Colts coach Frank Reich decided the time was now to move on from veteran Matt Ryan, handing the keys on Monday to an inexperienced quarterback who hasn't thrown a single regular-season pass in his career. Ehlinger's performance in the preseason and throughout practice has convinced Reich that the Texas product is ready for the responsibility.
"Anybody who knows Sam is he's made for moments like this," Reich said Wednesday of Ehlinger, via the team's official site.
Ehlinger agreed with Reich, telling reporters Wednesday he's been preparing for this moment since he reached the NFL.
"Always preparing to be the starter," Ehlinger said, via The Athletic. "Regardless of when the opportunity was gonna come, I was gonna be ready, and that's alleviated a lot of the stress. I mean, I can't imagine if I weren't preparing the way that I was and it's like, 'Hey, you're up.' "
Ehlinger has had two quality mentors available to him in 2022: Ryan and Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles. The second-year passer said they provided him with "an education I can't pay for."
Despite how it appears to the rest of the NFL, Reich told reporters the move to Ehlinger isn't a sign of surrender. Instead, it's a pivoting of the franchise toward the future (even if a former Colts coach isn't as easily convinced).
"Nobody is waving the white flag. That's not in my DNA," Reich said Wednesday, via FOX59. "That's not in our players' DNA. I would never do that in a million years."
Despite what Reich has said, Indianapolis' shift to Ehlinger stands as an admission its offseason acquisition of Ryan was a failure. The 37-year-old has thrown for 2,008 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games, but he has also thrown a league-worst nine interceptions, with many of the turnovers putting unnecessary strain on Indianapolis' defense and contributing to the Colts' three losses and season-opening tie with Houston. The most damning detail of all regarding Ryan was the type of interceptions thrown, with many heading directly to a defender already covering Ryan's intended target.
Ryan, 37, might simply be over the hill. The Colts aren't going to waste any more time testing him to see if this is true.
Ryan deserves credit, though, for how he handled his benching, which was coupled with a shoulder injury. Instead of turning his back on his new team, Ryan told Ehlinger, "I've got your back, no matter what happens," according to his replacement.
"I love Sam. He's been awesome since the day I got here," Ryan said Wednesday, per The Athletic. "My job shifts now -- now I gotta do everything I can to help him. He's gonna do great for us."
It could be much worse for the Colts, who at 3-3-1 are still very much in the hunt for the AFC South title. Ryan could react negatively and strain his relationship with both his teammates and the coaching staff. Instead, he's handling the change professionally, even if he understandably doesn't like it.
Reich will hope his decision pays off for the Colts, and that Ryan gives full support to his former understudy. The Ehlinger era begins Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET in Indianapolis.