We're close enough here in Indianapolis to get a pretty clear signal of Chicago's sports talk radio stations. So it doesn't take much effort to find the thing that's dominating the airwaves 180 miles up I-65 – and, no, 670 The Score isn't fielding many calls on the state of the White Sox right now.
All anybody in Chicago seems to want to know is what the return for the No. 1 pick will be if and/or when the Bears trade it in the coming weeks or months. With the Colts evaluating draft-eligible quarterbacks and holding the No. 4 overall pick, are they a natural trade partner for the Bears? Do they have to move up to No. 1 to make sure they get their guy?
"This is what's great right now," Colts general manager Chris Ballard said in the midst of an NFL Combine press conference well-attended by Chicago-based media members. "Everybody has just automatically stamped that you've gotta move up to No. 1 to get it right. I don't know if I agree with that. I don't.
"But that's going to be the narrative. But that's okay, y'all gotta write something, you gotta keep the news flowing. But I don't necessarily know if that's the right course of business. If when we meet as a staff and we say, okay, this is what we need to do, this is the guy for the nexts 10-15 years and we think he's the right guy, sure, we'll do it.
"But who's to say we won't get one at four."
The most important thing Ballard stressed on Wednesday is that the Colts will only try to move up in the draft if "we were just convicted that this is no freakin' doubt, the guy," he said.
Notably, this is what Ballard said back in January, when he was asked if he believed a quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft was "the guy" he would move heaven and earth to get that player.
"Yes, I'd do whatever it takes," Ballard said then. "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."
The context of that January question seemed to get lost a bit when that quote made the rounds across the NFL media landscape in the days after Ballard said it. There was an important qualifier there, one that started with the word if.
Fast-forward to March 1, and Ballard's stance hasn't changed, and it still starts with if. But the Colts are still deep in the evaluation process for this year's group of quarterbacks. Shane Steichen, remember, was hired as head coach barely two weeks ago. His focus has been on putting a coaching staff together – a focus that started a few days after he coordinated an offense that scored 35 points in the Super Bowl – and he'll be heavily involved in the process in building out the Colts' quarterback wishlist in the 2023 NFL Draft. But on the first day of March, it's far too early to say Ballard, Steichen and the Colts' football operations department and coaching staff have conviction on a singular player in this year's draft.
"As we work through this, each guy's got special qualities," Ballard said. "And is there a separating factor within their play where you think, okay, there is no doubt this guy fits what we want to do, and he's worthy of moving up for. I'm not ready to say that yet.
"I'm not ready to say there's that one that's stood out."
View photos of general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Shane Steichen during their media availabilities at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
Ballard stressed that the Colts have done plenty of work on the quarterbacks in this year's draft – work that began long before the 2022 college season began, by the way. But right now, the qualifiers of "if" and "maybe" are the most important words – not "will" or "should."
"Let's just say we stay at 4, and I can just see the headlines," Ballard said. "But at the end of the day we gotta believe in who we're taking, we're going to win with him.
"It would be easy for us to take one to get y'all off our (butts). But we got to be right. We got to be right."
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