Brian Decker, the retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who has tried to implement in the NFL a system of predictive character traits he once used to select Green Berets — drawing interest from the likes of Bill Belichick — has been hired as the Indianapolis Colts' player personnel strategist, according to a league source.
It's a fascinating move by Chris Ballard, the Colts' first-year general manager, to reshape Indy's personnel department and comes 10 days after he dismissed some staffers.
Half of all first-round draft picks fail in the NFL. Brian Decker believes he can improve that rate, but it's not clear anyone in the league is listening.
Decker, who led several successful missions in Iraq, effectively reinvented the process for selecting Green Berets. He turned an outdated system based on who survived three brutal weeks of training into a data-driven model that amassed 1,200 predictive data points, from peak physical performance to psychometrics, the science of measuring mental processes. His system was calibrated to detect intangible leadership characteristics in order to find soldiers who weren't satisfied merely with becoming Green Berets, but who wanted to become great Green Berets.
In 2013, Cleveland Browns general manager Michael Lombardi visited Decker's Special Forces camp to pick up training tips and was impressed by the science behind the system. Months later, Lombardi brought Decker to Browns camp, where he met Joe Banner, the team's CEO at the time.
"He could pick out, within a group of top achievers, who could really take the next step," Banner told ESPN last year in a profile of Decker. "His techniques and studies were amazing."
Banner hired Decker in February 2014, but he and Lombardi were fired before Decker's first day of work. Decker spent the next two years in the Browns' personnel department, adjusting his methodology to try to predict the character of college prospects. He was let go when GM Sashi Brown took over in January 2016.
Lombardi, who had moved on to an executive position with the New England Patriots, arranged a meeting between Decker and Belichick at the 2016 combine. It lasted almost five hours, and Decker later gave a presentation before the Patriots' entire coaching staff.
His NFL return in Indy is the latest move by a team to hire so-called character coaches. The others: Jack Easterby of the Patriots and Angela Duckworth of the Seattle Seahawks.