The Colts are having one of the wildest seasons in recent memories. In the last three weeks, they have fired two staff members, elevated others into leadership roles, and had a press conference to explain it. But, unfortunately, a man who was hoping for more and should get one more chance is lost in the shuffle.
The Colts Are Invested
When last season ended, the Colts were adamant: Carson Wentz was not the answer. So they set out to find the next quarterback to lead the team. General Manager Chris Ballard traded for Matt Ryan on March 22. The team sent a third-round pick to the Falcons and gave Ryan a two-year deal and a restructured contract).
After so much turnover at the position, the Colts claimed they were fortunate to have Ryan. They doubled down on how lucky there to get him. They praised his leadership, tenacity, and toughness. By all accounts, they were excited about him and expected him to be a bridge quarterback at minimum. But the question remained: would it work?
The Colts Made Matt Ryan a Scapegoat
On October 24th, the team benched Matt Ryan just two months into the season. Far from the high expectations of winning the division and returning the Colts to the playoffs, the Colts gave up on the Matt Ryan experiment after seven games. Ryan had a staggering nine interceptions, 24 sacks (more than Andrew Luck was ever sacked in two different seasons), and 11 fumbles. On the surface, this looks like a man who shouldn’t be playing football anymore. But, to the naked eye, “Father Time” had kicked in the door.
However, during his tenure as starting quarterback, Matt Ryan had at least five different offensive line combinations that added to his tumultuous undoing. Perhaps even more egregious, the team gave Matt Pryor the first crack at the starting left tackle position, a position he’d only started at once in his career. (They even tried him at other positions. It did not work.)
If that wasn’t enough, the team seemingly forgot (more so Chris Ballard was bullish) that outside of Michael Pittman Jr., the wide receiving corps had little production before the season, only wracking up a mystifying 20 receptions and just two touchdowns. (Alec Pierce turned out well, and Parris Campbell is slowly returning to form, but the rest is paltry at best.)
Amazingly, Ryan led four fourth-quarter comebacks and had three game-winning drives in his first six starts for the team. He also did this despite not having his starting running back in multiple games, inconsistent playcalling, and becoming bruised and battered along the way. Jim Irsay, Chris Ballard, and Frank Reich should be ashamed.
The Colts Need Ryan To Clean Up Their Mess Again
Ryan took his benching on the chin and had the reaction most expected of him: all class. He pledged his support to the team and starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger as they continued to unravel. On November 1st, the team fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, implying that the offense’s struggles rested on his shoulders. The team then shifted duties to Frank Reich, hoping for a jump start. Instead, to the shock of no one, the Colts had their worst offensive showing in 25 years, losing 26 to 3 in Foxborough. Frank Reich was promptly relieved of his duties on November 7th.
The team then uncharacteristically hired an interim head coach with no experience: former Colts great Jeff Saturday. After a shocking press conference that did little to quell the chaos surrounding the team, Jim Irsay left a wrinkle in the framework: he admitted that he was open to any quarterback starting if it meant helping the team win. “When Chris (Ballard), Frank, and I decided to go with Sam, Frank wanted to name him quarterback for the year, but I told them, ‘Look, we have three quarterbacks; we need to use them all to win this year,” Irsay said.
Now, Matt Ryan has moved up the depth charts. He will back up Sam Ehlinger tomorrow against the Raiders. It will be the first career game leading the charge for Saturday and new play caller Parks Frazier. But, should things go south, Matt Ryan will be ready. After all, Ryan is responsible for all three wins this team has this season.
A few days ago, I was asked on Mike Patton’s Touring The AFC South Podcast how I felt about the Colts after the “first domino fell”: Marcus Brady. I spoke about how I thought the first domino was Matt Ryan. The benching of Matt Ryan was primarily used to cover up the numerous missteps of Chris Ballard, Frank Reich, and Jim Irsay. They promised him more for his trouble and have failed to do that. While I have no issues riding with Sam Ehlinger, Ehlinger might be too inexperienced to win the team games. The Colts likely aren’t winning any awards this season, but if they want to keep things respectable, Matthew Thomas Ryan is available.