard worked together during the latter’s time in the Chiefs’ front office, though Fowler adds the Saturday-Irsay relationship continues to loom over this process.

Ballard ran the first set of Colts HC interviews,’s Albert Breer notes, adding that Carlie Irsay-Gordon (Jim’s daughter) has played a key role throughout this process as well. Ballard attempted to talk Irsay out of the Saturday hire in November and admitted as much this month. It should be expected the seventh-year GM will keep pushing for a different hire, but Irsay obviously will make the final call. This process should drag into next week, Ian Rapoport of adds (video link).

Saturday promised extensive changes if he were to land the full-time job. He offered ex-Frank Reich staffers Scott Milanovich and Scottie Montgomery OC duties, but each turned down the job. That led to assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier receiving the opportunity. The Colts started three QBs during Saturday’s stay (Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger) but only won one game under interim coach. The team’s NFL-record collapse in Minnesota and other shaky performances did not exactly give Saturday momentum coming out of the season. If Irsay bucks staffers’ advice and goes in this direction again, it would make for one of the most interesting decisions in coaching history.

Colts Interview Eric Bieniemy For HC Job

A big name has been added to the list of Colts head coaching candidates. Owner Jim Irsay announced on Twitter that the Colts have completed an interview with Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

This is a sudden development in the organization’s head coaching search, but not a particularly surprising one. Zak Keefer of The Athletic tweets that the Colts have been “digging” on Bieniemy over the past few days.

A fixture on head-coaching carousels in recent years, Bieniemy has been unable to land a top job. The coordinator was connected to all seven head coaching vacancies during the 2021 campaign, but he only interviewed for two gigs (Saints, Broncos) in 2022. Now, after years of interviewing for a head coach job, Bieniemy has secured only his first interview of the year.

A Chiefs assistant throughout Andy Reid‘s nine-year tenure, Bieniemy has been the team’s OC throughout Patrick Mahomes‘ QB1 run. A report indicated that the 2021 season was somewhat trying for Bieniemy mentally, and the prospect of sitting out 2022 or returning to the college ranks emerged. He ultimately decided to stick in Kansas City, and despite the loss of wideout Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs offense still managed to lead the NFL in points and yards.

Bieniemy would be a logical fit in Indianapolis, where the Colts are looking for a head coach to replace Frank Reich and (potentially) interim HC Jeff Saturday. As ESPN’s Stephen Holder tweets, the coach has “strong ties” to Colts general manager Chris Ballard dating back to their time in Kansas City.

As our 2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker shows, the growing list of known and potential Colts head coaching candidates includes:

Colts Open To Trading Up For Quarterback; Jeff Saturday In Play To Stay

Chris Ballard confirmed November reports he did not back Jim Irsay‘s decision to hire Jeff Saturday as the team’s interim head coach, but the six-year Colts GM also said Tuesday (via’s Albert Breer, on Twitter) that Saturday will be a candidate to stay on as the team’s full-time hire.

As that strange partnership persists, for the time being, the Colts find themselves in their best position to draft a quarterback in some time. While Josh Allen went off the board one spot after the Colts selected Quenton Nelson five years ago, Indianapolis was not exactly in need of a QB at that point. Since Andrew Luck‘s sudden retirement in 2019, the Colts have only made one first-round pick (Kwity Paye in 2021) and opted to make two trades to fill their starting QB post. Neither the Carson Wentz nor the Matt Ryan deal ended up working out.

The Colts will be a candidate to trade up for a passer, injecting more intrigue into the team’s highest draft choice (No. 4 overall) since Luck 11 years ago.

“I’ll do whatever it takes,” Ballard said (via’s Stephen Holder) regarding a trade-up. “If we thought there’s a player that we’re driven to get that makes the franchise and the team better, that’s what we would do. We understand the importance of the position. To get one that you can win with and to be right is the most important thing — not if we take one or not. It’s being right.

Looking back on it, when you’re changing quarterbacks every year, it’s tough. It’s tough on everybody. It’s tough on the team. Not getting that position settled has a little something to do with [the team’s tumble].”

It might take moving up to the No. 1 spot to select Alabama’s Bryce Young, whom the Texans will likely covet at No. 2 overall.’s Todd McShay has both C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) and Will Levis (Kentucky) going in the top six. Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. slots Stroud as the No. 4 overall prospect and Levis outside the top 10.

While the Colts have experienced good fortune after bad seasons, falling into the Luck and Peyton Manning draft slots. Nabbing Nelson at No. 6, following a 2017 season Luck missed all of due to a shoulder injury, has also worked out well. But Luck’s retirement thrust the Colts into a tailspin. They may be connected to yet another veteran — after the Philip Rivers-Wentz-Ryan carousel — this offseason, but strong consideration will be given to reinvesting via the draft.

Ballard said he told Irsay just before the Saturday hire: “This is unprecedented, and we’re putting him into a really tough situation here.” The longtime GM added that he will lead the search for the team’s next head coach, but Irsay will make the final call.

Ballard’s first coaching search produced a historically unusual twist, with Josh McDaniels backing out of a verbal agreement. The Colts’ Reich hire produced two playoff berths, but Irsay — in a rather eventful year for the outspoken owner — pulled the plug on that as the team struggled to start this season. Despite Indy’s woes intensifying under Saturday, he is expected to be interviewed soon.

He knows the internal workings and he’s been able to see the inside of what he wants to fix,” Ballard said when asked if Saturday has a leg up on the outside HC candidates. “But we will have a process that will be equal for everybody.”

Jim Irsay Assures Colts GM Chris Ballard Will Return In 2023; Jim Harbaugh On HC Radar?

Several teams have disappointed this season, and the Colts are near the top of that list. They have gone from a team that led the NFL with seven Pro Bowlers last season to one with a 4-9-1 squad that just blew an NFL-record 33-point lead.

The Colts have already fired their head coach and offensive coordinator, promoting their assistant quarterbacks coach to call plays, and have made multiple quarterback changes. Jeff Saturday‘s showing in Minnesota likely will lead to him not being retained as Indianapolis’ full-time HC, and prior to the Vikings loss, Jim Irsay indicated he was looking forward to interviewing a host of HC candidates. But the second-generation Colts owner is still planning to keep Chris Ballard in place as GM.

I think a lot of Chris,” Irsay said, via Zak Keefer of The Athletic (subscription required). “Young GMs make mistakes. He’s been up against it. The No. 1 component is he’s an outstanding talent evaluator. He has this [Bill] Polian-esque touch in the draft room. There have been some things … people don’t realize, you have to learn as a general manager. You just don’t get it overnight. I feel very confident in where we’re going.”

The directional confidence part is a bit strange to read, considering what has happened to the Colts over the past year, and it should be noted Irsay issued this Ballard support prior to the team’s 39-36 loss Saturday. But Irsay said upon hiring Saturday that he intended for Ballard to return next year. The Colts are 1-4 since those comments. Ballard, however, had attempted to talk Irsay out of the Saturday move. While Irsay has said it will be Ballard’s job to hire coaches, Keefer adds some around the league are convinced the owner will pursue Jim Harbaugh in 2023.

Long connected on the coaching carousel’s fringes, Harbaugh surfaced in a real way this year by interviewing with the Vikings. Harbaugh also recently announced he would stay at Michigan for a 10th season, but just before that pledge, NFL teams were doing homework on him. Some around the league wonder if Colts interest could change Harbaugh’s Ann Arbor plans, Jeremy Fowler of notes. The former quarterback spent four years with the Colts, leading them to two playoff berths and an AFC championship game in the mid-1990s, and is in the team’s ring of honor. Harbaugh, who has led Michigan to back-to-back College Football Playoff berths, signed a new deal with his alma mater this year. Should Harbaugh truly be on Indy’s radar, Ballard’s personnel power could be at risk — at least compared to where it is now.

Ballard, 53, built what looked like one of the league’s top rosters — though, one without a long-term quarterback — and last year’s Pro Bowl count reinforced confidence the Colts sported a strong foundation. The Colts have extended Ballard draftees Shaquille Leonard, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith. Two of Ballard’s Day 2 picks from 2020 — Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. — will likely be on the extension radar soon as well. But the team has not truly climbed out of the hole Andrew Luck‘s sudden retirement left it in three years ago.

Irsay drove the trade of Carson Wentz to the Commanders and pushed Ballard to finalize the Matt Ryan swap. The latter move has not panned out for the Colts, and Irsay was behind the midseason QB switch that led to Sam Ehlinger rising from third-stringer to starter. It is safe to say this has been a rather chaotic year for the Colts, who returned all seven of those Pro Bowlers this season. Ballard has, however, been rather stingy in free agency since being hired in 2017. That has placed more pressure on his homegrown core.

Last year, Ballard and Reich signed extensions that run through 2026. The former returning in 2023 would mean considerable pressure to both aid Irsay on the team’s next HC hire and fix the quarterback position. Ballard’s last HC search did not go smoothly, with Josh McDaniels reneging on an agreement and Reich being the fallback hire. The next one not panning out would almost certainly lead to Irsay going GM shopping.