Matt Ryan has an injured shoulder, but that’s not why the Indianapolis Colts are making a switch at quarterback in Week 8.
The Colts made a surprising announcement on Monday after a loss to the Tennessee Titans, saying Ryan wouldn’t start. He has been benched and the team will turn to Sam Ehlinger at quarterback.
Mike Chappell of FOX59/CBS4 in Indianapolis first reported that Ryan had been benched. Zak Keefer of The Athletic reported that Ryan had a Grade 2 shoulder separation and won’t practice this week. But Colts coach Frank Reich said the move to Ehlinger would have happened anyway, and the plan is for him to start the rest of the season.
Ryan was the Colts’ latest attempt at solving quarterback in the post-Andrew Luck era. They traded for the longtime Atlanta Falcons quarterback over the offseason. Ryan leads the NFL with nine interceptions and also leads the NFL with 11 fumbles. He threw a costly pick-six on Sunday against the Titans in a loss that dropped the Colts to 3-3-1.
Ehlinger will get the start this week against the Washington Commanders, with Nick Foles operating as the backup, according to Reich.
The move to Ehlinger is a shock in part because he lacks experience. He has appeared in only three NFL games and has never thrown a pass in the regular season. Ehlinger was a sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft out of Texas.
Ehlinger will be replacing a quarterback with 61,743 yards in 229 career games. Ryan has started every NFL game he has appeared in. When the Falcons pursued Deshaun Watson in the offseason, Ryan voiced his displeasure and that led to a trade with the Colts. Indianapolis traded a third-round pick for him.
Ryan has turned it over too much, though in Week 6 he had 389 yards and three touchdowns, one of which came with 17 seconds left, to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts aren’t out of the playoff race at 3-3-1, though they were swept in the season series by the first-place Titans, who are 4-2.
The Colts guaranteed $12 million of Ryan’s contract for 2023, according to the Indianapolis Star, and it would be an $18 million cap hit to release him, though with a savings of $17.2 million to offset that. Based on Monday’s news, it seems likely that the Colts will be moving on from the 37-year-old Ryan at some point before next season and trying out yet another quarterback in 2023. Maybe Ehlinger will end up being the answer.
Early this season, the Colts are willing to find out.