Week 17 Thoughts from Around the NFL

| January 4th, 2022

The Bears may not be playing meaningful games down the stretch, but it seems that just about every other game has some relevance.

  • Another big Colts game, another big Colts loss. And once again, it rests squarely on the shoulders of Carson Wentz, an awful player who cost the team, and their much-ballyhooed GM, a first-round pick. But if you’re hoping to find a national journalist critical of Chris Ballard, good luck. It won’t happen. Ballard is a good talent evaluator and he’s built a good roster. But he’s saddled that roster with a total liability at the most important position in sports and that gives the club a definitive ceiling.
  • Giving interim coaches the full-time gig rarely works but Rich Bisaccia is making a good case in Vegas. That team has been laden with adversity, and they just keep winning. Ed Graney’s lede in the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “The man has gone from not understanding how to operate a headset to making the most important decision of a Raiders season. Rich Bisaccia sure is taking this whole interim head coach label to another level. Someone alert Hollywood. The Raiders are one win from needing a screenplay.” 
    • The job Bisaccia is doing has some Bruce Arians in Indy vibes. The Jags, Bears, etc. should all add him to their interview list.
  • A famous coach maxim was always “you can’t coach accuracy at quarterback”. Well, the Eagles should spend the off-season trying to do it. Because Jalen Hurts has every intangible you’d want at the position. But man, he couldn’t hit a strip club in Tampa.
  • Joe Judge gave a nearly 12-minute answer at his postgame presser, attempting to defend his record with the Giants. Something happens to these New England assistants. They seem to think they have something to do with the program’s success. They don’t. (Except one. See two points below.)
  • People who care about Antonio Brown need to get him help. This kind of behavior is headed towards a tragic end. He’s not well and he needs treatment.
  • The difference between Mac Jones and the other rookies (Wilson, Lawrence, Fields) is coaching. The latter three have been out there fending for themselves. Jones is executing a meticulously detailed game plan that fits his game to perfection. Josh McDaniels has been the assistant coach of the year in the NFL.

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A Note on Chris Ballard, the Media and What Might Be Coming Sunday

| October 1st, 2020

Jason La Canfora does this a lot.

And he’s not alone.

There are a good number of (mostly national) football writers who go out of their way to take shots at Ryan Pace’s Chicago Bears whenever they see the opportunity. The reason is not Ryan Pace. The reason is Chris Ballard, the current General Manager of the Indianapolis Colts.

Very few personnel men in the league were as, let’s just say, open with the media as Ballard. His press friends were many. Folks like Matt Miller and La Canfora trusted his scouting word as gospel and they promoted him for just about every GM opening that came around.

When the Bears interviewed Ballard for the gig that eventually went to Pace, the former was unsurprisingly vocal. He told people around the league the job was his to lose. He even said that to one of the other contenders for the gig! Ballard considered the interview process a foregone conclusion, believing that George and Ted would go with a known, comfortable commodity in the wake of the failed Phil Emery experiment.

He didn’t get the job. Not because he wasn’t a qualified candidate, mind you. The Bears quite liked Chris Ballard before and during the process. Ballard didn’t get hired because Pace blew the doors off the joint. He was smart, detailed and charismatic. And the endorsement given by Sean Payton was one of the more enthusiastic they’d experienced. The Bears didn’t just believe in Pace. They believed in his vision for what the Bears could and should be.

Ballard did not take this rejection well.

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Some More “Inside” Information on the Hiring of Matt Nagy

| January 11th, 2018

There’s a lot of information available about the hiring of Matt Nagy, with nobody writing a more detailed piece than Adam Jahns. But here’s some info that, until now, wasn’t available.

  • Chris Ballard and the Colts thought Nagy was going to be their next coach. Wanna know how close Ballard and Nagy are? Their kids are on the same youth sports teams in wherever-they-live Kansas City. These guys aren’t just colleagues. They are friends.
  • When Ryan Pace asked Nagy what he was thinking for the defensive side of the ball, Nagy responded that the team should do everything in their power to retain Vic Fangio. He supplied 5-6 other names he believed would be good choices but was effusively in favor of Fangio finishing what he started. The Bears were impressed.
  • Matt Nagy’s agent is former Bear Trace Armstrong. Armstrong’s rookie contract was negotiated by his agent, Tom Condon, and the Bears’ Ted Phillips. Phillips, Condon and Armstrong have maintained a close relationship for years. Phillips is a big reason that Nagy chose the Bears over the Colts. As I was told, Armstrong argued strongly to Nagy, “You NEED to be in Chicago. These guys are great.”
  • Nagy walking into the room with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand in his pocket was one of the most impressive moments of the entire interview process for the Bears. Hiestand is the best OL coach in the country. Bears knew that firsthand.

That’s all I got. Now Nagy will build the rest of his staff and away we go.

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Notes on GM Candidates: Chris Ballard, Lake Dawson & Brian Gaine

| January 6th, 2015

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers


Sometimes other writers do your work for you. I was readying an email to former Bears scouting director Greg Gabriel to arrange a podcast re: Ballard when I came across a piece by Bucs blogger Sander Philipse. (To read the entire piece, and you should, CLICK HERE.) Here are some thoughts from Gabriel:

“Chris was a very strong defensive evaluator and he was excellent with defensive backs. And the whole time I was there, Chris cross-checked defensive backs. So he knew number one what we were looking for, number two he knew the personality of the coach, and knew if the coach could work with the kid and knew if the kid could prosper under the coach. There’s not a lot of scouts, who can do that who have that skill. That’s where he was very very strong.”

“[Charles] Tillman, that was Chris’ guy. [Cornerback] Nate Vasher we took in the fourth round from Texas. Now that’s a great example, because Chris had a very strong conviction on Nate Vasher. Nate at his pro day didn’t run very good. Now his agility drills and stuff were outstanding.”

Ballard wanted to really sell Vasher, though. He was convinced Vasher was going to be good. So he went back to Texas to time him again, and gets a tenth of a second off his time. Gabriel said “What did you do, strap jet engines to his ankles?” But Ballard really believed in Vasher, and just told Gabriel “Oh no man, he can do it. He can run real good!”

“But fact of the matter is Nate Vasher, he couldn’t run fast!” Gabriel says. “And I always harassed Ballard about that after, but he was so quick and so instinctive he became an All-Pro. Fourth-round pick and he went to the Pro Bowl!”

It wasn’t just defense, though that certainly is Ballard’s specialty. “[Running back] Matt Forte was another guy. Chris and I both had a strong conviction. Jerry (Angelo) wasn’t as sold on Forte as Chris and I were.” Forte has since made it to two Pro Bowls and has been a very large part of the Bears’ offense since being drafted.

Ballard is a former defensive coach and defensive back specialist interviewing for a job desperate for that expertise. It is one of many reasons I believe he will be the next GM of the Chicago Bears.

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Diving Into the Offseason: GM Interviews, Coaching Candidates & the Free Agent List

| January 5th, 2015


  • Bears set to interview Lake Dawson (Tuesday) and Chris Ballard (Wednesday) for their GM position, per Adam Schefter. You know what I’d like to see from the Bears this week? Once they identify the guy they want, hire him. If Ballard is the guy they’ve truly wanted since even before they fired Phil Emery a week ago (as was suggested in multiple locations), don’t let him leave Halas Hall Wednesday without discussing terms of the contract and scheduling the press conference for Thursday morning. The firings of Emery and Trestman were decisive actions by owner George McCaskey. Let’s keep that decisiveness going.
  • Here’s what worries me about Todd Bowles: his sideline demeanor reminds me of Marc Trestman and Lovie Smith and Dick Jauron. Bruce Arians described Bowles as “soft-spoken” and haven’t we seen how sideline stoicism plays in the city of Chicago? You can call this a non-issue if you like but the lack of fire and passion from the Bears has been a major issue over the last two seasons. McCaskey should be looking for a man to change that.
  • Second thought on this. Jim Fassel coached the Giants to a Super Bowl appearance during his time with the Giants but he was a nightmare off the field and was way too lenient with his players inside the locker room. Longtime Giants owner Wellington Mara wanted to follow Fassel with the polar opposite. He went to Tom Coughlin. Giants won two titles.

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Three Things I Really Like About Potential Bears GM Chris Ballard

| January 2nd, 2015


WANTS the job.

When the Jets mentioned Ballard in their initial GM search beat writer Manish Mehta Tweeted the following:

Intriguing GM possibility for the Jets: Chiefs executive Chris Ballard. Feeling is Bears might be his top choice though.

This was Monday morning, just hours after Phil Emery had been fired, and Ballard’s camp was already letting media folks in other markets know he had his eyes squarely focused on Chicago. While the Chicago media seems hell bent on convincing fans nobody wants these jobs (completely untrue, by the way) here is a guy who would break down the doors of Halas Hall to take over the operation.

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