‘It’s almost like a waste’

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The Indianapolis Colts’ decision to bench Matt Ryan in favor of sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger feels like a move of desperation from a front office and coaching staff on a calescent seat about to burst into flames.

Former Colts coach Chuck Pagano, now working for The 33rd Team, offered a harsh assessment of the situation in Indy.

“He’s really struggled, and they’ve struggled, especially on the offensive side,” Pagano said of Ryan, via the Indy Star. “There was so much promise and electricity around that team and that roster coming into this year after they moved on from Carson (Wentz) a year ago and brought Matt in there. So much hope. You feel for that organization, feel for that team , that locker room, and those fans there. Now, what’s the rest of this year gonna look like? It’s almost like a waste.”

While we don’t chase the opinions of most ex-coaches-turned-analysts, Pagano’s intimate knowledge of the situation in Indianapolis and former close relationship with owner Jim Irsay give his comments weight.

Pagno knows a thing or four about going through the QB cycle in Indy and how it can undercut a club. In his first three seasons coaching Indy — including time away while undergoing cancer treatment — with Andrew Luck under center, the Colts won 11 games each year. Then injuries began to strike Luck, and things got sideways for Pagano in Indy. In his final four-win campaign coaching the Colts, Jacoby Brissett started 15 games with Luck down for the season.

Ehlinger has never attempted an NFL pass, but coach Frank Reich is confident enough in what he saw during practices, training camp and preseason to declare the second-year QB the starter for the rest of the season. It’s either a desperate move from a man walking the plank or a stroke of genius that will save everyone’s job. There is no in-between at this point.

“He’s got arm talent,” Pagano said of what he saw of Ehlinger during training camp. “He’s a mobile guy. He’s strong, he’s intelligent, smart. He’ll do a nice job as far as managing the games. It won’t be too big for him. (Colts general manager Chris Ballard said) they liked the kid . They had high praise for Sam and thought that, with some time, he can develop and maybe become a guy. He’s gonna get a shot and they’re all going to find out what he is in the weeks to come and see, ‘OK, is he a real dude or do we have to go find another one?’ This will give him a great opportunity to show what he can do.”

The Colts are betting he’s a “real dude.” If not, Reich will likely join Pagano as an ex-Colts coach.

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