Replacing the former MVP with the 2021 sixth-round pick is obviously a significant switch in philosophy and direction for the franchise. Multiple reporters on October 24 have suggested that such a change for the Colts is not coming without the input from owner Jim Irsay.
ESPN’s Stephen Holder tweeted that Irsay “has been increasingly involved behind the scenes of late.” Reich also shared with the media that he and general manager Chris Ballard had a long conversation with Irsay following the 19-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Colts insider Joel A. Erickson and The Athletic’s Zak Keefer confirmed what Holder seems to be implying — that Irsay had a say, maybe even a significant one, in who would be Indianapolis’ starting quarterback the rest of the season.
Irsay Played a Role in Ryan Benching
Irsay spent time during a lot of the interviews he did over the summer praising what he had heard and seen early in training camp about Ryan’s leadership. Irsay didn’t just compliment the quarterback, he laid it on thick.
“This is a Navy SEAL. This is an astronaut that’s going to Mars,” Irsay said about Ryan during the May 2 episode of The Pat McAfee Show. “This is the right stuff guy. Special.
“He’s the type of guy that if you’re landing on an aircraft carrier, you want him to be the pilot. I mean special, guys.”
That doesn’t sound like a quarterback Irsay would ask Reich to bench. But anyone who listens to Irsay interviews knows he loves to hype up his team’s personnel as the best in the NFL.
Of course, until it clearly isn’t, and it’s time to make a change.
“From what Reich said on Monday, though, this decision was made by the Colts’ decision-making triumvirate of Irsay, Reich and general manager Chris Ballard,” Erickson wrote. “And Irsay, in particular, played a role, signifying how big of a shift this is to the franchise.”
Keefer was even more frank in his assessment of Irsay’s role in the quarterback change.
“It’s clear Irsay has had his say in this,” Keefer wrote. “The owner rarely involves himself in personnel matters, leaving that instead to Ballard, Reich and the staff, but he has spoken up on both occasions, in January after Wentz’s disastrous end to the season, and recently, as Ryan’s early-season stumbles hindered the offense and the team.
“Reich and Irsay typically speak in the locker room after each game, but meetings like the one Sunday night are extremely rare. When it comes to the quarterback position — something the Colts haven’t really gotten right since Andrew Luck retired five years ago — the owner wants his voice heard.”
Ryan’s Future With the Colts
Interestingly, Ryan is also dealing with a Grade 2 separation of his throwing shoulder. The Colts could have seemingly “saved face” with Ryan and labeled the quarterback change an injury-related thing, but Reich made it clear the switch behind center isn’t because of Ryan’s shoulder.
That will leave many to question this week if Ryan has played his final down with the Colts. Ryan is still under contract for next season, and he would still cost $18 million against the salary cap if the Colts cut him.
But if Ehlinger plays well, then he won’t be giving up the job to anyone. If he plays poorly, there could be even more changes made in Indianapolis at head coach and/or general manager. Even if Ballard and Reich return, the Colts face at least a retooling of their roster, and the possibility of them wanting to do that with a quarterback turning 38 in May seems unlikely.
Ryan has 2,008 passing yards and nine touchdowns in seven games with the Colts. It’s possible he won’t throw another pass with Indianapolis.