INDIANAPOLIS – The praise for Chris Ballard was quite abundant in the 24 hours or so following his official hiring and the introductory press conference on Monday evening.
In case one hadn't been paying attention to what those around the NFL were saying about Ballard's new GM role with the Colts, Jim Irsay was about to one up them all.
How impressed was Irsay after meeting with Ballard last Wednesday for interview No. 1 and again on Sunday afternoon?
"I was thinking about this and I think I can say it with some expertise and some wisdom...I really feel Chris is the best candidate for general manager that has come about so far in the 21st century," Irsay said of a more than 15-year time frame.
"That's how impressed we were with him."
It's extremely high praise for the first-time general manager.
Ballard was the last man standing of a six-person GM personnel pool Irsay met with over the past week.
By NFL standards, the Colts had quite the assortment of emerging personnel men willing to listen to what is waiting in Indianapolis.
"We were fortunate that people were really excited and interested in coming to Indianapolis and being the general manager for the Colts," Irsay said on Monday. "We were proud of that. I talked to every man after we made our decision and told them I could see where easily four out of the six guys that interviewed will be general managers in the next five years."
Irsay called the process a "disciplined, thorough" one.
Informing in-house candidate Jimmy Raye III that he would not be getting the full-time gig was particularly difficult on Irsay. Raye will be retained under Ballard.
But as Irsay thought over the weekend about the six candidates he interviewed Wednesday-Friday, his mind kept on coming back to Ballard, the first man he interviewed.
"Chris' enthusiasm rubs off quickly and I know that his optimism is going to turn into reality," Irsay said.
"But we have a lot of work to do. Him and I talked thoroughly about the roster, where we were at, and obviously he's going to get a better handle on things as he really settles in here and gets working with Coach, Jimmy and all our people in the building."
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