If there’s one thing we know about Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, it’s that he always has a trick up his sleeve…even when it looks like he’s backed into a corner.
Ballard appeared to be in that exact situation following the NFL Draft, when he opted against selecting a left tackle with either of his first two picks. That puzzling decision left the Colts in a bind at the position, but he responded, as he typically does, by silencing his critics.
On Monday, the Colts signed Eric Fisher to a one-year, $9.4 million deal, indicating they’re confident he’ll make a full recovery from his Achilles injury.
Given the 30-year-old underwent surgery just four months ago, he obviously won’t be ready for the start of next season.
That concept prompted some fans to speculate whether Charles Leno, who was surprisingly released by the Bears last week, would be a smarter signing.
When push came to shove, however, Frank Reich wanted Fisher over Leno. In fact, according insider Zak Keefer to The Athletic, it wasn’t even all that close.
Colts head coach Frank Reich reportedly wanted Eric Fisher over Charles Leno.
As summarized by SB Nation’s “Stampede Blue” and originally covered in The Athletic (subscription required):
"“The Colts initially had talks with Leno and showed interest, but the focus shifted after Fisher visited later in the week,” Keefer wrote. “Head coach Frank Reich wanted the deal done, and the Colts signed the two-time Pro Bowler on Monday to a one-year deal, according to a league source.”"
While we understand fans who question the idea of signing an aging offensive lineman who’s coming off consecutive seasons in which he missed significant time due to injury, the fact that Reich seemingly didn’t even think twice about signing Fisher over Leno speaks volumes and proves fans should put their differing opinions aside for the time being.
It remains to be seen if Ballard was a Fisher or Leno advocate. However, given the 53-year-old exec’s ties to Fisher during his time with the Chiefs — where he served as the director of football operations before leaving for Indy — you have to think he sided with Reich.
So, why exactly did Reich prefer Fisher over Leno? If we had to guess, we’d say it’s that Fisher (when fully healthy) is the superior athlete and more dominant blocker. While Leno is rock solid and incredibly durable — he’s started 93 consecutive games dating back to 2016 — it’s plausible to assume Fisher will give the Colts more flexibility on offense.
Bottom line? This report makes it seems like Indianapolis was never going to consider signing Leno unless Fisher’s physical and visit went up in flames.
In retrospect, fans probably should’ve seen the Fisher signing coming from a mile away. As evidenced by the Carson Wentz trade, Reich is a habitual risk-taker and will stop at nothing to obtain the player he wants, even if said player is just the slightest bit available.
That, my friends, is exactly what makes the relationship between a head coach and general manager so vital to team success.