What’s the point of winning if you do it with bad people?
Fans and media ponder what they would do if they ran a professional sports franchise, and over the years I have developed what I believe to be a solid formula for building a Super Bowl level roster. Without getting lost in the weeds, I would build from the inside out, draft speed, and have a very strict adherence to filling the locker room with men committed to sacrificing personal status for the glory of the whole. Then I would make damn sure I had a quarterback capable of winning a lot of games.
In dealing with the media, I would be as honest as I could be without shoving any of my players or coaches under a bus. And I would hire coaches who agreed that winning must validate a philosophy about the goodness of man – which is the antithesis of “Just win, Baby!”
If that sounds familiar, we are watching Colts General Manager Chris Ballard execute a very detailed version of that blueprint for greatness. If his work is not ultimately responsible for championship level football, the Colts will lose and I am going to have to admit that I am wrong – and I do not like admitting I’m wrong about this kind of thing.
The current Colts locker room is filled with men who understand a rising tide lifts all boats. They are a pleasure to listen to as they talk to the media and each other. They care about their brothers and team. That has not always been the case. If you want to know who Ballard identified as the bad eggs when he took control of Ryan Grigson’s roster, check the moves he made during that first year.
If you want to know how honest Ballard is willing to be with the media and fans, all you had to do was listen to Friday’s Dan Dakich Show on 107.5 the Fan in Indianapolis. He went after former Jets GM and current ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum’s take on running back Marlon Mack with ill-temper and (almost) raw language:
“Let me say this, watch the freakin’ tape. You can’t tweet on things if you are not…that’s why I don’t listen to any of that crap. Now, somebody that watches games and watches the tape, he’s got a voice. But how can you say that? Marlon Mack was freakin’ unbelievable. Did he not watch the freakin’ Sunday Night game against Kansas City? I almost cussed on radio. Stupidity on Twitter is at an all-time high right now. Marlon Mack has two 1,000-yard seasons and Marlon Mack is a hell of a player. And then he has a broken hand and misses some games and comes back and plays with a broken hand. Off season, my ass.”
It’s not lost on me (or you) that Grigson’s teams had a cumulative record of 49-31 record that featured exactly zero losing seasons, while Ballard is 21-27 after three years with two losing seasons. Jacoby Brissett was the quarterback in Ballard’s two losing seasons, so there is that, but a GM is what his record says he is.
While the record is not yet stellar, the offensive line is believed to be the best in the NFL, and with DeForest Buckner added to the defensive front, the interior has been built to win. The running game should be in good shape with Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor. If T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell stay healthy ( a bit of a long shot), they are a dynamic pair complemented by rookie Michael Pittman, Jr.
Everything is set for the Colts to make a run, except for the most important position in sports – quarterback. With Andrew Luck, this group could go to the Super Bowl, but as we know too well, Luck retired. So the burden of getting the Colts to where the other 52 players are capable of taking them falls on the soon-to-be 39-year-old shoulders of Philip Rivers, whose 20 picks played a significant role in the Chargers 5-11 record in 2019.
There will be two very stark truths that need to be acknowledged if Rivers’ tank is empty as some suspect – Ballard’s method for team building is flawed, and as a result so will be mine.
What the hell fun is watching NFL teams if not for second guessing the HMFIC running things. Sadly for me, if Ballard fails as a GM, I will have no high ground upon which to build my fictitious throne of genius. I’ll be the dope who agrees with the dope, unless the Colts win big, and then you’ll never hear the end of how smart I think I am.
Fast men who prioritize team ahead of individuals win football games – that’s how you win. At least Chris Ballard and I hope so.