INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts continue to fail at finding a competent answer at the most important position in sports.
And we aren’t even talking about it from a long-term point of view.
The latest installment of the short-term issues came on Monday, with the Colts announcing that Matt Ryan has been benched.
Sam Ehlinger will be the new starting quarterback for the Colts, with the plan of him doing that for the remainder of the 2022 season.
Frank Reich made that announcement on Monday afternoon. Reich did say that Ryan suffered a ‘grade 2 right shoulder separation’ in Sunday’s loss to the Titans, meaning the veteran QB will not practice this week and be inactive for Sunday’s game against the Commanders. Nick Foles will be the backup to Ehlinger.
Asked to clarify if Ryan would have been benched if he wasn’t dealing with this injury, Reich said this move would have been made regardless of Ryan’s injury.
Without question, this move had heavy influence from Owner Jim Irsay, even if that is something Reich would not say on Monday (Reich called it a “collective decision”).
Irsay has long been a fan of Ehlinger and was fed up with the turnover machine Ryan was for the Colts.
It was a big reason why Ehlinger was promoted to backup quarterback two weeks ago, with this starting possibility always looming.
And with the hot seat simmering for Reich, it’s not too surprising to see the head coach make such a decision.
Merit for this decision was certainly there.
Ryan leads the NFL in interceptions (9), fumbles (11), turnovers (12) and sacks taken (24). It was clear Ryan’s velocity was losing some steam as of late, likely a sign of the constant hits he’s endured in his 15th NFL season. On multiple hits in recent weeks, Ryan was favoring various body parts.
As Reich accurately stated on Monday, the Colts have failed to live up to the promises they made to Ryan in the offseason—of a stout rushing attack and a solidified offensive line.
But Ryan, himself, has cost the team dearly with his turnover machine-style, with hardly a downfield arial attack.
Still, it’s jarring to see the Colts bailing on Ryan before Halloween arrives. Remember, Ryan was a guy Irsay was hyping up this offseason as the Colts quarterback for well beyond this season, pointing to potentially 3 or 4 years for this (now broken) marriage.
If nothing else, the move to Ehlinger gives the Colts a quarterback who can actually make some plays with his legs, which is even more necessary in 2022 given the offensive line struggles.
From an arm standpoint, Ehlinger is known as an accurate passer, with downfield limitations. The second-year quarterback did work a lot on his arm strength/motion this offseason and the results in the preseason led to some nice success. Ehlinger was 24-of-29 for 289 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in preseason action this August. He’s yet to throw a pass in an NFL regular season game.
This is the first time in Ryan’s 15-year career that he has been benched.
Monday’s news certainly brings major doubt Ryan’s playing future, especially in Indianapolis.
Ryan, who turned 37 earlier this year, is under contract for 2023. He has $18 million in dead cap for the Colts in ‘23, with a $35 million cap hit.
Bigger picture, this news is another reminder of the massive short-term swings and misses the Colts have made at quarterback since Andrew Luck retired.
From hoping Philip Rivers would play longer than one season, to thinking Carson Wentz was a potential long-term answer, and then believing Matt Ryan had multiple years left in him, those moves cost the Colts more than $20 million annually, while giving up a 1st round pick and a pair of 3rd rounders for the latter two QBs.
The on-field results have been a Wild Card berth with Rivers, a Wentz-led Colts team failing to make the playoffs in 2021, and now a benching off Ryan before Halloween.
According to Spotrac, the Colts have spent $115 million on quarterbacks since Andrew Luck’s retirement (not counting Luck) in 2019. None of that has led to the Colts winning the AFC South or a playoff game, with the present, and future, at the most important position in sports again in question.
So now the Colts will get an extended look at Ehlinger with the looming quarterback question still glaring.
It’ll be one of the biggest and most important decisions this franchise has made in years.
And now the question becomes even more apparent, will Chris Ballard and Frank Reich be the ones making that decision?