If Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is to be taken at his word, then his organization just hired the greatest general manager of the millennium.
Irsay expressed as much when he introduced new Colts GM Chris Ballard to local reporters at Monday's news conference.
"I think I can say it with some expertise and some wisdom. I really feel, to me, that Chris is the best candidate for general manager that's come about so far in the 21st century," gushed Irsay, who added that the Colts signed Ballard to a five-year contract. "That's how impressed we were with him. His energy, his experience, his vision, I know that he's going to get with Coach (Chuck) Pagano and the Colts are a much better football team today."
Ballard, humbled by the compliment and the moment, took the praise, but was honest about his ascension to one of the more coveted roles in football.
"Let me put it this way. I'm probably not completely ready to be a GM," he told reporters. "I'm gonna screw some things up. I'm gonna make some mistakes and I'll own them. ... I wasn't ready to be an area scout, but I figured it out. I wasn't ready to be a director of pro personnel; I figured it out.
"One of my real strengths is I make a mistake, I own it. It's on me. I won't ever put the blame off and I'll never put the blame on."
Ballard comes to Indy just one week after Irsay surprisingly fired general manager Ryan Grigson after five seasons. Grigson's regime was marred by frequent communication issues with Pagano and roster-building challenges -- two aspects Ballard said he will be focused on improving.
"There are no other options," Ballard said bluntly. "It's Chuck Pagano. Chuck Pagano is a good football coach in the National Football League. Three 11-5 seasons, went to the AFC Championship Game, had two 8-8 (seasons) back to back, but he's won 49 games. We need to keep our eye on how hard it is to win in this league."
Ballard added that a strong coach-general manager relationship was "essential" in Indy, citing his former bosses in Kansas City as examples to follow.
"I just left a place where John Dorsey and Andy Reid are tied at the hip and they make decisions together," Ballard explained. "Me and Chuck will make decisions together for the best interests of the Indianapolis Colts."
Ballard's firm messaging felt like a rebuke of the entire Grigson era, and it's exactly what Colts fans and ownership want to hear.
Here are some other highlights from Ballard's Ind intro:
On the team's culture: The new GM emphasized several times that selflessness and accountability are traits he wants to see in his Colts roster.
"Everyone will have to understand that we're all a part of something bigger than ourselves and that every decision that we make will be in the best interest of the horseshoe," Ballard said in his opening statement. "It will never be about one person. We will all come together as one. ... We have to make sure we have an organization full of team-oriented problem solvers to help get this done. "
Ballard added that he is looking to build a locker room that will put "their self-serving goals aside".
"The locker room is very important and you can't win without a strong one," Ballard said. "You can't buy a locker room; that has to be developed over time."
In that vein... Ballard wouldn't go into specifics as to which positions he would target in during offseason acquisitions, but he did hint at one part of the roster that needs to be emphasized: the trenches.
"Defense wins championships," Ballard said, "and I know you got to score points, but I've been blessed to be in this league to work for two places where we've been pretty special on defense: Chicago and Kansas City. So definitely, it's a priority.
"In this league, you win up front. You win on the O-line, D-line, and if you're not good up front, it's very difficult when you get into December and January football."
Long the Achilles' heel of Indianapolis' playoff teams, the line looks to get significant attention from Ballard.