Matt Ryan is a Falcons legend. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards (by more than double the nearest), passing touchdowns (by more than double the nearest), and approximate value. He also led the team to one of their only two Super Bowl appearances and won the franchise’s only MVP award of all time. Many thought that even though Ryan’s best days were behind him, the former third-place finisher would spend his entire career in Atlanta.
That assumption shattered on March 21 when it was revealed the Falcons had traded Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts for a measly third-round pick. It was a decision that, while shocking, could have been forgiven had the Falcons acquired a new quarterback to be the face of their franchise. They didn’t.
According to Ryan himself, he even wanted to stay in Atlanta, but the team’s pursuit of former Texan quarterback Deshaun Watson made Ryan’s decision to leave easy. In the latest episode of Ryen Russillo PodcastRyan spilled the beans on how his tumultuous offseason was going.
“As free agency started to improve and they started looking at what they wanted to do, I kind of got put in the loop that they were going to look at Deshaun Watson. And then, at that point, I said, OK, I see. But I also have to see what I have to look out for. And if it’s not, find out if this is probably still best for me.
“And as this week went by and I was just kind of looking into what might be the best possible landing spot for me or what would be best for me and my family if we did this research, it became a job for me. And you never know in this situation whether this one point feels the same way for you or not. And luckily for me they did. And they believe in me and what I can bring to this team. From that point of view I think it worked out perfectly for me.”
The Falcons didn’t land Watson, aalthough the team probably would have come very close. Watson posted one over a month ago Instagram story shows all his new Browns kits. However, a folded Falcons jersey could be seen in the background. Watson never referenced the shirt even after it was pointed out, but the shirt very clearly has a ‘4’ on the shoulder, making it all the more likely that it is actually a Watson Atlanta shirt. Regardless of whether the Falcons secured Watson or not, Ryan was already out of town. Based on his statement in the paragraph above, Atlanta’s pursuit of Watson must have been so aggressive that it convinced Ryan that there is no future where Ryan will be the quarterback for Atlanta in September.
When asked if he would have stayed in Atlanta if the Falcons hadn’t been chasing Watson, Ryan said, “There’s probably a chance — a pretty good chance. But it did [happen], You know? So if that’s the case, if situations change and circumstances change… You know, I always thought, like everyone, if you get drafted there and you play there, I’m going to play my entire career here. For 14 years, I got up every day to try and help the Falcons win a championship. And that’s what I got on the other end. When that changed, I had to take care of it.”
Essentially, the Falcons could probably have had Ryan for another year, but only if they never went after Watson. given Ryan’s decline in production in recent years made it sensible for the Falcons to look for a serious game-changer at quarterback. But that ignores Watson’s horrifying allegations of sexual assault. With that, however, the Falcons lost any chance of competing in 2022. Your quarterback room is Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder. You have no extra draft picks. They have no proven offensive weapons. So let this be a lesson for any team looking to improve as a quarterback. Don’t let your current QB go until you already have your new man in the house.
The Falcons are the worst franchise in the NFL right now. They could have had Ryan another year and set him up with Drake London. However, they failed to keep Ryan happy, leading to his departure. They failed to land his replacement. Unable to nab any of the other proven quarterback veterans, they were forced to draft Ridder in the third round of the draft a year before players like Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson and CJ Stroud became available. Oops! This is a terrible off-season, and it could have been avoided entirely if they’d just made the biggest player in their franchise’s history feel a little more comfortable.