Matt Ryan was ready for a change and Indianapolis seemed like the perfect place to win a title.
The 14-year-old NFL veteran and 2016 league MVP left Atlanta and arrived at his new team complex on Tuesday in hopes of becoming the third veteran quarterback in a row to win a Super Bowl in his first season with a new team.
“Yeah, it looks really good what Matthew Stafford did in Los Angeles last year, which made that transition work so well, and what Tom (Brady) did, I saw firsthand in the division the year before,” he said. Ryan. “I hope we can drive on the trend that has been going on and make it work for us.”
The Colts certainly believe he can, after giving up a third-round pick, No. 82 overall, to acquire Ryan on Monday.
They also hope the four-time Pro Bowler, who led Atlanta to his second Super Bowl appearance after the 2016 season, can stabilize a position that has been changing. Ryan is expected to become Indy’s sixth different opening day starter in six years this fall.
Ryan has gone this route before.
In 2008, the 23-year-old rookie from Boston College traveled to the Falcons with expectations of saving a franchise from coach Bobby Petrino’s resignation after just 13 games and the imprisonment of quarterback Michael Vick for running a dog game.
Ryan responded by leading Atlanta to the playoffs for the first time in four years, nicknamed “Matty Ice” and becoming the best quarterback in franchise history. At times, it seemed that Ryan and the Falcons could never separate.
But the organization’s decision last week to publicly prosecute Deshaun Watson as Ryan’s replacement and the subsequent decision to rebuild prompted Ryan to consider where he would play. And after a Saturday night video conference with Colts general manager Chris Ballard, coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and others, Ryan was convinced it was time for a change.
“At first I did not know if we would be forced into a trade,” he said, explaining how Reich’s empathy for changing teams after a long career in one place played a key role. “Ultimately, it came down to a decision between staying in Atlanta or coming to Indianapolis. The time was right for me and I felt I had to do it.”
He did not regret it, thanked the Falcons for helping him become a model for consistency on the field, developing relationships he still values and sharing so many memorable moments.
Now he is joining a team with Super Bowl ambitions. The Colts lost in the wildcard round after the 2020 season and looked like a shoo-in to cope with the offseason last season until they lost the last two games.
Ryan likes Indy’s cast – a strong offensive line with three returning starters and skilled in-house substitutions for another spot, NFL rushing champ Jonathan Taylor, emerging receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and a strong defense that added veteran pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue last week.
And the Colts believe Ryan is the missing piece.
“We have our guy !!!” Pittman wrote on Twitter in all letters following Monday’s announcement.
Indy has also been on this path since Andrew Luck abruptly announced his retirement in 2019.
Two years ago, they signed veteran Philip Rivers, who had a solid season in his only year with the Colts. He retired in January 2021. In March last year, Indy bought Carson Wentz in a deal with Philadelphia with the belief that he could become their long-term franchise quarterback. Instead, he was sent to Washington two weeks ago.
The biggest question surrounding the 36-year-old Ryan is how much longer will he play with two years left on his current contract?
“It’s funny I played in a division where it was Tom Brady, Drew Brees and saw me at one point and I was like 35,” he said. “I thought, ‘I feel young. Tom is 43 and Drews 41, but I’m fine. ‘ I really do. My body feels really amazing. I feel like I’ve got myself to a place where I know how to train. But I’m fine. I do not feel like an old man. ”
The Colts do not see an old man either. Instead, they see someone who can accomplish something that only Peyton Manning has and bring the Lombardi trophy to Indianapolis.
“I texted some of the guys yesterday, and every single one of their text messages, their first, was about winning. It’s really unique,” Ryan said before donning his well-known No. 2, only in blue and white. “I realize I’m part of this wheel and I have to do my job and pull my weight, but it’s a pretty strong wheel.”
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