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Chris Ballard: ‘Absolutely, We’re Going To Get There’

Posted Dec 4, 2017

Intro: Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, in an appearance Monday on 1070 The Fan’s “Colts Roundtable Live,” talked about the first three-quarters of the 2017 season for the team, as well as his thoughts heading into a critical offseason for the franchise.

INDIANAPOLIS — What are Chris Ballard’s thoughts through the first three-quarters of his first season as the Indianapolis Colts’ general manager?

Ballard on Monday joined 1070 The Fan’s “Colts Roundtable Live” and discussed several topics about the current stats of the Colts franchise, as well as what he wants to accomplish moving into what will be a critical offseason for the team. Here’s what he had to say to host Bob Lamey:

On his thoughts about the team heading into Week 14 and the final stretch of the season:
“You know, this week I didn’t think we played as well. But I thought defensively we were really coming on, especially playing the run. You know, I thought our defensive front’s played really good, and we’ve had some key contributors — guys like Margus Hunt who stepped in for (Henry) Anderson when Anderson went to IR and has played solid and has played good football; Al Woods has played steady all year. He’s played the nose exactly the way these coaches want it played in this scheme. And (Johnathan) Hankins has been really good versus the run. We’ve got a young player defensively that I think is really coming on in Grover Stewart. I thought he had some meaningful (snaps) — even if the results weren’t quite what we wanted versus Jacksonville, I thought he played his best game. He was active, he got off the ball, his talent was evident, and I think he’s got a tremendous career in front of him. And then in the secondary, when Melvin got hurt — and I thought Melvin has really had a great year for us; fits the scheme perfectly; big press corner. He’s got a great story because he’s been cut three or four times in this league, and I had a long talk with him last week, and it reminded me of Ron Parker, who had been cut six times before we ended up claiming him in Kansas City, and he’s gone on to have a real successful career; Melvin very similar to where he’s cut, but he kept working and he kept battling and now has turned himself into a pretty good corner in this league. And we just put a kid on IR today, Pierre Desir, who we claimed at the cut-down who I had kind of had my eye on and our scouts identified him at the cut-down day, who was having a really good season for us at corner. He went down with an injury today. So that’s an opportunity; that’s an opportunity for these young guys. Getting Quincy Wilson back healthy — he had a little knee nick here for the last couple months; just couldn’t quite get over the hump — getting him this play time will be very beneficial to him. And our other secondary members that are coming on at this time, especially Kenny Moore — another guy we claimed at the cut-down day — he’s getting some meaningful snaps, and (Nate) Hairston’s getting some meaningful snaps. So I’m excited about where we’re going defensively; we’re not there. We’re not there yet. But we’ve had some good things. Look, Jabaal Sheard: Jabaal Sheard has played well. He’s played really well for us. He’s been consistent, and given us some meaningful snaps during the season. John Simon’s a little nicked up; he was playing about as good as anybody we had at one point, but he’s been a little nicked up here the last few weeks. And then (Tarell) Basham coming in, we’re starting to see the flashes of pass rush from Tarell Basham. I’m proud of him, because he’s working. He knows for a pass rusher in this league it takes a lot of work against these good tackles, and he’s really done a nice job here over the last month working and perfecting his craft and getting better at his craft. So we’re starting to see good flashes from him that we want to see. And then Barkevious Mingo, who I thought the weeks that he had to start for us was a solid contributor for us. His athleticism and speed stick out when he’s on the field, both on special teams and on defense.”

On what he wants to see out of the team in the final four games:

“You still want to look for improvement. I mean, you’re still building — every game’s an opportunity. It’s not good that we’re not in the playoff hunt, but saying that, you still got chances to get better. You know, players have chances to get better; coaches have chances to get better; we as a personnel staff have a chance to get better. And it’s a chance for us to continue to evaluate players going forward, and it’s important because you only get 16 opportunities during the year to play live games, and they are important opportunities and evaluations for us to see our players against good competition and see how they’re growing and if they’re getting better.”

On how he’s personally approached scouting so far this college season:

“Well, I try to get out every weekend and make sure I get a game. I actually went to the Big 12 championship game this weekend and watched Oklahoma and TCU play; Oklahoma’s got a heck of a football team, and I know the head coach at TCU pretty well, Gary Patterson, who I think does as good a job as anybody in college football getting his team prepared and ready to play, and it was a good football game to watch. Oklahoma got the better end of it; it’ll be interesting to watch them in the final four, try to take a shot to win a national championship.”

On his alma mater, Wisconsin, and its loss in the Big Ten championship game:

“That was a tough loss, and very proud of the program, what (head coach) Paul Chryst has done. Paul was a teammate; he was a senior when I was a freshman, and what he’s done at Wisconsin is pretty impressive; they have built, going back to Barry — it all goes back to Coach Alvarez and what he started back in 1990 when he was hired — 27 years later it’s still going, and their foundation and their fundamentals of how they’ve built the program still go back to when he first came to Wisconsin. And it’s been fun to watch; they’ve got a heck of a program, they’ve got a lot of good players and a lot of good football coaches on that staff.”

On what areas specifically he wants to improve heading into the offseason:

“I think we’ve got to get through the rest of this season. What we’ll do is we’ll go through … you don’t ever want to make just quick judgments — you want to let the whole season play out. So we’ll let the whole season play out, and then we’ll sit down as a personnel staff and with our coaching staff, and we’ll have some very direct, candid conversations about each player on the roster, and where we’re going and if the player fits in for us to have a chance to win a Super Bowl. Because that’s why we’re in it, and if we’re in it for any other reason, we’re in it for the wrong reason. We want to bring a championship back here to Indy, and we’re going to do that. And you’ve got to have some honest, hard conversations about everything you’re doing and where you’re going, and when the season’s up, we’ll have to evaluations.”

On running back Frank Gore moving into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list:

“So, let me just say this: I’ve never been around a player — and I’ve been around a lot of good players in my career — that loves football more than Frank Gore. It might have been one of the better decisions we’ve made was to keep Frank Gore on this team. What a gift he is to the National Football League; what a gift he is to the city of Indianapolis. Watching him every day work, getting himself prepared, getting ready for Sunday, it’s a treat, and one of the coolest moments in my career was standing on the field at Seattle and watching Frank Gore run out of the tunnel with this big smile on his face like it was his first football game. That’s how he treats it. I mean, he is a gift to our fans and to this league. You know, what a special, special career he’s had, and that’s why he’s a Hall of Famer; that’s why he’ll end up in the Hall of Fame.”

On the moves he’s been proudest of since becoming the Colts’ general manager:

“We have a lot of work to do. You know, we’re not there yet. But I do believe that in free agency last year, we had so many holes to fill defensively, and it’s hard when you go sign free agents, because sometimes they’re not your own guys, so you have to bring them and they have to get assimilated into the way you do business, and the way you want to do business. And all of those guys that we brought in, from Jabaal Sheard to (John) Simon to Margus Hunt to Al Woods to (Johnathan) Hankins to (Jon) Bostic — they’ve all fit in and played a good role. And that’s not easy to do, and I probably hasn’t talked enough about Jon Bostic and what he’s done, but Jon Bostic’s been solid; he’s been a good player for us this year, especially after battling some injuries throughout his career. And a credit to our coaching staff. Our guys are still competing and playing hard; they’re still showing up, they’re still working and they’re still playing their tails off. Even with the record is what it is, they are still showing up every day and being professionals and showing up and competing, and that’s a credit to the staff and that’s a credit to the players.”

On what he would tell the fanbase about his vision for the franchise moving forward:

“Look, words — you can talk all you want about what you want it to look like. The proof’s in the pudding and what the product (is) we put on the field. And we’re going to get there — absolutely, we’re going to get there. There’s no magic wand; there’s not. You have to continue to develop players, you have to continue to work to get this thing right, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

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