“It makes me throw up how much he reminds me of Peyton…he’s the epitome of a leader. In meetings he’s vocal, he’s trying to get connections with the receivers, trying to get extra as much as possible.”
These words come from the Colts franchise career runner-up in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and total receptions, in addition to now being their wide receivers coach. It’s pretty easy to deduce that Reggie Wayne is a fan of Matt Ryan. That statement itself is the first time since Aug. 24, 2019 that Colts fans have felt some glimmer of hope in terms of a quarterback.
The Colts entered the 2021 season with a win-now team and Carson Wentz under-center ready to lead them to the proverbial promised land. Anyone who watched the late season collapse knew that it was obvious the team needed to move on from the disappointment that Carson Wentz was. The Colts eventually sent Wentz to the Washington Commanders on March 9 for a 2022 second and third round pick as well as a third during the 2023 draft.
With Wentz’s bags packed and ready to leave Indianapolis it was time for the Colts to go shopping. The decision was made easier than they expected for a reason no one would have seen coming:
With Deshaun Watson expressing his desire to be traded from the Houston Texans, and more importantly for Colts fans, the AFC South, the sweepstakes had begun. The Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints all inquired about Watson, but to no avail. The Cleveland Browns eventually sent three first-round picks, a third, and a fourth for the NFL all-time completion percentage leader.
Most teams that inquired about Watson did so relatively privately to not ruffle any feathers of the current quarterback they had in their locker room. The Atlanta Falcons were the outlier.
“This is where I’m going to play my entire career. For 14 years, every day, I woke up, it was to try to help the Falcons win a championship. That had been reciprocated on the other end for me. When that changed, I had to look into it, and it has certainly been a big change.”
This was Matt Ryan’s response when asked about the Falcons and their public views of Watson. The 14-year vet knew it was time for him to move on and to shop his stock, good thing someone was looking for what he was offering.
On March 21 the Atlanta Falcons traded their franchise leader in every major passing statistical category to the Colts for a 2022 third-round pick. The Colts had found their answer.
The 6-foot-4 220-pound Boston College product was drafted with the third pick in the 2008 NFL draft after his 2007 ACC Player of the Year/First-Team All-American senior campaign. Ryan led the Falcons to an 11-5 playoff berth and earned himself the 2008 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year even without an extremely impressive statistical season.
Ryan, who turned 37 this May, would go on to earn four Pro Bowl selections, a First Team All-Pro nod, and most impressively, the 2016 Most Valuable Player award after throwing for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns to only seven interceptions while leading the Falcons to Super Bowl 51.
Super Bowl 51 will go down in infamy and can be explained in a simplistic way: 28-3.
Ryan and the Falcons blew the largest lead in Super Bowl history and gave Tom Brady and Bill Belichick their fifth ring. Ryan said, “it was bad that day”. You’re not wrong Matt.
Ryan and the Falcons only made the playoffs one other season since their Super Bowl trip and have posted a 18-30 record the past three years with Ryan at the helm.
So how will Ryan fare with the Colts? Well, statistically speaking there is optimism.
Ryan was the No. 17 Pro Football Focus quarterback in 2021, ranking 14th when quarterback rushing grades weren’t factored. Wentz was 23rd, for reference. Ryan did this with the No. 9 running back (Cordarrelle Patterson), No. 28 and No. 85 receivers (Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus), No. 6 tight end (Kyle Pitts) and the 27th-ranked offensive line. Ryan joins the Colts who enter the season with the No. 2-ranked running back unit, No. 25 receiving corps, and 10th-ranked offensive line.
It’s better, a lot better, and it seems like the Sheriff agrees.
“The Colts are really close and have a lot of pieces,” Peyton Manning said recently, “but lacked that stable veteran presence at quarterback needed to help everything come together.”
I think the Colts now have that in Ryan.
Matt Ryan’s Top 5 Career Performances:
5. December 8, 2014: 43-37 Loss vs Green Bay Packers:
Ryan’s Stats: 24-39 (61.5%) 375 Yards - 4 Touchdowns - 1 INT
4. December 11, 2011: 31-23 Win vs Carolina Panthers:
Ryan’s Stats: 22-38 (57.8%) 320 Yards - 4 Touchdowns - 0 INT
3. October 18, 2020: 40-23 Win vs Minnesota Vikings:
Ryan’s Stats: 30-40 (75%) 371 Yards - 4 Touchdowns - 0 INT
2. September 23, 2018: 43-37 Loss vs New Orleans Saints:
Ryan’s Stats: 26-33 (78.7%) 374 Yards - 5 Touchdowns - 0 INT
1. October 2, 2016: 48-33 Win vs Carolina Panthers:
Ryan’s Stats: 28-37 (75.6%) 503 Yards - 4 Touchdowns - 1 INT
Season Statistical Prediction:
68% - 4,155 Passing Yards - 27 Touchdowns - 10 INT - 80 Rushing Yards - 1 Rushing Touchdown
Matt Ryan enters this season ranked in the top nine in every major career passing statistic and though he may not be his 2016 MVP-caliber self, the 37-year-old doesn’t seem to have declined to a nursing-home level and looks to lean heavy on Jonathan Taylor and the strong o-line to help earn the Colts their first AFC South division title since 2014 and his first playoff berth since 2017.