Yesterday, news broke that the Colts had executed a trade for longtime Falcons quarterback and 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan. Ryan’s tenure with the Falcons is finally coming to an end after 14 years.
It was a heck of deal for the Colts, all things considering.
As for the Falcons, they have to eat a lot in dead cap money (the most in NFL history), but that’s the price you pay to start from scratch. They’re going to be really bad next season, but at least they know now that they’re fully committed to the rebuild.
The Falcons have been in decline the past few seasons, and now it’s finally time for a full rebuild in Atlanta. They went 10-6 in 2017, the year after the Super Bowl, and that’s the last time the Falcons made the playoffs. They went 7-9 in both 2018 and 2019, 4-12 in 2020, and then 7-10 last year under new head coach Arthur Smith. It’s just been a gradual decline for the Dirty Birds the past 4 years, but they’ve been trying to kind of rebuild on the fly around Matt Ryan without actually entering a full rebuild. It has not worked out for them.
Yesterday, the Falcons finally threw in the towel: it’s time for the full-scale rebuild, and it’s time to say goodbye to Matt Ryan. You knew after they got rid of Julio last offseason that the end was near for Matt Ryan as a Falcon.
Maybe the Falcons would have been better off doing this last year, ripping the bandaid off when they’d just gotten rid of Julio, had the 4th pick in the draft, and could’ve gotten a QB like Justin Fields.
Instead, Atlanta drafted phenom tight end Kyle Pitts, believing he might be able to take the team’s offense to the next level. They were obviously wrong about that, although it’s certainly not Pitts’ fault at all because he was excellent as a rookie. He’s going to be the best tight end in the league by 2025, but the Falcons were still kind of dumb to draft him.
Look, despite the 7-10 record indicating mediocrity, the Falcons last year actually over-performed. They could have been a lot worse: all 7 of their wins were one possession games. In fact, their 7 wins came by a combined score of 33 points. Combined.
The team finished with a point differential of -146, which is terrible. When they won, they barely squeaked by, but when they lost, they lost big. Only 2 of their 10 losses were one possession games.
If you look at the stats, the Falcons were just not a good team. They were 26th in points scored and 29th in points against. 29th in yards for and 26th in yards against. They were 25th in yards per drive on offense, 31st on defense. In terms of points per drive, they were 25th on offense and 30th on defense.
My point here is that I think it’s a testament to Matt Ryan that their record wasn’t atrocious last year. The Falcons were bottom-5 in terms of point differential, and they still finished with a somewhat respectable record. Certainly, it wasn’t Ryan’s best season statistically, but let’s consider that his top targets for most of the season were rookie TE Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson, a guy who doesn’t even have a defined position. Matt Ryan’s longtime #1 target Julio Jones was finally let go before the season, and Calvin Ridley took a leave of absence from the team about halfway through the season and never came back–now he’s suspended a full year for gambling on games.
And the Falcons literally didn’t have a running game last season. They ranked 31st in rushing yards. Patterson was their leading rusher on the season–the guy is not even a running back by trade! The only real running back on the team was Mike Davis, but even he’s not a traditional running back–he’s always been more of a pass-catching back.
The Falcons had a bottom 5 offensive line, and their defense was really not that good. The Falcons absolutely STUNK last year, yet Matt Ryan carried them to a 7-10 record.
Honestly, I was not aware of just how bad the Falcons were last season until I wrote this article and really dug into the numbers. I figured they were okay because they went 7-10.
Nah, man. The Falcons were garbage last year and Matt Ryan somehow dragged them to 7 wins.
And that’s why I think this could work out pretty well for the Colts. Matt Ryan still has some gas left in the tank. Not quite as much gas as, say, Matthew Stafford has remaining, but certainly more than Philip Rivers did when he came to Indy for his final NFL season in 2020.
The Colts have been essentially lost since Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement a few years ago. And they’ve been desperately trying to find the answer at quarterback because they don’t want to squander this talented roster they have. The Colts have a top-10 roster in the league probably, and they’re very good at drafting. They just need a reliable quarterback.
I think Matt Ryan can be the answer for them at least for a few years. I don’t think they’ll get 4-5 years out of him; I’d guess they’ll probably get 2, maybe 3 tops. After all, Ryan is about to turn 37 in May.
Tom Brady has really skewed our perception of how long NFL quarterbacks are expected to play. Really, any quality play past 37 should be considered good fortune.
Can Matt Ryan, at this stage of his career, lead a team to a Super Bowl? No, probably not, but I don’t think that’s what the Colts are asking him to do. They’re not asking him to carry them to a Super Bowl. They have a great roster already. They have an elite running game with Jonathan Taylor. They don’t need Matt Ryan to throw the ball 50 times a game and go full Joe Burrow.
I think the Colts are asking him to take care of the ball, make clutch throws when the moments come, and really just be that solid, veteran presence in the locker room and in the huddle. This is a former NFL MVP we’re talking about. Matt Ryan is widely respected around the league. He’s an intelligent guy who provides leadership and veteran experience.
I don’t remember who said it (maybe Colin Cowherd), but it has been pointed out that Matt Ryan is almost the polar opposite of Carson Wentz, and that’s not by accident. Matt Ryan is exactly the type of quarterback the Colts were looking for. They wanted a guy who has no baggage, no drama, and who has been to the playoffs and won games. This is also probably the reason the Colts were not interested in trading for Baker Mayfield.
We can assess Matt Ryan’s legacy in Atlanta, but I’m sure none of you are interested in that because we all know it starts and ends with 28-3. I hate to say it, but that’s his legacy. He’s a great dude by all accounts, never got into trouble or controversy, as far as I know his teammates never had a bad thing to say about him; he put up numbers in his career that may just get him into the Hall of Fame. But whenever people think of Matt Ryan, they’re going to think of 28-3. That’s just the truth.
However, the good news for Matt Ryan is that he’s still playing, and he still has the opportunity to change the legacy.