The final chapter of Matt Ryan’s career with the Atlanta Falcons was anything but a storybook ending. Atlanta pursued Deshaun Watson during the 2022 offseason, throwing Ryan’s status with the club into doubt. Then, even after the Falcons failed to land Watson from the Houston Texans, they dealt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round pick.
Matt Ryan Describes Tumultous 2022 Season With Falcons and Colts
Things didn’t get much better for Ryan once he joined the Colts. The veteran quarterback was expected to take what was viewed as a readymade roster and turn them into AFC South champions.
But after losing to the Titans in Week 7, Indy announced Ryan had a shoulder injury and named Sam Ehlinger their starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. After Frank Reich was fired two weeks later, interim head coach Jeff Saturday re-inserted Ryan as the starter.
Ryan started five games, but his final start made NFL history — and not in a good way. After being under center while the Colts gave up the largest lead in league history (33 points vs. the Vikings), Ryan was demoted to third string and remained there for the rest of the season. Indianapolis eventually cut him in March 2023.
“I mean, it was a s—show, you know, it was a s—show of 18 months basically is the best way to describe it,” Ryan told Josh Kendall of The Athletic this week. “But I think everybody in our family handled it well and came out of it stronger and in a really good spot.”
Ryan didn’t suggest that the Falcons acted with “malicious intent” by trading him to the Colts, although he did admit he was “surprised” by the deal. Ryan was spotted at Falcons practice last week.
Welcomed around any time, 2️⃣ pic.twitter.com/kwnWAUwQq8
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 4, 2023
“Things kind of escalated quickly within one week, and the entire dynamic changed,” Ryan said of the trade that sent him to Indy.
“That part was hard, there’s no doubt about it, because for 14 years, every morning I woke up, I knew exactly what was expected of me. When that changes, that part was difficult, but you get thrust in through a new situation so quickly.”
Between being benched, seeing his head coach fired and replaced by a complete unknown, and coughing up a 33-point lead, Ryan’s 2022 campaign was more revelatory than any of his previous NFL seasons.
“It was one of those things, you know, I felt like I was going into it in a position where I’d probably seen it all in 14 years and then realize, ‘No, you have not, you have not seen it all,’” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of other things that are going to come up. It was a difficult year; there’s no doubt about it.”
Matt Ryan’s Plans for 2023
Ryan has maintained that he’s open to continuing his NFL career in 2023. However, he’s unlikely to take the first job he’s offered. Earlier this year, Ryan said “all the stars would have to (align)” for him to return to the sidelines this season, and he echoed that sentiment to The Athletic.
“I’m staying in shape,” Ryan said. “I think it is kind of, ‘You know my number. You know where I’m at.’ If anything were to come up, you know, we’ll see. (My broadcasting job with CBS) is where my focus is at right now. But we’ll see how the season shakes out.”
Ryan turned 38 years old in May and is coming off the worst statistical season of his career. He ranked just 25th in QBR and 27th in expected points added per dropback in 2022. Still, several teams could theoretically be interested in Ryan as a backup option for next year.
The Packers and Rams could be searching for a veteran QB2 behind starters Jordan Love and Matthew Stafford. Both Green Bay (Sean Clifford) and Los Angeles (Stetson Bennett) currently project to field rookies as backup quarterbacks in 2023. Ryan would also profile as an upgrade over Brian Hoyer behind Jimmy Garoppolo in Las Vegas.
Ryan could also wait to see if a contending team suffers a significant injury. We’ve seen quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Philip Rivers receive in-season interest in the past, and Ryan could become an option for several clubs down the line.
For now, Ryan is “diving pretty deep” into his broadcasting role with CBS. He’ll call Buccaneers-Vikings, Ravens-Bengals, and Commanders-Bills in Weeks 1 through 3 alongside Andrew Catalon and Tiki Barber, but he’s hoping a Falcons game eventually appears on his schedule.