INDIANAPOLIS – The signing of a dozen free agents (the most in franchise history), the drafting of six defensive players (the most since 2010) all made for a pretty eventful first offseason as general manager for Chris Ballard.
But arguably Ballard's most fascinating addition came earlier this month.
Who is new player personnel strategist Brian Decker?
Here is Decker's lone bullet point from his NFL resume:
- 2014-15 Cleveland Browns Player Personnel Strategist: Worked closely with the general manager to develop and refine systems/processes related to the team's talent acquisition strategy. Decker was responsible for assessing the character and make-up of players under consideration in the draft or free agency.
Decker finding his way into the NFL came from his 22 years of military service.
Achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Special Forces, his last assignment was Commander of Special Forces Assessment and Selection. In a role analogous to the general manager in sports, Decker developed an empirically driven approach to selection integrating quantitative and qualitative data to select soldiers with qualities to succeed as a Green Beret. He has consulted in all major professional sports on selection and development of players with the high-performance mindset.
With the Colts, Decker is going to play a pivotal role in assessing the character of potential Colts.
In various radio interviews with 1070 The Fan, Ballard has explained why he wanted Decker on board:
On the hiring of Decker: "I'd read the article on ESPN, I know (former Cleveland personnel men) Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi, and they both had been, 'Hey man, this guy's really good. He's really good at what he does.' So I called and arranged a meeting and we met. We've met a few times before, and just his vision and helping define---we talk about grit and we talk about certain characteristics that we want in players, but do we really know what we're looking for? And he's going to help put that process together and what it means to be a Colt and define what it is to be a Colt and help us make better decisions when we're picking players off the board."
On Decker's involvement: "One of the biggest things that I take from Brian because he's a process guy and when you make decisions you can't just make them and shoot from the hip and make decisions. So when we're looking at (players), he's not going to look at the talent base, he's going to look at the character base and then help us make decisions on what we can handle. There was a couple guys in (the 2017) draft who had character red flags, and we forget, guys are young and they make mistakes. To me, when you bring a guy into your building that has some problems, you've got to be able to manage them and help them get better. And there's certain characteristics that each guy has that they can (have) the ability to overcome, so basic intelligence, their ability, they've overcome something in life, all those things he's really good (at), and he did it for the military. He helped define their process of how they were finding officers and I think he can do it in our league also."
On the research he will have to do before speaking with prospects: "What we'll do, so when the scout goes on the road, I mean really a scout, they become investigative reporters when they're on the road. I mean, they're digging for (everything). I always tell our guys we want to get it as close to the hole as we can, because you never really know until you live with a guy, until you get him in the building and you live every day with that player or that person or anybody you hire, you don't know. So you've done all this research and you've talked to every source you can talk to and you've got every story about a player, but trying to get it as close to the hole as we can, and that's what Brian will help us do. He'll help our scouts ask the right questions when they're on the road to help dig out information, and then he'll take that information and use it going forward to help formulate, 'Hey, these are the guys.' All we're doing is (asking) what's the risk level when we take a guy? And when we take a guy that has some risk, we've got to be able to make it work. And what risks are worth it and what ones are not?"
To sum it up, Ballard is looking for Decker to further aid the Colts in the evaluation process.
"What he brings," Ballard says of Decker, "is he helps us to define what a Colt is, and helping us to find the right type of character that we want to bring into this building."
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