(CBS) As the Bears’ search for new leaders enters its second week, a familiar name has emerged as a front-runner to fill the general manager vacancy, according to various reports: Chris Ballard.
Currently Kansas City’s director of pro personnel, Ballard got his NFL start in 2001 as an area scout for the Bears in the Southwest region and went on to work for 12 seasons in Chicago. One of the men who hired Ballard and worked closely with him was former Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel, a 670 The Score contributor who joined the Spiegel and Mannelly Show on Tuesday morning to note his impressions of Ballard.
“Two years into our time with the Bears, I said to (then-GM Jerry Angelo) after the 2004 draft … ‘We got a winner here with this kid.’ I said, ‘Not only is he going to be a director someday, he’s going to be a GM.’ He totally understands the big picture,” Gabriel said.
“He presents players better than any scout I’ve ever been around.
“If he truly believed in the player, he had a knack for selling him.”
Ballard had a hand in the Bears drafting Charles Tillman (2003 second round), Nathan Vasher (2004 fourth round), Chris Harris (2005 sixth round) and Matt Forte (2008 second round), Gabriel said.
“He literally jumped on the table for Charles Tillman,” Gabriel said. “Because Charles is a big, tall 6-2 guy. And there aren’t a lot of 6-2 corners in the league. And generally, their movement skills aren’t quite as quick or nifty as say, a 5-10 guy or a 5-11 guy, because of their length. But Chris … really saw that with some technique coaching, Charles could be an outstanding player. And he was 100 percent right.”
Critics contend that Ballard isn’t a good candidate because he has a scouting-intensive background similar to that of recently fired Bears general manager Phil Emery, but Gabriel downplayed those concerns.
Gabriel called Ballard “an outstanding people person.”
“Everybody has their own philosophy and is their own individual,” Gabriel said.
“Chris Ballard is Chris Ballard and has to be judged as that.”
Ballard was promoted to be the director of pro scouting for Chicago in 2012. He left after that season for Kansas City, where he helped turn a 2-14 squad into a playoff team in 2013.
Listen to Gabriel’s full interview and thoughts here.