The Indianapolis Colts have been on a quarterback merry-go-round since the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck on the eve of the 2019 season. Matt Ryan is the latest quarterback to hop on the Colts’ carnival ride with hopes to accomplish what he never could in Atlanta.
The first quarterback the Colts turned to was perennial backup Jacoby Brissett. One year later, the Colts brought in Philip Rivers for a fairly successful season that ended with the Colts being bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
After Rivers’ retirement the Colts traded for Carson Wentz. Wentz was younger than Rivers but after an embarrassing end to the regular season in which the Colts self-destructed against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Wentz was traded to the Washington Commanders.
Following the Wentz experiment, the Colts have reverted to the Rivers model; opting to bring in a trusty veteran. The Colts sent a third round pick to the Falcons in exchange for the 2017 regular season MVP Matt Ryan.
Fallout from the Deshaun Watson situation, with Ryan starting over in Indy. Ryan gets a contract adjustment with more guaranteed money.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 21, 2022
On the surface of it, this deal is not going to the shake the foundations of the NFL. If anything, it is just an attempt by Indy to recreate the Phillip Rivers experience; to bring in a veteran quarterback to steady the ship and not have a complete and total meltdown against the Jaguars in the most important game of the season.
However, this trade by the Colts could mean more for the NFL than just Indianapolis desperately treading the waters hoping to stay afloat in a cutthroat AFC. The Indianapolis Colts have a legitimate chance to contend in 2022 with Matty Ice as their quarterback.
Ryan is coming off a statistically poor 2021 season. Finishing with 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and 3968 throwing yards with a yards per attempt (Y/A) of 7.1, Ryan stacked up statistically with other quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger, Jimmy Garoppolo, Taylor Heinicke and Jared Goff. However, there is one statistical comparison that is particularly interesting.
Caveated with the fact that Brady played one game fewer than Ryan, it is evident that both Ryan and Brady had poor final seasons with the teams that drafted them. The yard totals, touchdowns, Y/A and the interceptions are all similar. The adjusted yards gained per passing attempt (AY/A) is almost identical down to the decimal. But what is also similar is the contextual make up of both the Patriots in 2019 and the Falcons in 2021.
Both Brady and Ryan played on talent deprived rosters. In 2019, the Patriots skill position players were incredibly sub-par. Julian Edelman was a shadow of his former self, rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry was a disappointment and Brady’s best weapon was James White. White is a great satellite back but not the type of player you want to run your entire offence through.
Thanks to a stellar defence and a hall of fame head coach, the Patriots made it to Wild Card Weekend that year before ultimately being bested at home by the Tennessee Titans.
Compare Brady’s offensive talent to those who surrounded Ryan in 2021 and you find a similar story.
The Falcons offence was a non-starter for much of last season. Similar to White in 2019, running back Cordarerlle Patterson was Ryan’s most prolific weapon last season scoring 11 total touchdowns and obtaining 1166 yards from scrimmage. Tight end Kyle Pitts showed flashes but was inconsistent and wide-out Russell Gage is a fantastic option in the slot or as the Z type receiver, but not a true number one guy.
To make matters worse for Ryan, the Falcons offensive line acted as a turnstile all of last season. PFF ranked the Falcons o-line as the 31st best unit in the NFL last season and it showed. Ryan was sacked 40 times last season (tied fifth most in the NFL). A stat that is sure to decrease behind Indy’s more steadfast offensive line.
Will Ryan replicate Brady exactly and go on to be one of, if not the best, quarterbacks in the NFL this upcoming season? It’s not likely. Brady is one of a kind and moves better at 44 than he did at 24. One NFL executive is quoted by Albert Breer as saying Ryan “can’t move at all.” and that his throw power is in decline. However, the exec also conceded that “He’s still good. … [the Falcons] just didn’t have enough around him anymore.”
However, there is serious reason to believe that Ryan still has the skill and talent to elevate an already stacked Colts roster.
If Ryan was on a talented Falcons roster last season then I would be less willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, we know that you cannot assess quarterbacks in a vacuum. Many said Tom Brady was finished after 2019, however it is now apparent that the Patriots talent on offense was severely impacting Brady’s play. As soon as Brady went to a team where his receivers could separate and his o-line was strong, his play improved.
Why can’t history repeat itself with Ryan and the Colts? With the recent signing of cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the Colts are going all in on 2022. If they can put the icing on top of the cake with a smart receiver selection in the upcoming wide receiver rich draft, that would only improve Ryan’s chances of succeeding in Indy.
It will be tough in a loaded AFC. However, I wouldn’t count out Matty Ice and the Colts before the season starts.