Colts hire Kansas City's Ballard as general manager

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is turning to another first-time general manager to get his franchise back on track.

Eight days after firing Ryan Grigson and conducting a week of interviews, Irsay hired former Kansas City Chiefs executive Chris Ballard.

The announcement came Sunday on the team's website.

''Chris has a solid reputation throughout the National Football League as a heavyweight executive and our extensive discussions with him confirmed that reputation,'' Irsay said in a statement released by the team. ''He's a savvy, organized, and thorough talent evaluator, but beyond that, he's a terrific person our community will be proud of.''

Ballard has never previously served as a team's top decision-maker, but he comes with a long history as a scout and front-office experience.

He was hired by the Chiefs in 2013 as the director of player personnel and was promoted to director of football operations under current GM John Dorsey in 2015.

Last season, the Chiefs earned the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and they've been a consistent playoff contender despite not having a Pro Bowl quarterback.

Like Grigson, Ballard worked with coach Andy Reid. And like Grigson, the move comes after most teams had already announced offseason coaching and front office changes.

''I am so thankful to Mr. Irsay and his entire family for this opportunity to join the Colts organization,'' Ballard said. ''I appreciate everyone who has been involved in the search process. I look forward to working with (coach) Chuck (Pagano) and his staff, the personnel staff, and all the outstanding Colts employees.

Irsay has already said he expects Pagano back on the sideline next season.

Ballard was chosen from a pool of six candidates, each of whom interviewed with Irsay during the week. Ballard reportedly was brought in for a second interview this weekend.

The former University of Wisconsin football player began his front office career as an area scout with the Chicago Bears. In 2012, he became the Bears' director of pro scouting. Kansas City hired him the next season, and he became a prime candidate around the league.

Ballard also was an assistant coach at Texas A&M-Kingsville from 1994-2000. He finished his college career as a student assistant for the Badgers after multiple knee injuries ended his playing career.

He now takes over a team that has missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons after going 8-8.

But he also now build a young, improving offense that includes one of the league's best young quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, a Pro Bowl receiver in T.Y. Hilton and a young offensive line that played its best football over the last month of the season.

What he still needs to do is come up with playmakers on a defense that could be in for a major offseason overhaul.

Robert Mathis, Indy's career sacks leader, is retiring, and last season's sacks leader, Erik Walden, could become an unrestricted free agent.

The team has not yet scheduled a formal introduction.

''He brings a wealth of knowledge and a ton of experience to the organization,'' Pagano said. ''I'm looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and going to work alongside him.''

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