Colts bench Ryan for 2nd time, will give Foles starting job

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan (2) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Minneapolis. The Vikings won 39-36 in overtime. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

INDIANAPOLIS – Nick Foles waited all season to start taking snaps with the Indianapolis Colts starters.

The 33-year-old quarterback is about to get his chance.

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On Wednesday, interim coach Jeff Saturday announced Foles will replace Matt Ryan as Indy's starter against the Los Angeles Chargers, giving Foles his first start since Dec. 26, 2021, and his second since October 2020.

“No, none,” Foles said when asked if he's even taken first-team snaps in practice. “You never know what's going to happen each week, it's sort of been that kind of year. Unfortunately, in the NFL there are years like that. For me, it's always just doing what I need to do in my role.”

It's been a painful season for the Colts (4-9-1) and Foles, who initially signed as a free agent to rejoin coach Frank Reich only to watch his longtime friend get fired in early November.

He's also seen Indy switch play-callers, fire the offensive coordinator and even got bypassed when Reich initially benched Ryan in October.

Reich turned the team over to second-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who attended the same Texas high school as Foles. Indy lost both of Ehlinger's starts.

Foles began this season listed No. 2 on the depth chart, slid to No. 3 and now has been promoted to starter just four days after the Colts blew a 33-0 halftime lead and allowed Minnesota to rally for a 39-36 overtime victory — the largest comeback in NFL history.

“This is never an easy decision and I love Matt, he's a pro's pro and I love the way he's handled it,” Saturday said. “I feel bad for Matt but ultimately, Nick gives us the best chance of winning and that's the direction we're headed.”

Saturday declined to say whether Ryan or Ehlinger would serve as No. 2 against the Chargers on Monday night.

Ryan's roller-coaster season — and perhaps his career — could be over.

The 37-year-old rallied the Colts in all four of their wins this season, but has been sacked 38 times, fifth in the league, and has a league-high 18 giveaways despite missing two games. Ryan also suffered a separated shoulder in October.

He's scheduled to count $35.2 million against Indy's salary cap next season, but the Colts can free up $17.2 million by releasing the 2016 league MVP and four-time Pro Bowler who ranks fifth in NFL history in completions (5,551) and pass attempts (8,464), seventh in yards passing (62,792) and ninth in touchdown passes (381).

But after last week's historic collapse, a four-turnover fourth quarter that led to 33 points in Indy's previous game at Dallas and four consecutive losses, Saturday pulled the plug on Ryan's starting role and is giving Foles a crash course to show what he can do with a lineup he knows little about.

“I know him and got to know him personally, unfortunately not on the field,” said center Ryan Kelly, who will be snapping to his third quarterback this season and eighth since 2017.

“Just doing the walkthrough stuff. Just keep it simple and go out there and play fast. Nick’s obviously stayed ready, working out literally every day, keeping his body right.”

But it's unclear whether the same guy who replaced the injured Carson Wentz as the Eagles starter in Week 15 of the 2017 season and led Philadelphia to the Super Bowl title can replicate that kind of success in Indy. Foles was the Super Bowl MVP that year after throwing for 373 yards and three TDs while catching another memorable score in the game.

Saturday believes Foles can help stretch the field with more downfield throws and better efficiency and safety Rodney McLeod believes Foles is much the same player he saw in the Eagles locker room in 2017.

“It's his confidence, leadership ability, guys have a way of kind of following Nick and I think also he's a real good quarterback when it comes to deep balls,” McLeod said. “He's seen a lot of ball and he's a man of faith and I think you see that kind of calmness he can bring to a huddle.”

The Colts are hoping that even applies to a quarterback still getting his feet wet with Indy.

“Sometimes you're with a team for a couple years and then you go in and out and then you play like this is my first time to really be with the guys,” Foles said. “For me, it's just getting that mindset of trying to execute this offense, running this offense because really it was training camp and now since then it's really been scout team cards, but I've watched Sam and Matt do a lot of reps.”


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