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Colts Matt Ryan Sam Ehlinger
NFL

Did Colts Make Right Call To Bench Matt Ryan?

  • Justin Melo
  • October 24, 2022
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Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich announced that sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger will start their Week 8 contest against the Washington Commanders. Starting quarterback Matt Ryan is nursing a sprained shoulder and will be inactive with Nick Foles serving as the backup. 

It’s worth noting this decision isn’t solely motivated by injury. Reich confirmed that Ehlinger is his starter going forward regardless of Ryan’s health. Make no mistake, Ryan lost the job. The Colts are making the right decision by benching Ryan.

Ryan struggled with turnovers and general decision-making in Sunday’s defeat to the Tennessee Titans. He threw a pick-six and was intercepted again on the Colts’ following possession. It was an unfortunate but familiar sight for Ryan, who’s committed turnovers with a concerning level of consistency this season. He averaged 5.5 yards per attempt on 44 dropbacks against Tennessee.

Through seven contests, Ryan has thrown nine touchdowns and a league-high nine interceptions. Fumbles have been an issue, too. Ryan has fumbled on an astounding 11 occasions, losing three of them (that turnover luck would have eventually regressed). Ryan isn’t solely to blame for Indianapolis’ offensive ineptness, but he’s been a major contributing factor, hence why his play, not injury, has lost him the starting job.

Acquiring Ryan didn’t turn the tide in the AFC South. Colts owner Jim Irsay has routinely pronounced his wish to overtake the Titans, who have claimed back-to-back division titles. Meanwhile, the Titans are now overwhelming favorites to capture the AFC South for a third consecutive season following Sunday’s regular-season sweep over the Colts, who are starting over again at quarterback. 

It’s a massively disappointing outcome for a Colts franchise that has now executed back-to-back offseason trades for quarterbacks to no avail. From Carson Wentz to Ryan, the Colts paid a premium price in an attempt to rectify their quarterbacking situation across 2021 and 2022 following a one-year showing from Phillip Rivers. Both trades failed miserably. When will Colts general manager Chris Ballard attempt to draft a quarterback as opposed to pouring capital into over-the-hill quarterbacks? Ballard may not get another chance to course-correct his latest error.

Attention swiftly turns to Ehlinger. The former Texas product will make his first career start against the surging Commanders in Week 8. The No. 218 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, Ehlinger has never attempted a regular-season pass. Reich is showing faith in his young signal-caller.

Ehlinger impressed throughout the preseason. In three exhibition showings earlier this year, he completed 24-of-29 passing attempts (82.7% completion percentage) for 289 passing yards and four touchdowns. A dual-threat quarterback, Ehlinger added 71 rushing yards via seven rushing attempts, including an explosive 45-yard score in a 27-10 Week 3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Perhaps most importantly, Ehlinger did not commit any turnovers throughout the preseason.

Ehlinger showcased growth. During the 2021 preseason, he completed 21-of-31 passing attempts for 288 yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions. The Colts’ coaching staff saw a more mature version of Ehlinger this year. It’s enough to hand Ehlinger the keys to their offense down a crucial stretch.

Ehlinger will now receive a lengthy opportunity to prove he’s capable of serving as the Colts’ quarterback of the future. He’s being catapulted into an unforeseen spot as a sophomore sixth-round selection. The quarterback carousel never stops turning for a franchise that continues to dip its toe into the quarterback market as opposed to taking the head-first plunge that’s been required since Andrew Luck’s retirement.