Why Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard Deserved PFWA’s Jack Horrigan Award
Phillip B. Wilson
INDIANAPOLIS — A testament to the transparency of Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard isn’t just the fact that he was honored on Thursday.
That Ballard became the first member of the Colts organization ever to earn the Pro Football Writer Association’s Jack Horrigan Award in the honor’s 48-year history speaks volumes.
The PFWA's Jack Horrigan Award is presented annually to the "league or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job.”
Ballard, in his fourth year with the Colts, continually displays an understanding for media responsibilities. In addition to his candor and reliable availability, he has held film sessions with local writers after the NFL draft, which other teams have since emulated.
“Chris Ballard has gone to great lengths to make the Colts more transparent to their fans, and a major part of that is his willingness to grant media access that helps us bring those fans closer,” said Stephen Holder, the Indianapolis PFWA chapter president who covers the Colts for The Athletic.
“From his handling of the Josh McDaniels situation (when McDaniels backed out of the Colts head coaching job) in 2018 to his near 90-minute season-ending press conference in January — which did not end until reporters ran out of questions — Ballard has taken the approach of answering questions head-on and understanding that the media is not an inconvenience but a conduit to dedicated followers of the team. He held a post-draft film session in the Colts’ draft room where he explained the scouting process of each prospect they selected in 2018 and 2019, which was extremely revealing. Reporters on the Colts beat have enjoyed a very good working relationship with Ballard, and we look forward to it continuing during the 2020 season.”
Beat writer Mike Chappell, who has covered the Colts since they moved to Indianapolis in 1984 for The Indianapolis Star and now for FOX-59/CBS-4, shared his thoughts on Ballard with Colts.com.
“Too often in pro sports, there's a built-in us-versus-them mentality,” said Chappell, a Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection member. “I understand that. But while Chris Ballard's overriding responsibility remains building the Colts into a championship franchise, he has understood the media has a job to do.
“As much as his job allows, he's taken time to offer transparency and explanations for what he's done. Others can learn from that approach.”
The award is named for Horrigan, a sportswriter for UPI and the Buffalo Evening News, public relations director for the American Football League (1963-66), and vice president of public relations for the Buffalo Bills (1966-73).
Ballard, who turned 51 on Wednesday, was also nominated for the Jack Horrigan Award in 2018 and 2019.
He was named PFWA’s Executive of the Year for 2018, when the Colts became the third team in NFL history to reach the postseason after starting 1-5. That same year, guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard became the first rookie teammates to be named First-Team All-Pro since Pro Football Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers with the Chicago Bears in 1965.
Previous coaches or executives with Colts ties who have won the Jack Horrigan Award include George Young (N.Y. Giants, 1990), Don Shula (Miami Dolphins, 1994), Tony Dungy (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1998), and Bruce Arians (Arizona Cardinals, 2015).
Other 2020 nominees for the Horrigan Award were Baltimore Ravens executive vice president Kevin Byrne, Dallas Cowboys owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, and NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy.
(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)