Why Matt Ryan’s singular focus led him to the Indianapolis Colts

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INDIANAPOLIS — {The summertime} household soccer video games on the Jersey Shore have been as aggressive as they have been bodily.

And, if we’re being sincere, Matt Ryan had no enterprise collaborating.

He was the youngest of the cousins, brothers and uncles recklessly throwing their our bodies round for bragging rights. Within the grand scheme, that by no means received them very far, except you embrace the space to the native emergency room.

However all these years later, even after starting his fifteenth NFL season — his first with the Indianapolis Colts — Ryan is aware of he should not have been on the market, underage and undersized as he was, and in a household that boasts quite a few high-level athletes.

“I had to ensure I might sustain, shut up, not cry, not whine, not do any of these issues, in order that they would come with me,” Ryan stated. “And also you needed to be adequate to the place they have been like, ‘Yeah, he is cool.’

“It was not me competing in opposition to the opposite 10-year olds. For no matter cause, I simply all the time felt like I might sustain and doubtless had this irrational sense of self-confidence and self-belief.”

It is now greater than a quarter-century later. All the pieces has modified and nothing has modified.

Ryan is not the youngest child on the sphere. In actual fact, at 37, Ryan was the oldest participant on the sphere Sunday when the Colts and Houston Texans performed to a 20-20 season-opening tie. However that irrational sense of self-confidence nonetheless defines him.

The distinction now? It has him believing he can compete on the highest degree of his sport in opposition to males whose mother and father aren’t a lot older than him.

Truly, there’s one other necessary distinction: Ryan not is enjoying in pursuit of mere respectability. He earned that way back with an NFL Most Valuable Player Award and thru his accumulation of simply over 60,000 passing yards. Now, the potential prize is far larger, one which for therefore lengthy has been frustratingly elusive, however one Ryan nonetheless chases with abandon: A Tremendous Bowl victory. The subsequent step might be Sunday in Jacksonville, the place the Colts have been eradicated from playoff competition final season with a Week 18 upset loss that helped pave the way in which for a quarterback change.

“At this stage of my profession,” Ryan stated, “that is what I am in it for.”


AS RYAN SITS down for an interview, it is almost dinnertime. It’s nonetheless greater than per week and a half earlier than the Colts’ season opener, however heading house early will not be an choice. Ryan units his leather-based briefcase down earlier than he begins the chat. This man is right here for enterprise.

It isn’t obscure why he is in Indianapolis after 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. When the notion of a commerce lastly grew to become actual, Ryan sought to land someplace that might allow him to compete for a championship. After his personal exhaustive analysis — together with culling intel from former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning — there was only a singular reply in Ryan’s estimation: the Colts.

Ryan is one among a number of NFL megastars to vary groups in the course of the offseason who now hope to vary their new staff’s fortunes. A few of the others — Russell Wilson, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams amongst them — have dominated the headlines whereas Ryan has not. But when this experiment that has introduced collectively Ryan and the Colts achieves its goal, the headlines will come when it issues most.

That goal?

“He desires to place a hoop on his finger,” stated Corridor of Fame tight finish Tony Gonzalez, Ryan’s former Atlanta teammate. “And he is on a staff that he thinks can take him there.”

This season is all in regards to the Tremendous Bowl for Ryan even whereas the Tremendous Bowl is one thing of a sore topic for him. Ryan’s Falcons endured arguably essentially the most notorious loss within the recreation’s historical past. The phrase “28-3” has turn into a punchline, a reference to the seemingly insurmountable lead the Falcons loved over the New England Patriots within the third quarter of Super Bowl LI. Atlanta in the end misplaced the sport after a historic Tom Brady-led comeback.

Ryan appears, um, thrilled when the topic comes up.

“It sucks,” he stated. “There is no getting round it.”

The sensation is, maybe, additional difficult as a result of Ryan performed effectively within the recreation, finishing 17 of 23 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer score, 144.1, is the fourth-highest in Tremendous Bowl historical past.

Actually, what extra might he have carried out? Ever the skilled, Ryan confronts the matter head on.

“There is a burden that comes with management,” he stated. “And it is taking possession of success and failure. That is one thing that may weigh on you, at instances. It may be a heavy factor. However I’ve all the time embraced that. I perceive the character of how quarterbacks are judged.”

Good factor, as a result of if Ryan was on the lookout for a staff which may enable him to keep away from expectations, he ought to’ve seemed elsewhere. The Colts, who return seven 2021 Professional Bowlers, have excessive aspirations and are not afraid to say it. Sunday’s uneven efficiency might need been regarding, but it surely’s a message Ryan heard from Manning months in the past, and one which’s been bolstered since.

“We’re arrange for excellence,” proprietor Jim Irsay stated final month. “Now, we simply need to go do it. And Matt Ryan has that very same feeling in his coronary heart.

“He is right here to get his Lombardi.”


RYAN HAS BEEN associates with Brady and Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford for years. Each modified groups in current seasons after prolonged stints in New England and Detroit, respectively. These strikes resulted in Tremendous Bowl wins for every in Yr 1.

Ryan took notice, however the concept of leaving Atlanta was by no means on the entrance of his thoughts — not till the Falcons made the primary transfer.

Atlanta dived head-first into the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes earlier this yr, pursuing the quarterback who was purchasing himself to groups curious about executing a commerce along with his former staff, the Texans. Ryan by no means has publicly expressed something greater than slight irritation about this.

It can’t be ignored that the Falcons did this whereas Watson was, on the time, facing 22 lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct throughout therapeutic massage classes. He was finally traded to the Cleveland Browns.

“I am not naïve,” Ryan stated. “I understand how this enterprise works.”

That is placing it mildly.

“No person desires to undergo that and really feel disrespected,” stated retired Atlanta heart Todd McClure, a longtime buddy of Ryan’s. “I really like my Falcons, however the way in which that entire deal went down was a slap within the face.”

Ryan wrestled along with his feelings. He had all the time seen himself retiring as a Falcon and maintained a devotion to his teammates and the franchise — even despite the torn-down roster and porous cross safety. However it was deeper than that. Ryan had a dedication to a whole area. Atlanta was the one NFL metropolis he’d identified.

“He’s the very best quarterback in that franchise’s historical past,” Gonzalez stated. “Clearly the group had an enormous connection to Michael Vick as effectively. However Ryan, merely, he is the very best.”

And that connection grew deeper in recent times when the George Floyd protests of 2020 prompted Ryan and his spouse, Sarah, to create ATL: Advance the Lives, a charitable group whose mission assertion is to “work to fight the systemic boundaries that Black youth face.” That adopted a private $500,000 donation to space grassroots organizations and comes after a few years of different involvement locally.

Falcons followers have been drawn to Ryan’s humility as a lot as his proclivity to throw landing passes.

“When he walks in a room, he introduces himself,” stated Taylor Stanley, program director at ATL. “He says, ‘Hello, I am Matt.’ Yeah, we all know. You have been the franchise quarterback for 14 years!”

Given the connection with Atlanta, accepting that the Falcons have been planning that didn’t embrace him was jarring. However Ryan did what wanted to be carried out.

“There comes a time the place [change] may be greatest,” he stated.

With that, Ryan requested for a commerce. The Falcons dealt him to Indianapolis for a third-round draft decide — an anticlimactic ending to a 14-year relationship.

“His dedication to Atlanta has not modified,” Stanley stated. “That is one thing they let me know all through the entire ordeal. We’ll proceed to deal with Atlanta. However going to Indy, it is a chance for him to flourish.”


COLTS HEAD COACH Frank Reich spent the 12 days between the Colts’ commerce of 2021 beginning quarterback Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders on March 9 and their deal to land Ryan in a perpetual state of uncertainty.

After the embarrassing loss to the Jaguars, Irsay summoned Reich and common supervisor Chris Ballard for a gathering throughout which Irsay was “demanding,” in accordance with Reich, and holding individuals accountable. Now, right here was Reich, beneath strain to win however and not using a beginning quarterback even whereas options like Wilson have been off the board. Was the Wentz resolution about to backfire?

Then, a possible Ryan commerce got here onto the Colts’ radar and Reich perked up. He’d been primarily biking via quarterbacks for years, with the Colts deploying a unique starter in every of the earlier 4 seasons. However Ryan’s thoroughness would require a complicated pitch. Reich needed to activate the appeal.

He did simply that, joined by Ballard and the Colts’ offensive assistants, throughout a Zoom name with Ryan.

“It is like once you go on a primary date,” Reich stated. “You put on your greatest outfit.”

On this case, that meant pulling collectively a reel of about 30 performs that embodied what the Colts have been looking for to do on offense. Reich shared his display screen and let the dialog stream.

“I confirmed a few of our core runs with Nyheim [Hines] and [Jonathan Taylor],” Reich stated. “And [Ryan] was like ‘Oh, I get to play quarterback in an offense that runs the ball this effectively?’ After which I stated, ‘Now, watch what we do with play-action off of this, and the protection’s response.’ And naturally, I am displaying him all the very best performs. I am not displaying him the performs the place we tousled.

“We have been on for 2 hours, but it surely actually felt like we have been on the telephone for quarter-hour. And I believe for all of us who have been on the decision, we knew it was one thing particular. All of us preserve speaking about it, even now.”

“He desires to place a hoop on his finger, and he is on a staff that he thinks can take him there.”

Tony Gonzalez

After one date, the Colts had discovered their match.

The connection has solely grown since. Ryan has ably taken his place alongside the Colts’ younger gamers, who’ve gravitated to him. Even in season No. 15, Ryan exudes enthusiasm and depth.

“I bear in mind on rookie report day, he was simply so fired up,” receiver Parris Campbell stated. “The vets weren’t even right here but. However he was so juiced up. I used to be within the coaching room three hours earlier than follow, and he was simply so prepared. That is not a fluke. That is him each single day.”

However remember: That zeal can take completely different types.

“He’ll blow up. He’ll let you understand if you happen to’re not doing issues proper,” stated Gonzalez, now an NFL analyst for Prime Video. “There have been a pair instances the place I bear in mind he advised everyone within the huddle to close the f— up. He advised me that, and I used to be the outdated man. I used to be like, ‘Hey, maintain on, now!’ However I cherished it.”

Ryan is not younger anymore. He is greater than 16 years older than the youngest Colt, rookie security Nick Cross. However he is nonetheless received that ridiculous skill to consider he belongs, the one he first exhibited at 10 years outdated.

And it is that very same boyhood confidence that has satisfied Ryan the Colts can win all of it.

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