Jim Irsay has placed his hands on the Colts’ personnel steering wheel at key junctures this year. Nine months after the owner insisted Carson Wentz be a Colts one-and-done, he led the way to Wentz’s replacement being benched.
Over the past few weeks, Irsay let Chris Ballard and Frank Reich know a change was needed at quarterback, Zak Keefer of The Athletic reports, noting Ballard was onboard with benching Matt Ryan for Sam Ehlinger before Reich reached that conclusion (subscription required).
Pointing out that the quarterback position provides an exception to Irsay’s policy of letting Ballard and Reich run the show, Keefer adds a Sunday-night meeting — similar to the Irsay-Ballard-Reich summit shortly after the Colts’ Week 18 meltdown in Jacksonville — led to the call to demote Ryan. Ryan’s sprained shoulder will sideline him in Week 8, but he will soon become a healthy backup for the first time since Boston College’s 2005 season. Ryan’s 12 turnovers — nine interceptions, three lost fumbles — lead the league.
Irsay’s prompting also comes months after he instructed Ballard to finalize the trade for Ryan, whom the Falcons dealt to the Colts for a 2022 third-round pick. Indianapolis went more than a week in between the Wentz and Ryan trades, discussing a deal with Jameis Winston during the days between those moves. But once the Falcons’ Deshaun Watson courtship commenced, the Ryan-to-Indy path formed.
The Colts have traded a first-rounder and two thirds to bring in their past two starting QBs, though they recouped considerable value by shipping Wentz to Washington this offseason. Indianapolis will now turn to a former sixth-round pick at the game’s marquee position.
Select scouts communicated to SI.com’s Albert Breer they believe Ryan’s arm is shot, and Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio points to Ryan’s injury guarantees as the reason the Colts are moving away from him seven games in. The Colts restructured Ryan’s contract this offseason, ballooning his 2023 cap number to $35.2MM. Ryan will see $12MM guaranteed next year, but $7.2MM more would come via injury guarantees if the 37-year-old passer cannot pass a physical on Day 3 of the 2023 league year, Florio adds. Ryan’s $10MM 2023 roster bonus is also guaranteed for injury, leading to the Colts’ effort to bubble-wrap their initial 2022 starter.
The Colts continue to battle uphill in the years after Andrew Luck‘s August 2019 retirement. After acquiring Ryan, they joined the Broncos and Commanders in starting a sixth Week 1 quarterback in six years. Fewer than 10 teams have gone through that much QB1 turnover since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Indianapolis will run that streak to seven next season. Only two post-merger teams — the Chargers from 1987-93 and Browns from 2013-19 — have trotted out different Week 1 starting QBs in seven straight years. Ehlinger, who has yet to throw a regular-season pass, will attempt to make his case to be that starter.
32 comments on “Jim Irsay Led Charge For Colts’ Matt Ryan Benching”
It’s not always true, but for the most part, the most meddling NFL owners don’t seem to win too many Super Bowls. The smartest owners hire the right people for the jobs, and then at least try to sit back and let them do their jobs.
Al Davis was really the only meddling owner who had a clue what he was doing.
I have to admit that part of my motivation for my previous post was that I’m a Steeler fan: having a meddlesome owner is mostly foreign to me. Art Sr. and Dan Rooney are Hall of Famers in part because they were smart enough to (at least publicly) stay out of the way. Art Rooney II has made more public statements about the team in the last 5 years than his father and grandfather did in their 75 or so years of ownership… and I don’t think that’s a good thing at all.
I’ve been on this site in the past defending certain NFL owners who have had little to no success, specifically because those owners seem “hands-off” types who simply have made poor personnel decisions. Being controlling worked for Al Davis. Some would (wrongly IMO) argue that it’s worked for Jerry Jones. But if I wasn’t a Steeler fan I’d rather be a fan of a team with old-school owner like the Maras or Hunts or Wilsons.
Controlling owners like Al Davis are more or less extinct now. The NFL front offices are massive bureaucracies that just keep getting more bloated each year. Of course owners prefer it that way because it gives them more time to play golf and sail around on their yachts.
Yeah because he used to Coach the raiders way back when. He was an owner who gets it
Among the 12 teams who have not won a Super Bowl, the AFC’s Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars, and the NFC’s Detroit Lions are the only four to have not appeared in the game.
I hate to admit this but Irsay and reich made a good move based on team performance. The best qb on the colts hands down is foles but he is a statue also. Better arm than Ryan and more accurate. Neither of those guys will succeed in system with no running game and poor line. At this point maybe Sam can run and e cape trouble. Hopefully he gets rid of ball fast and doesn’t become a Justin fields who is a great runner but poor qb
I had to look closely at the photo to make sure I wasn’t seeing Homer Simpson.
I don’t get it?
Apparently they don’t always use the same photo for the website and app which can create some confusion.
This certainly seemed like Irsay. Reich and Ballard haven’t exactly been flawless in recent times, but they’re both generally sharp, rational guys. Suddenly benching Ryan for a second year 6th round pick who’s never attempted an NFL pass and declaring it a rest of the season move does not strike me as something either would do.
The offensive line is bad and Ryan is a statue. If you have a bad line you need a somewhat mobile QB. I agree that Ehlinger is almost certainly not the answer long term. Ryan clearly hasn’t been getting it done though.
Ryan hasn’t been getting it done, but Ehlinger will likely be a nuclear meltdown. Declaring him the rest of the season starter is bananas.
It’s about lighting a fire under Ryan’s ass
Either he improves or you play it out with the rookie
My guess is that Reich was given an ultimatum – as there is no way he would have made this change at this point in the season. Irsay probably saw Ehlinger play in the pre-season and thinks he’ll look like that against real NFL players.
A lot of the comments made by Ballard and Reich since that humiliating loss to the Jags last season sound as if they were from a script they received from the owner. I think they were trying to convince themselves it made some sense. It’s starting to feel as though someone will be thrown under the bus.
To be fair, the Colts are lucky to be .500 right now. And there’s no way I see them being an above .500 team with the kind of play that Matt Ryan is putting on. How could Ehlinger be worse? Seriously,
He certainly could be and I’m guessing he will be. I could be wrong, but I envision a bad, bad loss to Washington this weekend.
Ryan is being made the scape goat but the Colts led the league in pro bowl selections last season so there are several other players under performing.
Wish Jim Irsay gave the press conference if it was his decision to bench Matt Ryan.
Irsay should just be the head coach if he’s going to keep meddling.
Irsay’s father bailed on an entire city like a thief in the night, so it’s unsurprising his son wouldn’t stand up there and take the heat for being the driving force in bailing on Ryan. Like father, like son.
I can be objective and admit Ryan hasn’t played well. I just don’t see Ehlinger as a better alternative, though. And in the end it should be the coach’s call who plays because he’ll be the one answering the questions and likely getting fired in the end.
The Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis because Robert Irsay saw, correctly, that the state of Maryland was going to use eminent domain to seize the football club.
“Nothing Should Ever Change” is an excuse for bad business practices.
Irsay also repeatedly flirted with moving the team to Phoenix, Memphis, Los Angeles, Jacksonville and Indianapolis before it ever got to that point. I’m not saying Maryland was right to pull the move, but let’s not pretend Robert Irsay didn’t trigger it by being a terrible owner that ruined a franchise all before this. He wasn’t some poor guy who was about to be blindsided.
I think a lot of people are missing the point. Ryan isn’t anywhere near the QB he used to be, of course, but benching him is strictly a business decision. With the way things have gone for what is (already!) nearly a half season, it simply doesn’t look like the Colts are going to win much of anything with Ryan at QB. Considering how much money it would cost the Colts should Ryan play and get hurt, there’s no legit reason to keep playing him. Irsay might not always make the best personnel decisions, but he knows enough as a businessman to NOT throw good money after bad.
They knew who Ryan was before he joined the team. He was never mobile and always needed a strong O-line to be effective. Benching him solves nothing. It’s the line that needs to be fixed.
@rondon – I completely agree with you. However, it’s VERY unlikely they can address the problems in the O-line midseason, and Ryan getting more hurt than he reportedly already is would cost the team a fortune. They’re punting on the season in favor of cash right now, and I’m not entirely sure I can blame them.
Question for you then, Hubcap: if the Colts finish poorly with Ehlinger at the helm, does the coaching staff get a pass? Decision making has been taken out of their hands, after all.
I think I’d have to go with “yes.” Reich needs to be on the hot seat anyways, but this decision, as you mention, is apparently completely out of his hands. To me, this is ugly, because it’s just business over football… Happens in every sport, I know, but I don’t have to like it.
The Colts are run like a Madden franchise, no chance they succeed ever like this.
Wentz was a problem last year for the Colts. His situation did teach me that looking at touchdown to interception ratios sometimes doesn’t tell a lot of the story. Wentz threw for under200 yards in 6 of his last 8 games. He consistently tried to play hero ball and , as Ballard intimated, wouldn’t take the layups a defense offered him. I do believe that Irsay was the motivating force( and correctly so) in getting rid of him, as Reich was in love with the guy. Ryan seemed like an upgrade, but age and crappy offensive line play have combined to lead to his benching. While there certainly is a money component to that move, the other factor that’s overlooked is that if Ehlinger doesn’t play well, the Colts’ record gets worse and they move up in the draft order, therefore getting a shot at one of the higher ranked quarterbacks in this draft. If he plays really well (which I doubt happens, but could come to pass) the Colts have found their qb. Given how their season has gone so far, Ryan’s benching is understandable to me. But success in tanking will also require that Ballard chooses wisely in the next draft as far as a quarterback goes and given his track record at the position I have real doubts that he can do so, if he’s still employed.
If Ballard had fired Reich along with Wentz, as he should have, he might still have a job as Indy’s GM at the end of this season. He will be gone with Reich. Reich first thought he could make Brissett a quality starting QB, in spite of his 4-11 record the year Luck was out with the shoulder. He then parlayed for Rivers, knowing it would likely be a 1 year deal. Then he parlayed for Wentz, who Reich thought he could bring back to his MVP caliber level. Not only all that, but Frank is also a lousy play caller. The Colts always are slow starting, something you can’t do against teams like Tennessee.