Colts bench QB Matt Ryan, will start Sam Ehlinger rest of way

INDIANAPOLIS — As the Colts’ offensive problems reached worrying proportions, the team decided on a dramatic shift at their most important position.

Indianapolis promotes Sam Ehlinger to starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Washington Commanders, with veteran Matt Ryan suffering a Grade 2 shoulder separation against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, coach Frank Reich said. Ryan won’t play or train this week because of the injury, Reich said, but he was emphatic in stating the move is scheduled for the remainder of the season.

“Extremely difficult decision given the respect and admiration we have for Matt Ryan for what he brought here,” Reich said Monday. “He’s the pro of a pro. This guy is special. We all know at quarterback that our poor offensive performance isn’t down to one person. She’s not on Matt Ryan. But we, as head coach and quarterback, know that doesn’t matter. I’m judged by wins and losses. Quarterbacks are judged on points and turnovers. We understand it’s like that in this league. Matt will be a pro.”

Ryan, 37, threw two interceptions in the Colts’ 19-10 loss in Tennessee, the first returning for an Andrew Adams touchdown. Ryan leads the NFL with nine interceptions in seven games. He has also fumbled 11 times and lost three times.

The Colts are now 29th in the standings averaging 16.1 points. Sunday’s game was the third competition this season in which the Colts scored 12 points or fewer.

Ehlinger, 24, was promoted to No. 2 quarterback two weeks ago via Nick Foles. Now the 2021 sixth round pick will make the massive jump to #1.

“From the start of the season, I’ve been particularly impressed with Sam in practice, the look he gives the scout team, the quality of his shots, the way he’s taking himself out there,” Reich said. “Just the whole package. I just think it’s the best decision for our team to move forward.”

Ehlinger was a preseason sensation for Indianapolis but has only played 18 regular-season snaps in his career. He has never thrown a pass in the regular season. It’s believed Ehlinger’s mobility could mitigate some of the confounding issues the Colts have with their offensive line, which continues to be pushed around by opponents, including Tennessee on Sunday. A pure pocket passer, Ryan suffered 10 quarterback hits that game.

“This is a point that needs to be made clear and I have said so to Matt. I said, ‘Matt, we didn’t keep our end of the bargain, we promised you great protection. And we haven’t met that as a criminal offence. And that starts with me.’ That was basically my message to Matt,” Reich said.

“We thought the marriage of Matt Ryan and his story with our running game, he had 14 years of incredibly productive quarterback play with great game action. So we figured there would be a natural marriage there. Given our crazy quarterback scenarios over the past five years, it wasn’t a desperate move, it was a well-considered move [decision]. “

It appears Monday’s decision was influenced at least in part by owner Jim Irsay. Reich called it a “collective decision,” but said he, Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard had an hour-long discussion of the situation late Sunday night.

“His voice will always count [more weight]Reich said. “He may be leading the way in a way, but it’s really owners, GM and head coaches who are talking about a decision of this magnitude.”

The Colts acquired Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons in March for a third-round draft pick. Ryan, the 2016 MVP and Offensive Player of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year, spent his first 14 seasons with the Falcons.

The Colts targeted Ryan after switching from Carson Wentz after last season. The Colts have had a revolving door at quarterback since Andrew Luck retired ahead of the 2019 season. On Sunday, Ehlinger becomes the seventh quarterback to start a game for the Colts since Reich became the team’s coach in 2018.

The Colts are 3-3-1 this season, including 1-3-1 against AFC South opponents. Colts bench QB Matt Ryan, will start Sam Ehlinger rest of way

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