Indianapolis Colts Bench QB Matt Ryan, Promote Sam Ehlinger to Starter

The Indianapolis Colts have benched quarterback Matt Ryan for the rest of the season, and backup Sam Ehlinger has earned a promotion as the starter going forward.

Quarterbacks Sam Ehlinger (left) and Matt Ryan (right) during a recent practice for the Indianapolis Colts. Ryan recently lost the starting job to Ehlinger. (Image: USA Today Sports)

The Colts also have quarterback Nick Foles on the roster. Foles will serve as Ehlinger’s backup while Ryan rides the pine as the third-stringer.

Extremely difficult decision, given the respect and admiration that we have for Matt Ryan, given what he’s brought here,” said head coach Frank Reich in a Monday press conference. “He is a pro’s pro. This guy is special. We all know at the quarterback position that our poor production on offense is not on one person. It’s not on Matt Ryan.”

The Colts averaged 16.1 points per game this season as the third-lowest scoring team in the NFL.

The Colts acquired Ryan this offseason when the Atlanta Falcons traded him for a third-round pick.

Ryan passed for 2,009 yards, nine touchdowns, and nine interceptions this season. He’s current ranked #4 in passing yards despite a 3-3-1 record.

It’s Not a Game, It’s a Business

Eclectic team owner Jim Irsay sat down last Sunday for an hour-long meeting with Reich and general manager Chris Ballard after their nine-point loss on against the Tennessee Titans. That’s when the Colts decided to bench Ryan in favor of Ehlinger. But it was not a direct order from Irsay.

“His vote is always going to carry more weight,” said Reich. “He might lead the way in some certain ways, but it’s really owner, GM, and head coach talking through a decision of this magnitude.”

The business of professional football reared its ugly head with Ryan getting benched. A dinged-up Ryan struggled to adjust to a new team, offense, and playbook while leading the Colts to a 3-3-1 record. However, the injuries or ineffectiveness were not behind the ultimate decision to bench him. Rather, it’s his contract.

The Colts could save upwards of $17.2 million if Ryan can remain healthy before his physical at the start of the NFL calendar year in March 2023. Ryan, currently 37-years old, is set to earn $12 million in guaranteed salary next season. He can also earn a $10 million roster bonus and $7.2 million in additional guaranteed salary if he fails his physical due to a lingering injury.

There is a little bit surprise and shock at the beginning, but it’s a decision they had to make and, as a player, as a teammate, you have to move forward and you’ve gotta help out where you can,” said Ryan.

If you consult with the accounting department, Ryan played his last game for the Colts this season in Week 7. There’s a future scenario in which the Colts cut Ryan after the trade deadline, or perhaps he outright asks to be released.

Colts Betting on Sam Ehlinger

The Colts selected Ehlinger out of Texas with a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s slated to start against Sunday against the Washington Commanders. The Colts are a -3 favorite in Ehlinger’s first start.

“I’ve been particularly impressed with Sam in practice since the season started, the look that he’s given on the scout team, the quality of his throws, the way he’s commanding himself out there,” said Reich. “Just the total package. I just think it’s the best decision for our team moving forward.”

Sam’s got arm talent,” said ex-Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. “He’s a mobile guy. He’s strong, he’s intelligent, smart. He’ll do a nice job as far as managing the games.”

The Colts play six more games before their bye in Week 14. They host games against the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles, and Pittsburgh Steelers. They also hit the road to play the New England Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders, and the Dallas Cowboys.

After the late bye in the second week of December, the Colts finish their season with away games against the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. They also host home games in Week 16 versus the Los Angeles Chargers, and in Week 18 against the Houston Texans.

The Colts are 3-3-1 and currently sit in second place in the lackluster AFC South. The Tennessee Titans lead the division with a 4-2 record, while the Jaguars (2-5) are in third place, and the Houston Texans (1-4-1) occupy the basement in last place.

The Titans are the betting favorite to win the AFC South at -140 odds, according to DraftKings. The Colts are +225 odds to win the division, while the Jaguars are +350 odds.

The Colts were +2500 odds to win Super Bowl LVII in the preseason, but they slipped after a winless start and gradually decreased through the first seven weeks of the season. You can back the Colts right now at +15000 odds as a long shot to win the Super Bowl.

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