Chris Ballard learning from Theo Epstein, Cubs example
Chris Ballard understands tackling the job of rebuilding the Indianapolis Colts will take time, patience and perhaps a different way of thinking. The task has led him, like many general managers and coaches, to seek insight and inspiration by reading how others have found success managing sports teams.
Ballard is currently engrossed in reading “The Cubs Way,” a book about Theo Epstein — the greatest team-builder of the 21st century, who helped two MLB teams end generation-long championship droughts. Ballard is taking notes on how Epstein turned around a bumbling Chicago Cubs team to find clues on how to build the Colts‘ roster.
“Theo — baseball was getting flat in terms of the analytics and the edge that they were getting from the numbers — so he kind of took a different approach with character,” Ballard said, via ESPN’s Mike Wells. “We want high-character guys that love football, that will hold each other accountable, that will be good teammates. It stuck out like a beacon light.
“Look at the teams that win in this league. It’s culture. Culture wins. It absolutely wins. Football is the greatest team sport. It really is because guys want to have individual success, but they can’t have individual success without their teammates. They can’t do it. Not in this sport. It’s too hard.”
Those of you screaming at your screen “How is what Chris Ballard doing at all like Theo Epstein?” please #calmdown. No one is saying it’s an apples-to-apples comparison. Coaches, GMs, CEOs, executives, players, etc. all glean tidbits from random sources to employ in their own jobs. It’s one reason Patriots coach Bill Belichick owns a vast catalogue of books. And it’s little different than a player being motivated to return from injury after receiving a mean tweet from a Twitter egg. Motivation and information come from all walks of life.
Ballard understands one or two splashy moves won’t turn the Colts from a franchise over-reliant on spectacular play from its quarterback into a consistent, solid team on both sides of the ball.
“It takes time to build a team,” Ballard said. “… Do we have work in front of us? Yes, we do. But it takes time. And the biggest thing that I want to make sure that we’re emphasizing is that competition and they have to earn it. It doesn’t matter where you come from and how we build it or where, from first-round pick to undrafted free agent to street free agent, guy that was cut at the 53-(man roster), future signing.”
Ballard has cleaned out some of the aging remnants of the last regime and signed quality depth and competition at good market value. The additions of Johnathan Hankins, Jabaal Sheard, Margus Hunt, Barkevious Mingo, Al Woods and Sean Spence immediately upgrade one of the worst defensive fronts in football.
Next week’s draft (April 27-29 in Philadelphia) will be Ballard’s latest chance to put his stamp on an offseason overhaul that could thrust the Colts back into the playoffs after back-to-back disappointing seasons.