Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan did not have the year he or the Colts’ organization expected, and the 2008 third overall pick’s struggles were detailed by ESPN writer Stephen Holder on December 26.
The Colts traded a third-round pick to acquire Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons in March. His Indianapolis arrival was met with hype, as his Super Bowl-level experience seemed promising.
Turns out, 2022 is the season to forget for Colts fans, and Ryan’s play has played a role in the negatives.
The former Boston College Eagle was unexpectedly benched midseason for 2021 sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger. The plan was for Ehlinger to remain the starter for the rest of 2022, but former Colts head coach Frank Reich was fired on November 7 and Ryan was later reinstated behind center.
“You came here and we promised you a top NFL rushing game and we promised you great protection, and we haven’t really, as an offense, delivered on that,” Reich said to Ryan, according to Holder. “And that really starts with me.”
Biggest Factors in Matt Ryan’s Decline
Before his initial benching, Ryan suffered from a right shoulder sprain against the Titans on October 23. Holder said that even when Ryan returned to the lineup on November 13, the injury could have impacted his arm strength.
Maybe that’s why Ryan hasn’t taken many deep shots this season, as he ranks 32nd in air yards per pass attempt (6.2). But it could also be in an effort to limit turnovers, Holder said.
In 12 starts, Ryan threw 13 interceptions, fumbled 15 times (losing five) and took 65 sacks.
Holder did also, however, attribute the offensive line as a contributing factor to the Colts’ inability to move the ball.
That includes moving guard Matt Pryor to starting left tackle — a position he’d never played, leading to poor performance — and further inconsistency at the right guard position.
Interim head coach Jeff Saturday implied that the offensive line hasn’t performed up to par, leading to some of Ryan’s turnovers.
“[Ryan’s] been sacked a lot, he’s been hit a lot, a bunch of turnovers and that’s not always on Matt,” Saturday told Holder. “There’s a lot of different pieces and parts that haven’t gone to plan. It definitely changes you.”
Last season, the Colts offensive line performed at a high level, as then-quarterback Carson Wentz threw for over 3,500 yards and running back Jonathan Taylor led the league with 1,811 yards on the ground.
This season, it all went backward. The Colts have scored the third-fewest points per game (17.5). Compare that to last season, when the team finished top 10 with 26.5.
No matter the reason(s) for the extensive struggles, the Colts surely did not anticipate this lack of success.
What Now for the Colts?
Indianapolis has put its trust in former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, as he will make his Colts starting debut against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Ryan won’t even be the backup. Listed third on the depth chart, Ryan will likely be inactive — and it might stay that way for the rest of the year.
Center Ryan Kelly told Holder that Ryan’s positive disposition and willingness to lead even after he was first benched was something he admired.
“I think that was huge,” Kelly said to Holder. “And that takes a lot. You had to put your ego aside and put your pride aside, and that’s a hard thing to do — especially when you’ve been in the league for 15 years.”
Now, Ryan will have to revert to that leadership role yet again.
The impending performance of Foles in the final three games comes with low expectations as the Colts were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on December 22. But, as Holder recounted, what’s to be seen is Ryan’s future as an NFL quarterback — if there is any.
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