INDIANAPOLIS – Wherever the Indianapolis Colts go when their disappointing season ends, Chris Ballard will lead them.

After implying on several occasions he would retain his general manager despite the Colts missing the playoffs for the third time in the last four years, owner Jim Irsay erased any doubt regarding Ballard’s future.

“Chris Ballard will be our general manager,’’ Irsay said during an interview with ESPN that will air during Monday night’s Colts-Los Angeles Chargers game.

Ballard is under contract through 2026, but his status seemed uncertain as the Colts’ season unraveled. They’ve lost seven of eight and take a 4-9-1 record into the Chargers game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Including the embarrassing collapse of 2021 – closing losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and at Jacksonville kept them out of the playoffs – the Colts have won just six of their last 16 games.

A season of immense underachieving resulted in Irsay benching veteran quarterback Matt Ryan after a 19-10 loss at Tennessee Oct. 23 and firing head coach Frank Reich following a 26-3 loss at New England Nov. 6.

Speculation swirled regarding Ballard’s future even though Irsay signed him and Reich to extensions through ’26 in 2021.

No longer.

Recently, Irsay insisted he “trusts Chris. No one’s perfect, but I think he’s one of the better general managers in the league.’’

That’s been Irsay’s unwavering stance on Ballard.

Prior to the April draft, he said, “He’s really a special, talented guy. We’re fortunate to have Chris.’’

That support was reinforced during the Nov. 7 press conference announcing Jeff Saturday as the team’s interim head coach.

Irsay was asked if he planned on bringing Ballard back for a seventh season.

“Of course, yes I do,’’ he said. “There’s no question about that.

“Honestly, it’s not really even in the consciousness of my mind about that sort of thing.’’

Irsay recalled when he named Ballard as Ryan Grigson’s replacement in January 2017.

“Look, Chris was highly sought after when he came here,’’ he said. “It was a great indication (of) this organization that he wanted to come here. He could’ve gone anywhere he wanted.

“He’s been Executive of the Year before. You guys can try to diminish him all you want, but that’s just your words. They have no substance to it . . . I mean the guy is a winner and he’s been immensely successful. No one is perfect in this game. We all lose a lot in this league.

“We’re fortunate to have him.’’

Ballard was named the NFL’s Executive of the Year in 2018 and has added a slew of top-end talent to the roster.

Even so, the Colts have failed to meet their owner’s lofty expectations.

The team is 45-51-1 since Ballard took over as general manager. It’s made the playoffs only twice – in 2018 and ’20 – and won just one playoff game. More damning, the Colts have failed to win the AFC South. Their last division title came in 2014.

The most significant issues have been failing to recover from the sudden retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck two weeks before the start of the 2019 season and being unable to find a suitable replacement for left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who retired following 2020. There have been other issues – investing in a veteran free agent wideout, missing on young edge pass-rush prospects, etc. – but they pale in comparison to quarterback and left tackle.

The Colts have had a different starting quarterback on opening day in six consecutive seasons. Against the Chargers, Nick Foles will be their third starting QB this season, following Ryan, who has been benched twice, and Sam Ehlinger.

As for left tackle, Indy initially tried to replace Castonzo with veteran Eric Fisher, but Fisher was coming off a torn Achilles tendon and struggled in pass protection. This season, Ballard and his personnel staff opted to give Matt Pryor the starting nod even though he had just one career start at the position. He was replaced after four subpar games.

Rookie Bernhard Raimann will make his six straight start and eighth overall at left tackle against the Chargers.

While those two areas have impeded the progress of the franchise, Ballard has had successes elsewhere, most notably in the draft.

That includes linebacker Shaquille Leonard, a second-round pick in ’18 who was named Defensive Rookie of the Year, and running back Jonathan Taylor, a ’20 second-rounder who led the NFL in rushing last season with a franchise-record 1,811 yards.

Three of his draft picks have earned at least one All-Pro designation: Leonard (four), guard Quenton Nelson (four) and Taylor (one).

Also, two players signed as undrafted rookies have been named special teams All-Pros: George Odum and Ashton Dulin.

Ballard acquired DeForest Buckner in a 2020 trade with the San Francisco 49ers, but the veteran defensive end was selected first-team All-Pro in his first season with the Colts.

Along with announcing Ballard will remain his GM, Irsay told ESPN Saturday will be part of the head coaching search once the season ends. He also addressed the franchise’s fluid quarterback situation. The Colts are expected to select a quarterback with their first-round pick, which currently is the 5th overall selection.

“The head coach is unknown until the interview process goes forward,’’ he said. “I will go into it seriously open-minded and I’ll be looking for the best direction for us to win.

“Jeff I believe is an outstanding candidate, so obviously he’s competitive for it,’’ Irsay said.

As for the quarterback issue, Irsay said, “It’s very much up in the air right now on what direction we’ll be going.

“This journey keeps going and I’m all-in for it.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.