On Monday afternoon the Indianapolis Colts announced the benching of quarterback Matt Ryan for backup Sam Ehlinger. There will be time in the days to come for analysis of what Ehlinger brings to this 3-3-1 group, but in the present this move must be treated for what it is; a public admission by the Colts of their failure to yet again address the most important position in football.
Per Frank Reich, QB Sam Ehlinger will start in #WASvsIND. pic.twitter.com/Y3hX6C8CqQ
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 24, 2022
It’s been over 36 months since Andrew Luck shocked both the Colts and the football world by announcing his retirement prior to the start of the 2019 season. Since that time the Colts front office has thrown dart after dart after dart at the board hoping to find the next face of their franchise. With each new arrival under center they’ve attempted to convince themselves, ownership, the players, and the fans that they have found their guy.
There was the time they said Jacoby Brissett was a Top-20 QB in the NFL (which, considering there’s 32 starting QBs in the league, isn’t a big leap to take). That was to start the 2019 season. Even with that low bar, Brissett finished the year 27th in total passing yards, 26th in touchdown passes, 21st in QBR and 29th in yards per game.
By March of 2020 the Colts were ready for a new era as they signed Philip Rivers away from the Chargers. They felt the proven veteran would be the quarterback of the future for years to come despite the fact that he was 38 and signed to only a 1 year deal.
Colts coach Frank Reich on Philip Rivers’ future: “I really believe it’s Philip’s intent to play multiple years.” https://t.co/7LIJxnq27I
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 18, 2020
Rivers took the Colts to the Wild Card round where they were bounced by the Buffalo Bills. Chris Ballard and Frank Reich continued to say they felt like Rivers could still play and wanted him back in 2021. Rivers retired shortly after the season, setting the Colts up for another hunt for a QB.
Thank you, Philip. pic.twitter.com/znBe1x8TJP
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) January 20, 2021
Rivers’ decision, at minimum, surprised the Colts as Ballard admitted during his yearly conversation with The Dan Dakich Show.
Chris Ballard tells @dandakich he believed Philip Rivers would play two years for the Colts.
Same thing Frank Reich said at the beginning of the season.
— Jim Ayello (@jimayello) February 5, 2021
So with Rivers out of the picture they were back to square one. This time their dart of choice was a trade for Carson Wentz, a QB struggling in Philadelphia whose last good season was with Frank Reich as his offensive coordinator.
Colts’ GM Chris Ballard on acquiring QB Carson Wentz: ‘I think it’s gonna be fun to watch this year.’ https://t.co/FkXIRcne6g
— Stampede Blue (@StampedeBlue) July 3, 2021
What seemed like a match made in heaven was a roller coaster season that ended in nightmarish fashion. In the final game of the season, the Colts needed to simply beat the putrid Jacksonville Jaguars to make the playoffs. Wentz and the Colts turned in a 26-11 stinker and were eliminated from the playoffs by a team that finished the year with three wins.
This QB choice ended so poorly that Jim Irsay had private meeting with Ballard and Reich following the loss to Jacksonville. Soon after, the Colts jettisoned Wentz, a quarterback they gave draft capital up to acquire, to the Washington Commanders.
Colts agree to trade QB Carson Wentz to Commanders. (via @RapSheet) pic.twitter.com/G5RZDbC5mK
— NFL (@NFL) March 9, 2022
And once again, they were back to square one.
This past offseason the Colts tossed one last dart, trading for Matt Ryan in an attempt to bring a proven veteran that could help compete now and be the answer for a few years. Basically, Ryan was to be what the Colts wanted in Rivers except he’d actually be here multiple seasons.
Not only did Ryan perform worse than Rivers did, he didn’t make it to the halfway point of the season, being demoted this afternoon in favor of second year man Sam Ehlinger.
Matt Ryan this season:
— 9 touchdowns
— 9 interceptions (most in NFL)
— 24 sacks taken (most in NFL)
— 11 fumbles (most in NFL)
— 12 turnovers (most in NFL)
Sam Ehlinger is the new Colts QB for the rest of the season. pic.twitter.com/P0QtM9EtsZ
— StatMuse (@statmuse) October 24, 2022
I’ll give Reich credit, he told the media that they failed Matt Ryan which is exactly what happened here. I never thought Ryan would take the Colts to a Super Bowl or make them contenders in the AFC, but I felt that if they gave him what Atlanta didn’t (pass protection, weapons, a running game) he could have a nice multi year stretch of play to close to his career.
Reich saying the Colts have not helped up their end of the bargain in supporting Matt Ryan.
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) October 24, 2022
Has Ryan made some awful throws? Yes. Have his skills diminished since his 2016 MVP season? Absolutely. But with the struggles of the offensive line and the running game combined with only two real threats in the passing game, Ryan never had a chance to rejuvenate his career.
This is deeper then a Matt Ryan problem. In fact, I don’t blame Matt Ryan at all for the situation the Colts are in. This is a multi year carousel ride of retread quarterbacks that has finally broken down.
The Colts had no other choice but to admit they missed the mark yet again and spend the rest of the season finding out what Sam Ehlinger can do.
All the best to Sam. He gets an opportunity to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and by many accounts deserves a shot. Who knows? Maybe he saves the season and Chris Ballard is deemed a genius for finding him in the 6th Round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Again, those are conversation for another day.
Today we learned that the Colts failed for a third straight offseason to find the answer at QB. That’s a trend that simply can’t continue if the Colts hope to be contenders again anytime soon.
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