He passed 18 of 21 for 123 yards and a touchdown in the second half, but couldn’t complete his fourth fourth-quarter comeback this season. Even if Ryan hadn’t been injured, Reich said, the decision would have been the same.
“The shoulder injury is real, but this move was going to be done anyway,” he said.
Ryan did not speak to reporters on Monday. It is usually available on Wednesdays.
Indy (3-3-1) sent a 2022 third-round draft pick to Atlanta for Ryan, 37, in March.
General manager Chris Ballard thought Ryan was playing well as recently as last season. In April, team owner Jim Irsay said he thought Ryan could make the Colts a contender for another four years.
But this season has not gone as many had expected.
Ryan threw nine interceptions and has 11 fumbles, both league highs.
The Colts’ usually strong offensive line struggled, allowing 59 hits and 24 sacks — tied with Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow for the most in the NFL entering Monday.
And with Indy’s traditionally strong ground game becoming ineffective, Ryan has thrown more passes (297) than anyone other than Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (308).
The combination has made Indy the fourth-lowest scoring team in the NFL (16.1 points) and needs a change.
“Excited for Sam and the opportunity this presents to him,” Reich said. “We always thought Sam had a special sauce. We think it’s the best decision for our team.
Ehlinger’s surprising rise on the depth chart came quickly.
The former Texas star was a sixth-round pick in 2021, but opened his rookie season on injured reserve with a knee injury. In October of that season, he beat Jacob Eason for the No. 3 spot and ended up appearing in three games, although Ehlinger didn’t throw a pass.
An impressive second season of showing has some openly wondering if the 6-foot-1, 222-pound Ehlinger could supplant Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles, a longtime friend of Reich’s, at No. 2.
Reich made the move ahead of the Week 6 win over Jacksonville and kept Ehlinger in reserve on Sunday.
Ehlinger thought the move was made primarily to use him for a few games.
“We haven’t discussed a package this week, so I don’t know what the plan is for that,” Ehlinger said last Wednesday. “Last week there were a few situations that we talked about. Obviously, I didn’t end up directing any of them.
Another good week of training continued to turn heads within the organization, and when Ryan struggled again on Sunday, Reich, Irsay and Ballard came together again to debate the decision.
Reich said he told the quarterbacks and their teammates on Monday and Ryan responded like a pro, promising to help the Colts. The hope is that Ehlinger’s mobility can help him avoid passers, make plays on the court and make plays with his legs.
“I think it’s a great move for us to have Sam there, the way he’s come in and made plays,” defensive tackle Grover Stewart said. “I think it’s a good decision for us.”
Ehlinger will be the seventh different starting quarterback Reich has used during his five-year tenure with the Colts.
Ryan ranks among the NFL’s all-time top 10 in passing yards, career completions and fourth-quarter returns, a late-game proficiency that earned Reich praise last week.
And with another year remaining on Ryan’s contract, potentially costing the Colts $21.7 million in 2023, Ryan may no longer be part of Indy’s long-term plan either.
“I said this to Matt: ‘We haven’t kept our end of the bargain here. I mean, you came here and we promised you one of the best running games in the NFL and we promised you great protection, and we didn’t really, as an offense, deliver on that , and it starts with me,” Reich said. “We thought Matt Ryan’s marriage and his history with our racing game, we just thought it was going to be a natural marriage.”