Following the Colts’ catastrophic second-half collapse to the Minnesota Vikings, Coach Jeff Saturday has decided to bench Matt Ryan and move forward with Nick Foles.
Colts’ Nick Foles Claims Starting Job
After the fourth-quarter collapse against the Dallas Cowboys, I wrote an article about moving on from Matt Ryan. It seems the Colts are of the same mindset. The team has decided to move on from Matt for at least the rest of this season. Coach Jeff Saturday announced on Wednesday that Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles would be the starter this week against the Los Angeles Chargers and for the remainder of the season. So yes, Matt Ryan has been benched for the second time this season.
Since stepping in for the Eagles and winning Super Bowl 52 after Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL in week 13 of the 2017 season, Nick Foles has played in 12 games. The Jaguars paid him a lot of money after that Super Bowl just for him to play four games. He was traded to Chicago in 2020, where he played eight games for the Bears. He is now the Colts’ new starting quarterback till the end of the season.
Jeff Saturday on the decision to bench Matt Ryan #Colts pic.twitter.com/9QHwSMS6fs — Dave Griffiths (@DaveG_Sports) December 21, 2022
Above, you see a tweet from Indianapolis sports reporter Dave Griffiths where Coach Saturday mentions that Nick Foles gives the Colts the best chance to win on Monday (coach talk, this team is tanking). The Colts have a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs but also hold the sixth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. So with an opportunity to get the team’s future quarterback, I can’t see the team seriously trying to win games from now on.
I am not expecting Nick Foles to move the needle for Indianapolis down the stretch. Maybe the offense will take more shots downfield with Nick, but I cannot see this offense looking any better than it has in the past 15 games.
Matt Ryan’s 2022 Season For The Colts
Coming into the 2022 season, the Colts and their fans had a lot of optimism knowing Matt Ryan was at the helm of this offense (me included). Through 15 weeks of the NFL season, nothing has gone as planned for the team.
Matt completed 67% of his passes, has 3,057 passing yards, and 14 touchdowns. While those numbers may look serviceable, Ryan has accounted for 15 fumbles (five lost) and 13 interceptions, ranking 39th in the league with an 83.9 quarterback rating. He also has a 4-7-1 record as the starter.
Not all of the Colts’ struggles fall at the feet of Matt Ryan, though. When Ryan was traded to the Colts, the thought was that this team was well put together and that a physical offensive line would protect Ryan. Instead, Matt Ryan has been sacked 38 times through 12 games. Last year with the Falcons, Ryan was sacked 40 times through 17 games. So it is hard to blame him for everything wrong with the team.
Father time has caught up to Matt Ryan; we see it in his throws outside the numbers and when he is trying to take shots downfield. While he has never had a “huge” arm, you can tell his strength is not there anymore. His average depth per target (ADOT) is 6.5 yards, which ranks 36th in the NFL amongst quarterbacks with at least 132 dropbacks.
The Colts Could Be Concerned About Ryan’s Contract
Part of me feels the benching of Matt Ryan is more about his contract than his performance on the field.
$12M of Matt Ryan's 2023 base salary is already fully guaranteed. $7.205M of additional salary plus a $10M roster bonus is guaranteed for injury. If he suffers an injury this season that carries into 2023, that means $29.205M becomes guaranteed, instead of just $12M. — Spotrac (@spotrac) October 25, 2022
While the performance has been abysmal (not all his fault), the Colts can save money by ensuring Ryan does not get injured. Next year, $7.2 million of Matt Ryan’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he cannot pass the physical due to injury by the third day of March. Another $10 million is a roster bonus that will be fully guaranteed if Matt can not pass a physical due to injury by the third day of March. Matt’s base salary next year is $12 million; if he’s injured and cannot pass a physical, that amount goes up to $29 million, fully guaranteed.
If the Colts plan to move on from Matt Ryan or if he decides to retire after the 2022 season, the smart thing is to bench him to ensure he does not get injured.
The Colts are 4-9-1 heading into the matchup against the Chargers. They currently hold the sixth overall pick and could end the year in the top 5. With a .2% chance to make the playoffs, it was time for the Colts to decide to shut Matt Ryan down. Although the season has not gone as planned, it is time to draft the team’s future quarterback. While ownership and the coaches will not actively say this team is tanking, the moves down the stretch have shown otherwise.
Nick Foles is the new quarterback; there are not many expectations for him to go out and win the Colts games. However, I also do not believe this is an audition for him to take over the Colts’ quarterback job next season.