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Frank Reich names Sam Ehlinger as Colts' starting quarterback for rest of season over Matt Ryan

The Indianapolis Colts have seen enough turnovers from Matt Ryan.

The Colts are benching the starting quarterback in favor of Sam Ehlinger this week against the Washington Commanders, coach Frank Reich announced Monday.

"We are going to make a significant change to the starting lineup," Reich said. "We are going to elevate Sam to be the starting quarterback. Extremely difficult decision, obviously, given the respect and admiration 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."

Reich noted that Ryan is dealing with a Grade 2 shoulder separation, and Nick Foles would be the No. 2 QB this week. But Reich added the QB change would have been made regardless of the signal-caller's injury status.

The plan is for Ehlinger to start the rest of the season.

"Excited for Sam and the opportunity this presents for him," Reich said. "We've always thought from Day 1 that Sam had some kind of special sauce. He's continued to show it. I've been particularly impressed with Sam this year in practice. Once the season started, the look he's giving on scout team, the quality of his throws, the way he's commanding himself out there, the total package. Just feel like, at this point, that's the best decision for our team going forward."

It's a stunning fall after the Colts acquired Ryan in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason. Indy had pomp and circumstance upon the trade, with the club believing he was an upgrade on Carson Wentz and the final piece to a playoff team.

Through seven weeks, it's another swing-and-miss for general manager Chris Ballard, who has been unable to stabilize the QB position in Indy since Andrew Luck retired in 2019.

Ryan has struggled this season behind a faulty offensive line for the 3-3-1 Colts. He's completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 2,008 yards with nine touchdowns and a league-high nine interceptions. Ryan has fumbled 11 times, losing three. He's also been sacked 24 times, tied for most in the NFL entering Monday night.

In Sunday's loss to rival Tennessee, Ryan threw two brutal interceptions, including a game-changing pick-six.

"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, as head coach and quarterback. As head coach, ultimately it doesn't matter, I'm judged on wins and losses," Reich said. "Quarterback's judged on points and production and turnovers. We understand that's how it is in this league."

Ehlinger, a 2021 sixth-round pick, has never started an NFL game and appeared in just three contests as a rookie, throwing zero passes and rushing three times for 9 yards. However, Reich might view the young quarterback as a more mobile option behind a struggling O-line, who could bring more RPO options to the offense.

The 24-year-old Ehlinger will be the Colts' seventh starting QB under Reich.

The change feels like an act of desperation from a coach and a front office on the hot seat. It's possible owner Jim Irsay pushed for the move, but Reich said Monday the decision was collective.

"Mr. Irsay's been incredibly supportive," Reich said. "We do talk every week, talk in the locker room after game, usually either talk that night by phone or sometimes in the next day or two. Did have a conversation with both he and Chris late last night for an hour or so, just talking everything through. … His vote is always going to carry -- it's a one-man crew in that respect -- but what I appreciate about him is this is a collective decision. This is 'Let's talk this through, let's talk this through.' He might lead the way in certain ways, but it's really owner, GM, head coach talking through a decision of this magnitude."

The seismic decision in Indy could have lasting reverberations as Ryan couldn't slow the QB carousel. Ryan is making $24.7 million this year and is due $12 million guaranteed, with a $35 million cap hit in 2023.

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