Colts’ Jim Irsay Sends Message to GM Chris Ballard: ‘Expectations Are There’

Jim Irsay

Getty Colts owner Jim Irsay said expectations are high for general manager Chris Ballard in 2023.

Entering 2023, the expectation for the Indianapolis Colts was to draft a rookie quarterback prospect. But since the Carolina Panthers traded up to No. 1 and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson requested a trade, uncertainty has returned regarding the team’s future signal caller.

The quarterback position has been the biggest issue for the Colts in recent years. Although the team has just one playoff appearance since Andrew Luck’s retirement (2019), Irsay still believes in his general manager Chris Ballard.

In a March 28 story by The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, Irsay said Ballard’s job is currently not in question but noted that expectations are high in 2023.

“Everyone has to be successful to keep their job if you’re a general manager or head coach,” Irsay said. “I really feel that he’s not on some quick, hot seat. But the expectations are there.”

A notable takeaway Keefer had is that Irsay’s comment is a different tune than what he’s sang in the past: “I really see him being here for a really long time.”

Keefer also revealed that Irsay “does not believe in fully guaranteed contracts,” which could directly affect how the team handles the Jackson situation this offseason.

Ballard’s History as GM

Under Ballard’s leadership (six seasons), the Colts have made two playoff appearances and notched a 45-52-1 record.

Each season during his Colts tenure, Ballard has led the draft day charge. He’s nailed some draft picks and pre-draft trades in the past.

For example, he took Quenton Nelson (round 1) and Leonard (round 2) in 2018 and gave up a first-rounder for All-Pro DeForest Buckner in 2020.

As Keefer put it, recent “disappointment and dysfunction” culminated in 2022 when the team went 4-12-1 under interim head coach Jeff Saturday. Saturday, who did not have any previous professional coaching experience, finished with a 1-7 record.

To counter that, the Colts reworked aspects of their organization this offseason. The team added Steichen, free agents like Samson Ebukam and Isaiah McKenzie and announced that it’s retaining Pro Bowlers Kenny Moore II and Ryan Kelly. Indianapolis is also set to get Jonathan Taylor and Shaquille Leonard back from injury.

Given the team’s positive draft history, current roster talent and 2023 offseason moves, the team must now focus on its biggest need — quarterback. Recent struggles at that position have made it even more important for the Colts to address it.

The Need For a QB

It seems like a move at quarterback with the No. 4 pick – whether that’s drafting a rookie or trading for Jackson – is essentially the only option for the Colts entering 2023.

The team has spent the last four seasons with four different starting quarterbacks, and Irsay has been vocal about changing that standard this offseason.

Keefer noted that the Colts were not ready to move up to No. 1 as soon as Carolina did because Indianapolis wanted to evaluate all options.

“They weren’t convinced at that point that one of the quarterbacks was worth it, partly because they hadn’t finished scouting and researching and digging into the prospects,” Keefer wrote.

The prospect of trading for an MVP-caliber, proven quarterback like Jackson is enticing. He could fill in and be the final piece to a young, developing Colts offense.

In addition to hiring Steichen, this offseason’s work has primarily been focused on addressing a future longtime starting quarterback — whether that’s Jackson or an up-and-coming prospect.

“We’re looking for the future guy,” Irsay said. “And we want the guy that can be here for the next 10 years.”

Irsay reemphasized the notion that Ballard will be leading the charge to identify and acquire the team’s next quarterback with direct assistance from head coach Shane Steichen.

Indianapolis’ need for a quarterback combined with Steichen’s previous experience with different-style signal callers are notable reasons why Steichen was brought in as the team’s new head coach.

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