INDIANAPOLIS – Enough is enough.
Matt Ryan is out, Sam Ehlinger is in.
The Indianapolis Colts are taking the dramatic step of benching Ryan, their latest veteran quarterback option, and replacing him with Ehlinger, the 2021 6th-round draft pick who has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season game.
Frank Reich will make the announcement at his Monday afternoon press conference: Ehlinger will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Washington Commanders, Nick Foles will be No. 2 and Ryan will be relegated to No. 3 and inactive.
Ryan’s demotion comes after 239 career starts, including the playoffs.
But he gave the team no choice.
The 15-year veteran and former NFL MVP was acquired in a March trade with Atlanta and considered a much more reliable and stabilizing force at the position after last season’s failed Carson Wentz experience.
That hasn’t been the case as the Colts have been an offensive mess while meandering their way to a 3-3-1 record following Sunday’s error-plagued 19-10 loss to arch-rival Tennessee.
The defense once again offered a solid performance.
But Ryan again undermined the operation with two interceptions, one returned 76 yards for a touchdown by Andrew Adams.
“Just turning the ball over has kind of been our Achilles’ heel,’’ Ryan said after the game.
“I’ve got to be better than that.’’
Seven games into his first season with the Colts, and Ryan has been more of a detriment than a remedy. He:
- leads the NFL with nine interceptions.
- leads the league with 12 total turnovers. Opponents have cashed in by scoring 56 points on the dozen giveaways.
- leads the NFL with 11 fumbles, three of which were lost.
- has been sacked 24 times, tied for most.
- is directing an offense that’s averaging 16.1 points per game, 29th. It has scored 20 points or fewer six times.
- has failed to direct the offense to any points on an opening drive.
This hasn’t been a one-man offensive train wreck.
The NFL’s highest-paid offensive line has underachieved, leading to the avalanche of sacks and the running game ranking 30th in yards per game (81.0) and 29th in yards per attempt (3.5).
But Ryan’s carelessness with the football has been stunning, and debilitating. He had no more than 14 interceptions in any of his final six seasons with the Falcons, and endured double-digit fumbles four times in 14 seasons.
Now the Colts look to Ehlinger.
His move up the depth chart began last week when Reich bumped Ehlinger to No. 2 over Foles, who was inactive for the Titans game.
Reich described it as for “schematic’’ reasons, but internally the team’s patience with Ryan was wearing out.
Ehlinger might have started against the Titans Sunday in Nashville if Ryan hadn’t engineered the 34-27 win over Jacksonville the previous week by passing for 389 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers.
But Sunday’s performance against the Titans forced the Colts’ hand.
After the game, Reich stressed “Matt’s our quarterback.’’
That changed after Reich, general manager Chris Ballard and owner Jim Irsay had time to reassess things.
The team has been high on Ehlinger since it selected him with the 218th overall pick in the 2021 draft. Everyone pointed to his productive career at Texas – 11,436 passing yards and 94 TDs, 1,907 rushing yards and 33 TDs in 46 games – and his innate leadership trait.
But Ehlinger’s NFL resume is as thin as it gets.
He spent the first six games of his rookie season on the injured reserve list after suffering a knee injury in the preseason, and would handle just 18 total snaps in three games.
Ehlinger was the Colts’ unquestioned star during the preseason when he completed 82.8% of his passes for 289 yards, four TDs and a 147.8 rating. He also was the team’s leading rusher with 71 yards on six attempts.
“Sam earned that right now,’’ Reich said of elevating him as Ryan’s backup last week.
Ehlinger insisted his approach didn’t change from when he was No. 3 to Ryan’s backup against Jacksonville.
“I’ve always had the mentality that you have to prepare like the starter, and that was my mentality,’’ he said.
Now, he is the starter.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.