Who deserves more credit for the Colts’ turnaround, Shane Steichen or Chris Ballard?

The Indianapolis Colts had an incredible turnaround in 2023. Who was the catalyst for the success, head coach Shane Steichen or general manager Chris Ballard?
Indianapolis Colts Training Camp
Indianapolis Colts Training Camp / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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The Case for Chris Ballard (continued)

Accountability of past mistakes

At the opening press conference of this season, Ballard spoke about his past failures as his job security was the main news story of this past offseason as the fans were upset about his ability to get a winning roster put together. Ballard will be entering his eighth season and his record as GM is 54-60-1 with two playoff appearances where the team has gone 1-2. He talked about changing his approach to free agency and the draft but we didn’t see much of it so far. With the Colts firmly a contending team now, will he change his strategy a bit and look to bring some big name players in free agency that can help mold some of the youth on this roster. How much impact will Steichen have on this will be seen this offseason.

Relying on the draft is has been and will continue to be a great philosophy but you must be able to mix the two together the best way you can. This past year he did hit some keep pieces including EDGE rusher Samson Ebukam, quarterback Gardner Minshew and kicker Matt Gay. All were contributing players on the roster this past season. Other recent impactful signings included Rodney McLeod (2022), Yannick Ngakoue (2022) and Stephon Gilmore (2022). He has also had his share of draft busts as well. The needs on this team for this offseason will be another long list that will truly show if he can change up his approach to free agency and the draft

Belief in his process

Ballard biggest belief in building a team is having strong trench play, meaning strong offensive and defensive line play. He has built that so far in his tenure. He has drafted two pro bowl offensive linemen (Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith) and has drafted two more everyday starters (Will Fries and Bernhard Raimann). On the defensive line one of the first moves he made as GM was to trade for All-Pro DeForest Buckner and then draft Grover Stewart. They have been the anchor of that unit for many seasons now. As mentioned already in the article, Ballard seems to have a loyalty to many of his players and staff. Sometimes to a fault. This was apparent in his handling of the quarterbacks since the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck.

He played a bit of musical chairs with all the players. He seemed afraid to draft the quarterback out of fear of failure so he trying to go with semi-proven veteran to continue to band-aid the situation. Now, this year, when he finally took the swing on a new franchise quarterback (Richardson) he gets a season ending shoulder injury that ended his season. The drafting of Richardson showed he was finally willing to alter his beliefs of keeping a veteran quarterback under center. He will need to look into more veteran locker room guys instead of relying on youth in certain positions. With the Colts being contenders now instead of a re-build the veteran leadership that can be brought in free agency will be more important than ever.