Irsay aiming to set new standard with new GM, says GM-coach relationship ‘critically important’

Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay poses for pictures with new general manager Chris Ballard at his introductory news conference. (January 30, 2017, Indy Sports Central)

INDIANAPOLIS – Colts owner Jim Irsay was silent for almost three weeks following a second straight season missing the playoffs, but then he acted swiftly.

First, he fired general manager Ryan Grigson.  Then he hired his replacement, Chris Ballard, a week later.  Ballard beat out five other candidates for the job.

“They made the decision tough,” Irsay told Indy Sports Central in an exclusive interview.  “It was good, because you wanted qualified candidates.  Chris was number one on most people’s list.”

Ballard’s ability as a communicator was the key factor that set him apart from the other candidates.

“That’s what you have to be at this job,” Irsay said.  “Whether you’re communicating to the fans about your vision and faith and understanding that we’re going in the right direction or the players and coaches.”

While Grigson is out, head coach Chuck Pagano is back for a sixth season, helping to maintain some continuity for the franchise.

“I know Colts fans kind of thought, ‘Hey, why aren’t you clearing the whole deck?'” said Irsay.  “I think there’s no question that this is the best way for the Colts to move out.”

Irsay points out that Pagano has never had a losing record, but he’s also learned how important a good relationship is between his head coach and general manager.

“It’s critically important.  When he met with Chuck, he said, ‘We go as you go.  We’re going to follow you.’  Chuck and him are going to have a great relationship and Chuck’s going to feel real supported.”

Despite back to back 8-8 seasons, Irsay stands behind his belief that the Colts will win multiple Super Bowls with Andrew Luck at quarterback.

“I get kind of cornered on that,” Irsay said.  “People say, ‘Really?  You’re using plural on that sort of thing?’ But I think you have to think that way.  No one’s ever won three in a row, so that’s what you have to aim for.  You have to aim for the rare air.  You have to aim for the greatest of the great to set a new standard.”

“We will get there.  I promise you.”