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Frank Reich Explains Colts' Starting Quarterback Change To Sam Ehlinger From Matt Ryan

Reich announced on Monday Ehlinger will be the Colts' starting quarterback for the remainder of the 2022 season. 

Colts head coach Frank Reich announced on Monday Sam Ehlinger will replace Matt Ryan as the team's starting quarterback for the remainder of the 2022 season.

Here's how Reich explained the switch, what his message to Ryan was, why he's excited about what Ehlinger can do in the Colts' offense and more from his Monday press conference.

On the switch: "Extremely difficult decision obviously given the respect and admiration that we have for Matt Ryan and what he's done and what he's brought here. He's a pro's pro. This guy is special, special, special. We know at the quarterback position that it's not our poor production on offense is not on one person, it's not on Matt Ryan.

"But we also know, as Matt and I talked it through, hey, as head coach and quarterback, ultimately it doesn't matter. I'm judged on wins and losses, quarterbacks are judged on points, production and turnovers. We understand that's how it is in this league. Matt will be a pro."

  • Ryan has a Grade 2 shoulder separation, Reich said, and will not practice this week. Nick Foles will back up Ehlinger in Sunday's Week 8 game against the Washington Commanders at Lucas Oil Stadium.
  • Reich said the Colts would've made the switch to Ehlinger, though, regardless of Ryan's injury status.

On his conversation with Ryan informing him of the move: "This is another point that need to be made crystal clear, and I told this to Matt — we did not hold up our end of the bargain here, right. I mean, you came here and we promised you one of the top NFL rushing games and we promised you great protection, and we haven't really as an offense delivered on that, and that starts with me.

"That's basically my message to Matt is that I thought, we thought the marriage of Matt Ryan and his history with our running game, he's had 14 years of incredibly productive, great quarterback play with great play-action, we just thought there was going to be a natural marriage there. It made a lot of sense. Given our crazy quarterback scenarios over the last five years, it wasn't a move of desperation, it wasn't a move of let's get the next thing. It was well thought out — does this seem right, nobody's just oh, who's available, who's thrown the most touchdowns, let's get that guy.

"This was a decision made based off watching the tape on him, seeing he's been productive in play-action, we can provide him a great running game, give him good protection — he's older, so doesn't run around a lot, but we can give him good protection. And as an offense, I think we're making strides to that but we're not there yet."

  • Reich praised Ryan's professionalism in their conversation Monday, adding: "Matt is committed to helping this team in any way he can. He's got a lot of years of experience. You always gotta stay ready. You never know. This is a funny league. Still believe Matt's going to help us get to where we want to go in whatever role that is."

On what Ehlinger brings to the offense: "It's a big step but we think he's ready. This guy's special. Just talk to anybody that walks in that locker room — we're fortunate to have a guy like (Sam), really three quarterbacks like that. But Sam, he's got that about him. He carries himself in a way, he plays, he practices in a way he'll be ready. He'll be ready.

"Is he going to have some growing pains, of course. Is he going to make mistakes, of course he's going to make mistakes. But I think Sam will make plays. Sam is going to make plays. He's proven that everywhere he's been, and we believe that's what he's going to do. That's what he's going to do for our offense. He's going to make plays."

  • Reich pointed to Ehlinger's ability to create with his legs as an asset that could help the Colts' offense a couple times a game, specifically on third down. "Sam as we all know, we've all witnessed he has the capability to do that," Reich said. "And sometimes in a game, it's those one or two third down conversions on a scramble that can make the difference in the game."
  • Ehlinger isn't just a mobile, scrambling quarterback, though. "On top of it, he's good in the pocket," Reich said. "I've seen that more this season than I did even last year. I believe he can be good from the pocket, so we can still stay true to some of the stuff that we like but we can do more in some of the movement stuff."
  • In three preseason games, Ehlinger completed 24/29 passes for 289 yards (10.0 yards/attempt) with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 147.8; he added six rushes for 71 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown.

On why the change was made following Sunday's 19-10 loss to the Titans: "Because of (Ryan's) legacy and history of what he's done and all he's accomplished, you want to measure twice and cut once, you want to make sure when you make this move it is truly the best thing for the team, and you don't want to rush into this kind of a judgement. I don't think we did that.

"It wasn't like we were sitting here, well, let's wait until he throws an interception and now we're gonna make a switch. It was the exact opposite. It was for me, this guys gonna lead us where we want to go and have that belief and confidence. At some point, the head coach, you have to make hard decisions. You have to work through these things and they're not easy decisions to be made."

  • Reich said after watching the film of the Colts' Week 7 game twice on Sunday, he huddled with general manager Chris Ballard and Owner and CEO Jim Irsay, and collectively the three came to the decision to start Ehlinger.
  • "It just shows Mr. Irsay's commitment to winning," Reich said. "He's committed to winning championships and anything short of winning a championship isn't gonna be good enough. No one's exempt from that, not the head coach, not anybody. He's going to make the decisions he thinks are best for this organization to win championships. That's where it all starts and finishes."

On how Ehlinger has looked behind the scenes: "I've been particularly impressed with Sam this year in practice, once the season started, the look he's given on scout team, the quality of his throws, the way he's commanding himself out there – just the total package. So just feel like at this point that's the best decision for our team going forward."

  • The Colts elevated Ehlinger to be their backup quarterback before Week 6, as he's consistently impressed coaches with how he's operated the scout team in practice.
  • "This is a testament to Sam," Reich said. "But this is what we tell players all the time, every play is evaluated. You're being evaluated — coaches, players, head coaches, position coaches — you're being evaluated every second of every day you're in this building. That's the way it works when you're in the most competitive industry, and I told Chris Ballard last week, Sam had one of the best weeks of practice I've ever seen him have — he made four or five what I would say to you are elite throws. I mean elite, big-time throws down the field, threading coverage, putting the ball right where it should be. Those things don't go unnoticed. Those things factor in to the decision. He's continued to do that this year."

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