The Candor Room

I promise, we learn more from our failures than we do our victories. Our failures challenge us at our core and test us to see if we are up to overcoming what others may perceive as our demise.

The Candor Room
Capital Thinking | The Candor Room

Capital Thinking • Issue #372 • View online

I get asked all the time what it’s like to be the general manager of the Colts throughout the draft process, and what it’s like inside the room on draft night.

The journey is a grind. It can be exhausting at times. But the hard work and dedication only confirms our confidence in the players we select during the draft.

No two teams in the NFL draft alike. No two teams scout the same way, or use exact traits and characteristics when they look for players.

Working for three organizations—Chicago, Kansas City and Indianapolis—and working as an area scout, a pro scouting director, a player personnel director and a director of football operations before taking the GM job here, I’ve seen how all 32 teams evaluate and draft.

In two decades in the scouting business, I’ve seen how mentors like former Bears GM Jerry Angelo did it, how my Chiefs bosses Andy Reid and John Dorsey do it, and how other friends and competitors at other teams do it.

You might be surprised in our process that there’s a former Green Beret involved; his unique interviewing techniques help us strip away the agent-speak and happy talk that surround so many players in the draft process.

You might be surprised that we’ve borrowed something from the brain trust at Pixar called “The Room of Candor,” so honesty is the only policy in the draft discussions.

I never want to look back at any decision we’ve made and think we didn’t have the real, unvarnished facts on the table when we’ve made these important choices.

-Chris Ballard

Scouting in the NFL

Guest FMIA: Chris Ballard:

The real currency of the draft—and any player acquisition—is scouting, medical, character and analytical information. We meet with potential prospects, sometimes on multiple occasions, and conduct extensive research.

We do this to make sure we are making smart picks that will be good fits for the Colts. Most importantly, we have to be more accurate than 31 other teams drafting that day.

When Frank Reich and I sat down for his coaching interview in February 2018, we spent a lot of time talking about what type of players we wanted in the locker room. We were in lock step in our philosophies on the makeup of the team.

We define football character as a player’s work ethic, passion for the game, football intelligence, competitive nature, and teamness. If any of these areas are weak, the chances of the player busting and not fitting in our locker room becomes greater.

An NFL season is long and hard. The character of each individual player and the entire team shows up, either good or bad, during the hard times. It is difficult to get through a rough stretch if your players don’t have mental toughness.

We go the extra mile to delve into players and see how they’ll fit. You are telling the locker room every time you draft a player, “this is what we stand for.”

If you bring in someone with a poor work ethic, or someone who is selfish, or someone who is unwilling to put in the work, you’re telling the locker room that that’s OK.

Jerry Angelo used to say all the time that the talent of a player will tell you his ceiling, but his football character determines his floor. It’s critical to get that right, so we know the floor.

When we interview a player it’s not strictly a “getting to know you” session. We use as much time as we need to get our detailed questions answered.

We might visit with that same player during one of our Top 30 visits—NFL rules allow each team to have 30 private visits—to continue to get a better feel for his personal makeup.

When I first took the job in Indianapolis, I wanted to find an expert who could help us get to the core of a player’s football character. We found the perfect person in Brian Decker, a former Green Beret and now our director of player development.

He uses a model he developed in the military and applies toward our interview process. He interviews every prospect on our draft board and teaches our scouts specific interviewing techniques.

I didn’t know anything about Decker until I read an ESPN article about his journey in the NFL and the work he was doing on player character assessments to more accurately predict if a player will succeed or fail.

I was really intrigued by this topic so I reached out to Decker to get to know him and pick his brain.

At the time I was working in Kansas City, and he was doing some consulting with for the Kansas City Royals.

I was impressed right away with his intelligence, vision and humble spirit. He also had an easy way about him that made you want to talk to him. I knew after a few more visits that if I ever had a chance to hire him that I would do it.

I can’t sit here and say I knew exactly what his role was going to be, but I did have a strong conviction that Decker would really help us get to the core of a player’s football character, which in turn would help us in our hit rate in the draft.

His role has really grown in two years and has become a valuable resource to our coaches, scouts, and players.

I am not going to give away any trade secrets but here are the five questions Decker wants to get the answers to:

• Does this player have a favorable developmental profile?

• Does he have a profile that supports handling pressure and adversity?

• Does he have a good learning and decision-making capacity?

• Is he a character risk and, if so, what can we do to help support him?

• Is he a fit?


There are times that I refer to our draft room as “the Room of Candor,” just like they have for film screenings at Pixar Studios. I picked this up in Kansas City while reading Ed Catmull’s book “Creativity, Inc.” and it has followed me to Indianapolis.

At Pixar, they meet every few months about their current projects and honestly assess the films they create. They aim to put smart and passionate people in a room with an emphasis on problem solving.

Similarly, in our version, it’s a room for honest conversation, where everyone has a chance to present their case, ask questions, and speak to the abilities of each player.

Continue Reading =>

Guest FMIA: Indy GM Chris Ballard on Scouting and the Power of Sundays - ProFootballTalk
Peter King is on vacation until July 15, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his spot writing Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Chris Ballard, the general manger of the Colts. He writes about: • Scouting in the NFL, and why finding out a draft prospect’s floor is just as important tha…

We know we live in a world of instant gratification and a “want-it-now” mentality, but we cannot forget to enjoy the journey.Things will not always go our way.

We are going to fail. Those things are part of the journey, and by experiencing them, we grow.

I promise, we learn more from our failures than we do our victories. Our failures challenge us at our core and test us to see if we are up to overcoming what others may perceive as our demise.

The climb, struggle, and growth are the fun parts of the journey; take it all in and enjoy it.