6 toughest decisions for Chris Ballard this offseason

After a disappointing season, the Indianapolis Colts are at a crossroads. Gone are the days of dominance and winning culture, recently replaced by a series of unfortunate decisions by general manager Chris Ballard.

The team needs a new identity and the one man who can give it to them is the same man that created the current one. Here are six tough decisions for Chris Ballard this off-season:

Quarterback

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It’s no secret that the Colts’ approach to the quarterback position has not panned out in recent seasons. Since Andrew Luck retired, the team has trotted out seven different quarterbacks, hoping to find answers. The more chances they take, the worse it gets. Chris Ballard has a significant decision coming – delaying any further could be detrimental to the franchise.

There are many decisions to make when it comes to Matt Ryan’s contract and ultimately, who the team will select in the 2023 NFL draft at the end of April.

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Head Coach

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When the Colts fired Frank Reich, they hoped a familiar face could help right the ship. Jim Irsay unconventionally hired former Colts great Jeff Saturday to lead the team. As most expected, Saturday could not fix the number of problems the Colts had. The team was, in fact, seemingly worse under his tenure, going 1-7 down the stretch.

Despite his shortcomings, Saturday is a viable candidate in Jim Irsay’s eyes (a heavy favorite). However, Chris Ballard has made it known that this decision will not be taken likely and could take months, doubling down on the need to get it “right.”

Offensive Line

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Let’s be honest: the 2022 Colts’ offensive line was the stuff of nightmares. Nearly every position was underwhelming, especially left tackle and right guard. Ballard doubled down on Matt Pryor (LT), undrafted Wesley French (C/G), Danny Pinter (RG) and Will Fries (RG), assuming that those positions would be “absorbed and come up to speed right away.” The experiment backfired, and the offensive line ended the season ranking near the bottom of the league after starting in the top 10.

Though the line predictably did better once Jeff Saturday arrived, it still has questions at the aforementioned positions and needs critical depth. Whether Ballard will acquire extra help in the draft or free agency, the question remains.

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Wide Receivers

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Adding to the conundrum that was the offense are Ballard’s wide receivers. Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, and rookie Alex Pierce had respectable seasons given the team’s woes and ranked one, two, and three respectively in offensive production. That said, there wasn’t much from the remaining bunch who Ballard praised last offseason, doubling down on their youth and what he viewed as inevitable growth.

Pass Rush

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The Colts defense has struggled to get pressure and sacks against formidable teams for several seasons. Despite an uptick in 2022 thanks to DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Kwity Paye, and Yannick Ngakoue as the season went on, the unit is still sorely lacking. This season the team ranked 31st in team pass rush rate, according to ESPN.

The team saw solid production from Dayo Odeyingbo and Tyquan Lewis before his injury, but Ben Banogu, Byron Cowart, and other role players didn’t have much impact.

Legacy

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Chris Ballard is supposed to be the anti-Ryan Grigson but is falling into many of the same mistakes as the previous general manager. Under his leadership, the team is 45-52-1 (1-2 in the playoffs) and hasn’t won a division title. His major missteps include the revolving door at quarterback, a lack of consistent playmakers, and being frugal in the trenches.

Chris Ballard must decide what he wants his legacy to be. Despite the backing of Jim Irsay, Irsay’s patience will only go so far if his team infinitely wallows in the current sea of underwhelming expectations.

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Story originally appeared on Colts Wire