As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare for the New England Patriots, we will cast our eyes towards the future, to a degree, in discussing who may be the most important ‘free agent’ the Chiefs worry about losing. Current Director of Football Operations Chris Ballard.
While the Chiefs will be facing difficult decisions this offseason with popular players at numerous spots, losing Ballard could be the most painful loss of anyone.
For those who don’t know who Ballard is, fans both avid and passive alike have seen his impact on the roster. Ballard was instrumental in the Chiefs opting for the much-maligned cornerback Marcus Peters in the NFL Draft, personally spending time with Peters and his family in Oakland, calming the concerns of management and assuring the organization that Peters would be a good solider, both on and off the field.
Thus far, Peters has been everything you could hope on the field and certainly no apparent issues off the field. Both head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey are both quick to point out the time Ballard spent with the Peters family as one of the important pieces of information that aided the organization in being confident and comfortable with the Peters pick.
Prior to this 2015 season, Ballard carried the title of Director of Player Personnel, and was instrumental in the organization’s efforts to find value pickups in free agency, helping the franchise be competitive immediately after the Scott Pioli era crashed and burned in spectacular fashion.
Prior to joining the Chiefs, Ballard’s career in the NFL started with the Chicago Bears in 2001, as a regional scout, working his way up to Director of Pro Scouting (job is primarily to scout players already in the NFL as opposed to players in college) in 2012 before moving to the Chiefs with Dorsey in 2013. This is important to point out as, especially early on, much of the impact on the Chiefs roster didn’t come from the rookies, but from veteran castoffs that the coaching staff could turn into a competitive organization.
Ballard’s experience and knowledge was certainly a well represented on the field in the 2013 season, and continues to this day with the performance and production of Jaye Howard (released by Seattle), Husain Abdullah (free agent took 2012 season off for a religious purpose) and Marcus Cooper (released by San Francisco)
As mentioned above, Ballard not only played a pivotal role in the Chiefs selecting Marcus Peters, he also was instrumental in the selecting of Mitch Morse. If reports at the time are to be trusted, the Chiefs were said to be between Peters and Florida State offensive lineman Cam Erving. Erving struggled mightily this season with the Cleveland Browns, further showing the pick of Peters was correct.
While revisionist history isn’t exactly fair, one certainly can wonder where this team with a struggling rookie center and a less than stellar corner back on the outside. The Chiefs 2015 draft class, at least at first glance, appears to have contributors at multiple spots. For a team facing a salary cap and free-agent crush this offseason, this organization could be hit hard by his departure.
Last off season, Ballard was considered the front-runner for the general manager spot of the Chicago Bears before the job went to Ryan Pace. Reports are that Ballard was ‘to honest’ in his assessment of the organization and it’s issues and scared off owners and other decision makers (again, no factual info, just multiple places have reported this).
He is considered this year a candidate for both the Tennessee job (which one would imagine a good job, first-overall draft pick and a young, promising quarterback) and the Cleveland job (Can’t imagine anyone would want that job right now). After, in previous years, reportedly turning down job interviews with the Jets (15) and Buccaneers (14), it appears to be a matter of time before Ballard is running his own show.
Maybe we can hope the Chiefs will get one more season with him before he moves on.