Chris Ballard Admits Frank Reich Was Not Top 5 Choice
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INDIANAPOLIS – It was candid, refreshing and it was Chris Ballard becoming a man of his word.
When Ballard was hired in January 2017, he delivered a statement that his predecessor never wanted to publically state, and then follow up on.
“I’m going to make some mistakes and I’ll own them,” Ballard said.
On Tuesday, following the press conference introducing Frank Reich as the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Ballard was admitting a mistake, even though he didn’t really need to.
The belief around why the Colts didn’t interview Reich during the Wild Card week was because the then Eagles offensive coordinator was solely focused on playoff prep.
Reich told his agent he was “going dark” if any team wanted to contact him for an interview.
No texts. No calls. All about preparing for the playoffs.
But Ballard let fans in on a secret Tuesday.
Reich wasn’t in the top 5 of his initial list of 8-9 coaching candidates he wanted to interview.
That list was all but shredded when Josh McDaniels turned his back on the Colts last week.
Frank Reich was on the new list though.
Once Ballard sat down with Reich for nearly 10 hours last Friday, the GM felt like an idiot.
“I thought after I got done interviewing him, ‘My lord, what was I thinking?’” Ballard said on Tuesday.
Even Owner Jim Irsay acknowledged the Colts initially whiffed on not looking into Reich.
“The more I think, ‘Jim, How come you are so stupid? How could you not have seen the clarity in this sooner,’” Irsay said after Reich’s introductory press conference.
When Ballard had to scramble to find a new head coach, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was quite high on Reich.
Ballard and Pederson worked together in Kansas City for 3 years, so that prior relationship certainly factored into the new path that the Colts GM was having to go down.
“Doug said, ‘Chris, you are not going to find a better character man, and a better teammate, a better leader in front of the room than Frank Reich,’” Ballard says of the endorsement coming from the Super Bowl winning head coach.
In Ballard’s interview with Reich, he quickly saw the qualities he was looking for: a leader, a big picture vision, honest, smart, adaptable, can communicate, is a teacher and a partner.
Once word spread that Reich was interviewing with the Colts, the soon-to-be head coach was bombarded with texts from people around the league expressing their praise for Ballard and his integrity and talent evaluation.
After the two sat down last Friday, it was clear their visions mirrored each other.
“Our vision matched in terms of our people, our process, how we wanted to play the game both offensively and defensively,” Ballard said. “That’s hard to find. GM and head coaches, when you are not on the same page philosophically, it’s hard to make it work. I do have a vision of how I want us to play. If you ask any coach or GM in this league, if they are not on the same vision of how they want to play, it’s not going to work. You will be drafting players that don’t fit the scheme. That’s hard. That’s difficult.”
It’s been a whirlwind first month and a half to 2018 for Ballard.
From the highs of thinking McDaniels was his guy, to the low of being stood up.
Lessons were learned.
The one that stands out the most?
“Things work out,” Ballard says. “When you do things right and you are honest, things work out.”
Ballard was wrong initially.
Given a second chance, will he be right, with Reich?