Ballard has strong track record
There was no puff of smoke from Halas Hall on Wednesday announcing the hiring of a new general manager, but the front-runner, Chris Ballard, had his interview with team chairman George McCaskey, president and CEO Ted Phillips, and their trusted advisor Ernie Accorsi.
New Orleans Saints director of player personnel Ryan Pace also interviewed Wednesday, bringing to four the number of candidates for the position that the Bears hope to fill before the weekend.
Ballard has turned down interview requests from the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles for comparable jobs, apparently focusing his attention on the Bears' position. He is the most familiar of the candidates, having spent 11 years in the organization as an area scout and one year as the director of pro scouting.
As the Chiefs' director of player personnel for the past two years under general manager John Dorsey, Ballard had a hand in rebuilding a team that went 2-14 in 2012, the year before he arrived. The Chiefs rebounded to go 11-5 in 2013 and 9-7 last season.
The Chiefs have received valuable contributions from each of the first three draft picks in the first year of the Dorsey-Ballard collaboration.
• Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, started all 16 games at offensive left tackle this year.
• Second-round tight end Travis Kelce led the team with 67 receptions and 862 receiving yards.
• And third-round running back Knile Davis rushed for 463 yards on 134 carries and was third in the NFL with a 28.6-yard average on kickoff returns.
In their most recent draft, the Chiefs added RB De'Anthony Thomas in the fourth round, and he finished third in the league with an 11.9-yard average on punt returns. Thomas also averaged 30.6 yards on kickoffs, but his 14 attempts weren't enough to qualify.
Sixth-round pick Zach Fulton was a year-long starter at guard, and third-rounder Phillip Gaines was a starting cornerback.
Before joining the Chiefs, Ballard was the Bears' Southwest area scout from 2001-11 and in 2012 was promoted to director of pro scouting.
With the Bears, working under general manager Jerry Angelo, Ballard had a hand in drafting defensive tackle Tommie Harris in the first round (2004), running back Matt Forte (2008) and cornerback Charles Tillman (2003) in the second round, cornerback Nathan Vasher (2004) in the fourth round, wide receiver Johnny Knox (2009) in the fifth round and sixth-round safety Chris Harris (2005).
Greg Gabriel was the Bears' director of college scouting for most of the time Ballard was a scout (2001-09). Gabriel told The Score (670-AM) earlier this week that Ballard made a positive impression early on.
"Two years into our time with the Bears, I said to Jerry (Angelo), 'We got a winner here with this kid,' " Gabriel said. "I said, 'Not only is he going to be a director someday, he's going to be a G.M.' He totally understands the big picture.
"He presents players better than any scout I've ever been around. If he truly believed in a player, he had a knack for selling him."
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