The Indianapolis Colts have announced a shocking change behind center for the rest of the season.
Colts head coach Frank Reich told the media on October 24 that the team plans to bench former MVP and 4-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan. Second-year quarterback and former sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger will start the rest of the season.
Reich also said that Ryan has a Grade 2 shoulder separation. But The Athletic’s Zak Keefer reported the Colts are making the switch at quarterback regardless of Ryan’s injury.
Indianapolis currently plans to start Ehlinger behind center for the rest of the season.
Ehlinger will make his first start in Week 8 on October 30 against the Washington Commanders. Nick Foles will return to his previous role as Indianapolis’ No. 2 quarterback.
Colts Failed to Deliver for Ryan
When Ryan and the Colts relationship came together in March, the two sides seemed like a perfect match. Ryan was to provide veteran leadership and a steady presence behind center. The Colts promised an elite rushing attack, great pass protection and a strong defense.
Not much of that has come to fruition in Indianapolis this season. As much as Ryan is to blame, the Colts are just as, if not more, at fault for it not working.
Reich admitted as much so when he announced the team’s plan to move on from Ryan.
After seven games, the Colts are ranked 30th in rushing yards just one season after running back Jonathan Taylor led the NFL in rushing. The Colts are also 29th in yards per carry and 31st in rushing touchdowns.
Taylor, who has missed two games and has been dealing with an ankle injury since Week 4, is hardly the only issue. Pro Football Focus ranks the Colts 30th in run blocking this season. The Colts are also 27th in pass blocking according to PFF.
The offensive line was expected to be one of the team’s strengths. The Colts have the most expensive offensive line in the league this season according to Spotrac. The organization has dedicated a lot of valuable resources to that unit being a strength.
But the offensive line has not in any way helped make Ryan’s job easier. In fact, it has made things hard for Ryan. He has been sacked 24 times, which prior to his benching, put him on track to set a new career highs in sacks during a single season.
The End of Ryan in Indianapolis?
When NFL teams fail to meet expectations, there’s plenty of blame to go around, and Ryan will shoulder a lot of it. Like the Indianapolis offensive line, he has also not been as good as advertised.
Ryan threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, during Week 7 in the 19-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Ryan has only 9 touchdown passes and leads the NFL with 11 interceptions.
He also has a league-high 11 fumbles, which is only 1 shy of his career high just seven games into the season.
The Colts restructured Ryan’s contract in the offseason to create salary cap space for this year. With that new deal, the Colts seemingly committed themselves to Ryan for 2023 as well, and owner Jim Irsay spoke publicly over the summer about how the quarterback would be with the Colts beyond even 2023.
But even with $18 million in dead salary cap space if the Colts cut the quarterback after 2022, moving on from Ryan seems to be the most likely outcome unless something else significant happens before the offseason.