Could Chris Ballard walk away from the Colts despite Jim Irsay wanting him to stay?

Nov 13, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard attends pregame at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard attends pregame at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Jim Irsay has made clear that he wants to keep Chris Ballard with the Indianapolis Colts but could Ballard be ready to move on?

When the Indianapolis Colts decided to fire Frank Reich in the middle of the season, many wondered if general manager Chris Ballard would be next. Reich and Ballard have been pretty connected the last five seasons, and there’s an argument that the failures of this season are just as much Ballard’s fault as Reich’s. However, team owner Jim Irsay made clear that he has no desire to move on from Ballard any time soon.

Irsay expressed that immediately after Reich was fired and he doubled down on it in a recent interview with ESPN, saying, “Chris Ballard will be our general manager.” For what it’s worth, Irsay also said Reich’s job was safe a couple of weeks before firing him, so things can change in an instance. For now, it does seem like Irsay really wants to enter the offseason with Ballard remaining as general manager.

But, it’s fair to ask, what if that’s not what Chris Ballard wants? Ballard has built a quality reputation for himself in the NFL, so he’ll surely be able to find work elsewhere if he desires. Additionally, anyone who has paid attention to the Colts over the last year can see that Irsay is inserting himself more into all of the major decision-making processes. Could Ballard grow tired of that and move on?

Could Jim Irsay drive Chris Ballard away from the Colts?

In the year 2022, Indianapolis had about four major moves that were all reportedly decided by Jim Irsay. The first was trading away Carson Wentz after one season. The second was benching Matt Ryan with the Colts sitting at 3-3-1. The third and fourth were firing Frank Reich and hiring Jeff Saturday as interim. Based on all reports and awkward press conferences, Irsay was the decision maker behind all of these scrutinized decisions.

In fairness to Irsay, he is the team owner, so he’s well within his right to make these decisions. Additionally, Irsay also served as Indy’s general manager from 1984 to 1996, so he knows the game and has the general manager experience to make decisions. However, Irsay also pays Ballard to make these general manager decisions, so it’s understandable if Ballard grows frustrated because he doesn’t have the freedom to operate how he would like.

Does that mean this will probably be Ballard’s last season with the Colts? Probably not. For starters, Ballard is under contract through the 2026 season. He could resign but that would make working with another team a bit more complicated. If Ballard resigns while under contract and still wants to work in the league, he’ll need Irsay’s permission before he could even start talking with other franchises. That alone makes Ballard walking away extremely unlikely.

The other part of the equation is that Ballard may not quite be at his breaking point yet. While it’s been clear that he hasn’t agreed with every move that’s happened over the past year, he seemingly has a pretty good relationship with Irsay. With a likely top-five pick, a coaching search, and money to spend this offseason, Ballard is in a position to make a lot of key decisions and help the Colts get back in the mix. If he goes through this coming offseason as an observer while Irsay calls all the shots, then Ballard walking away next season could become a real discussion.