Chris Ballard vs Ryan Grigson: Part I

Ryan Grigson

As Chris Ballard enters his fourth year as the Indianapolis Colts General Manager, he has been praised as the next best executive in the league.  This is despite making only one playoff appearance in three years.  Indianapolis Colts fans have been clamoring how bad of a General Manager Ryan Grigson was despite Indy making the playoffs in three out of five years.  In fact, many Colts fans blame Grigson for the early retirement of Andrew Luck.  A notable divide has recently brewed in Indianapolis amongst fans in a debate between Ballard vs Grigson.  To his credit, Colts fans forget Grigson found talent in unconventional ways including the waivers and CFL.

Chris Ballard vs Ryan Grigson

The Colts hired Ballard after terminating Grigson in early 2017.  In the eyes of Colts fans, Ballard could do no wrong whereas Grigson was blamed for all bad things in the state of Indiana.  Comparisons between the two were inevitable considering their polarizing personalities and strategies.

SPOILER ALERT: That is exactly what I am going to do.

This will be a six-part series looking in-depth in the debate of Chris Ballard vs Ryan Grigson.  We will evaluate draft picks, free agency, and trades completed by each General Manager.  Each will be compared on a year-to-year basis.  In the end, I will objectively decide who was better.  Part I will look at the first year of each General Manager: Ryan Grigson in 2012 and Chris Ballard in 2017.

Disclaimer: Not every free agent signing will be shown.

Grigson 2012 Off-Season: The Beginning to a New Era

Free Agency

MLB Jerrell Freeman: 3-year, $1,460,000

Signed from the CFL, many expected Freeman to be a backup player at best.  After his first year, Freeman was a player worth building around.  Freeman was able to rack up 478 tackles, 21 TFL, 12 sacks, and four INTs.  Freeman was a leader and a stout LB that was good against the run and athletic enough to make any play on the field.  It was shocking when Freeman didn’t receive a contract extension after 2015.  POSITIVE SIGNING

DE Cory Redding: three-year, $10,500,000

A veteran at this stage of his career, Redding was expected to anchor a young defense on the defensive line.  Although the numbers don’t usually jump off the stat sheet in a 3-4 defense for defensive linemen, Redding was a solid player.   POSITIVE SIGNING

C Samson Satele: three-year $10,800,000

Satele was a five-year starter for the Miami Dolphins and the formerly known, Oakland Raiders.  However, Satele was a liability on the Colts constantly allowing pressure up the middle and made Andrew Luck’s life a living hell. NEGATIVE SIGNING

OG Mike McGlynn: two-year, $2,650,000 

Similar to Satele, McGlynn was a previous starter.  Also similar to Satele, he was a liability on the line and did not last long in Indy. NEGATIVE SIGNING

WR Donnie Avery: one-year, $665,000

Avery played as the number two/three receiver.  He accumulated 60 receptions, 781 yards, and three touchdowns.  Avery was a consistent player and even had a game-winning touchdown as time expired against the Lions. POSITIVE SIGNING

WR Reggie Wayne: three-year, $17,500,000 

Reggie is a Colts legend.  It was presumed that Wayne had already played his final game in Indy.  In 2012, Wayne was one of the best receivers in the league finishing with 106 receptions, 1,355 yards, and five touchdowns.  Unfortunately, Wayne tore his ACL in 2013 and was never the same.  His leadership still helped the locker room filled with young players.   POSITIVE SIGNING


#1 Overall Pick: QB Andrew Luck
#34 Overall Pick: TE Coby Fleener
#64 Overall Pick: TE Dwayne Allen
#92 Overall Pick: WR T.Y. Hilton (Traded Pick #97 and 2013 Fifth to San Fransisco 49ers)
#136 Overall Pick: NT Josh Chapman
#170th Overall Pick: RB Vick Ballard
#206th Overall Pick: WR LaVon Brazill
#208th Overall Pick: OL Justin Anderson
#214th Overall Pick: DE Tim Fugger
#253rd Overall Pick: QB Chandler Harnish

Best Player in Draft: Andrew Luck

It was reported Colts Owner Jim Irsay informed all interviewees for the vacant General Manager position that joining the Colts staff included drafting Luck.  Luck was regarded as the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning.  Luck lived up to all the hype with three playoff appearances in his first three years including an AFCCG appearance in 2014.  With a .616 winning percentage, Andrew Luck was the epitome of a franchise quarterback.  A TD-INT ratio of 2.06 puts Luck 15th on the list all-time.  Eventually, injuries and loss of the love of the game were reasons why he retired in 2019.  It’s hard to even include this pick for or against Grigson because this was an Irsay pick.

Notable Player in Draft: T.Y. Hilton

The Colts made arguably the best pick during the Ryan Grigson era by selecting a speedy receiver out of Florida International.  Hilton was projected as a slot receiver.  Indy already had one of the best slot wide receivers in the league in Austin Collie.  It did not take long for the league to take notice and realize Hilton was consistently one of the best receivers in the league.  Averaging 70 catches, over 1,000 yards, and almost six touchdowns a year, Hilton is one of the most underrated receivers and embodies what it means to wear the Horseshoe.

Rest of Draft

Even the rest of the draft class was a pretty solid group overall.  Fleener and Allen were big red zone targets totaling over 3,000 yards and 36 touchdowns.  Chapman from Alabama was hyped by the Colts coaching staff but ended up being an average starter for two seasons.  POSITIVE DRAFT


OT Winston Justice: Swapped Sixth Rounders with Philadelphia Eagles

Winston Justice started at right tackle for the Colts for one season.  He was the definition of an average starter.  NEUTRAL TRADE

CB Vontae Davis: 2013 Second Rounder to Miami Dolphins

Davis is arguably the best cornerback in Colts history.  He was a lockdown cornerback for five seasons with the Colts until his injury-riddled sixth season where he was cut.  Davis racked up 210 tackles, 13 interceptions, and 65 pass breakups in 76 games with Indy.  Davis earned a bad reputation for retiring with the Buffalo Bills mid-game during Week 1.  However, people should not forget how great of a player he was.  POSITIVE TRADE

Ballard 2017 Season: A Reset with Veteran Leadership

Free Agency

LB John Simon: 3-year, $13,500,000

Simon was signed to be a reliable veteran on a team that was in desperate need of reconstruction.  Every season Simon had been in the league, he had played more and improved on that play.  In 2017, Simon had 43 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, three sacks, and a pass breakup in nine games.  Considering how bad the team was and playing in limited time due to injury, Simon had a good season.  Surprisingly, this was Simon’s lone season with the Colts as he was cut after the 2017 season. NEGATIVE SIGNING

EDGE Jabaal Sheard: 3-year, $25,500,000

Sheard has been a force on the Colts defensive line.  He was signed as a veteran presence on a team lacking leadership.  In three years in Indy, he had 94 tackles, 28 tackles for a loss, 36 QB hits, and 15.5 sacks.  Sheard was never known to be an elite pass rusher, but he was a sound overall player that does many things well.  POSITIVE SIGNING

NT/DT Al Woods: 2-year, $4,000,000

A prevalent theme that was constant during the 2017 off-season as another veteran was signed to help the locker room.  Al Woods had never been a flashy player.  However, Woods was a force in the middle of the defensive line by clogging up lanes and taking on multiple blockers.  Consequently, this allowed linebackers to roam freely to make plays.  POSITIVE SIGNING

DT/DE Margus Hunt: 2-year, $4,100,000

Hunt was a draft bust with the Cincinnati Bengals.  As a six-foot-eight, 300-pound behemoth, Hunt was signed with the Colts as a depth player.  However, in his first year with the Colts, Hunt had just as many tackles and quarterback hits and more tackles for a loss than his four seasons with the Bengals.  A move from defensive end to defensive tackle helped Hunt by having a career year with five sacks and 13 tackles for a loss in 2018.  POSITIVE SIGNING

DT Jonathan Hankins: 3-year, $27,000,000

As a run-stopper, Hankins was one of the best, young defensive tackles in the league.  After playing as a full-time starter with the New York Giants, Hankins was looking to cash in.  In his first year, Hankins was worth the contract starting alongside Al Woods.  Hankins commanded the middle of the line.  After 2017, Indy transitioned from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense.  This meant the Colts were looking for smaller and more explosive players along the line which Hankins did not fit the mold.  A positive was the first year on Hankins’s contract was fully guaranteed.  This resulted in zero dead money on the cap.  NEUTRAL SIGNING


#15 Overall Pick: FS Malik Hooker
#46 Overall Pick: CB Quincy Wilson

#80 Overall Pick: EDGE Tarell Basham
#137 Overall Pick: OT Zach Banner
#143 Overall Pick: RB Marlon Mack (Pick #143 and Pick #161 fr0m SF for Pick #121)
#144 Overall Pick: DT Grover Stewart
#158 Overall Pick: CB Nate Hairston
#161 Overall Pick: LB Anthony Walker

Best Player in Draft: Anthony Walker

In his rookie season, Walker was relegated to backup and special team duties.  Fast forward to 2020, and Walker is one of the leaders of the defense.  However, in his second season, Walker was a starter for the Colts.  In two seasons, Walker amassed 251 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, four sacks, and two interceptions.  He is a linebacker who is stout against the run and has a high IQ.

Notable Player in Draft: Marlon Mack

As a change of pace back, Mack served his role accumulating almost 600 total yards with four touchdowns.  Since taking over as a starter, Mack racked up almost 2,200 total yards and 18 total touchdowns.  Just like Walker, Mack enters a contract year competing for snaps with Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor.

Rest of Draft

Ballard did a good job in his first draft with the Colts by finding three starters.  Hooker has been a good player as a single-high safety.  Stewart has been a solid player as a rotational player along the defensive line until he took over as the starter in 2019.  Wilson was a depth player and never lived up to his hype.  Ironically, the later picks were better than the early ones.  POSITIVE DRAFT

*Fun fact: All the players from the Colts 2017 draft are either still on the Colts or the New York Jets.*


Pick #137: Dwayne Allen and Pick #200 to New England Patriots

This move was essentially done to dump Allen’s contract.  Jack Doyle was ready to take over as the new starter on the roster and has not looked back since.  The Colts ended up drafting Zach Banner with the pick.  He did not end up working out, but the Colts freed up salary space which was their primary objective. NEUTRAL TRADE

QB Jacoby Brissett: Phillip Dorsett to New England

Brissett is a competent player who can right the ship in an emergency situation which was the case with Indy.  Dorsett was a bust for the Colts and ended up being an average player for the Patriots.  This was a win-win for all parties.  POSITIVE TRADE

*Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore were claimed off of waivers.  Both players ended up starting for several years.*

Chris Ballard vs Ryan Grigson: Year One Comparisons

Grigson Quality Starters

  • Andrew Luck
  • Jerrell Freeman
  • Cory Redding
  • Reggie Wayne
  • T.Y. Hilton
  • Coby Fleener
  • Dwayne Allen
  • Vontae Davis

Grigson Quality Depth

  • Donnie Avery
  • Josh Chapman

Ballard Quality Starters

  • Jabaal Sheard
  • Al Woods
  • Malik Hooker
  • Marlon Mack
  • Grover Stewart
  • Anthony Walker
  • Kenny Moore
  • Pierre Desir

Ballard Quality Depth

  • Margus Hunt
  • Jacoby Brissett
  • Quincy Wilson

Both General Managers had a successful offseason building a team in year one.  Although the Ballard Colts went 4-12 in 2017 compared to the Grigson Colts going 11-5, context matters when looking at the entire picture.  Luck was healthy in 2012 and missed the entire season in 2017.  As previously mentioned, Grigson will not receive credit for drafting Luck.  However, finding cornerstone pieces like Davis and Hilton are impressive achievements.

Chris Ballard vs Ryan Grigson Year One: RYAN GRIGSON

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images