This has been a roller coaster week for Matt Ryan and the Indianapolis Colts and it is only Wednesday. They started things off with a surprising change as they fired head coach Frank Reich. Reich went 40-33-1 in his 4+ seasons with the team and that record is made all the more impressive when you take into account that he had a different starting quarterback each season he was at the helm for.
Even more shocking than Reich being moved on from was who the team decided to hire as its interim head coach. Normally, a team would promote from within to get a look at a position coach, but Indianapolis went way outside the box, hiring Jeff Saturday.
Saturday spent 13 of his 14 seasons in the NFL with the Colts, but his hiring is certainly eyebrow-raising as he has zero coaching experience above the high school level. He was most recently an analyst with ESPN but he will now be leading the team as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
Throughout all of this, we have gotten some interesting quotes from owner Jim Irsay. Irsay said that he was glad Saturday had no prior experience, a bizarre statement to make that leads to more questions than answers about the process the franchise went through to make that decision.
Back for another interview with Bob Kravitz of The Athletic on Tuesday, Irsay provided more material, this time about the quarterback situation. Veteran Matt Ryan started the season but was replaced by Sam Ehlinger, who has started the last two games and found no more success than Ryan did. During his interview with Kravitz, Irsay left the door open for a potential Ryan return to the lineup.
“When [G.M.] Chris [Ballard], Frank and I decided to go with Sam [Ehlinger], Frank [Reich] 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 told Kravitz. “If we decide to make a change, we’ll make a change. It’s not something we’re locked into. We’re going with Sam with his mobility and his playmaking ability since we’re struggling in [pass] protection and moving the ball, that’s what we all decided to do.”
Could the decision to bench Ryan for Ehlinger be part of the reason that Reich was let go as head coach earlier this week? Reich stated that Ehlinger was the starter for the remainder of the regular season, something that could change now that he is no longer calling the shots.
The decision of who will start will be Saturday’s, but from the sounds of it, Irsay may have some influence over it as well. He mentioned another veteran, Nick Foles, as someone that could eventually get a chance to play, too. Whatever helps the team win more games is what Irsay will push for.
“There was never a notion that you wouldn’t go to Nick [Foles] or Matt later in the season when [Ryan’s] shoulder is healthy,” Irsay now says. “They’re all available to help us win, bottom line. . . . It’s always been about whoever can help us win going forward. We’re going with Sam, and if there’s a notion for Jeff [Saturday] to make a change . . . that’s Jeff’s prerogative, and it was always Frank’s prerogative. It’s wrong to say I mandated it [the move to Ehlinger] and it’s wrong to say they can’t go to the other guy.”
Figuring out a long-term answer at the quarterback position is imperative for the Colts this offseason. This is a strong roster that is just a few pieces away from being true contenders. Unfortunately, it is arguably the two biggest spots, quarterback and offensive line, that Indianapolis has the most questions about moving forward.