Matt Ryan is a Falcons legend. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards (more than double the next closest), touchdown passes (more than double the next closest) and approximate value. He also led the team to one of only two Super Bowl appearances and won the franchise’s only MVP award. Many thought that while Ryan’s best days were behind him, the former third overall pick would be in Atlanta for his entire career.
That assumption fell apart on March 21, when it was announced that the Falcons had traded Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts for a measly third-round pick. It was a decision that, while shocking, might 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 search for former Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson made Ryan’s decision to leave an easy one. In the last episode of Ryan Russell PodcastRyan spilled the beans on how his tumultuous offseason went.
“When free agency starts to pick up and they start looking into what they want to do, I realized they were going to look into Deshaun Watson. And then at that point, I said, okay, I understand. But I also need to investigate what I need to investigate. And if this doesn’t go down, find out if it’s likely to still be the best option for me.
“And as that week went on and I was looking at, for myself, what might be the best possible landing site, or what was best for me and my family going forward, as we did that research, for me, it became a point. And you never know, though, in that situation whether or not that place will also feel the same way about you. And for me, luckily, they did. And they believe in me and what I can bring to this team. So from that point of view, I think it worked perfectly on my part.”
The Falcons did not sign Watson, aalthough the team probably came very close to doing so. More than a month ago, Watson published a instagram story showing off all his new Browns jerseys. However, in the background was a folded Falcons jersey. Watson never pointed to the jersey, even after it was pointed out to him, but the jersey clearly has a ‘4’ on the shoulder, making it more likely a Watson Atlanta jersey. Regardless of whether or not the Falcons secured Watson, Ryan was already out of town. Based on his statement in the previous paragraph, Atlanta’s pursuit of Watson must have been so aggressive that he convinced Ryan there was no future in Ryan being Atlanta’s quarterback in September.
Asked whether or not he would have stayed in Atlanta if the Falcons hadn’t gone after Watson, Ryan said: “There’s probably a chance, a very good chance. but he did [happen], You know? So when it happens, when situations change and circumstances change… You know, I had always thought, like everyone, when you get drafted there and you play there, this is where I’m going to play my whole career. For 14 years, every day I got up it was to try to help the Falcons win a championship. And that had been reciprocated on the other end for me. So when that changed, I had to look into it.”
Essentially, the Falcons probably could have had Ryan for another year, but only if they never went after Watson. Dice Given Ryan’s declining production in recent years, it made sense for the Falcons to look for a serious game changer at quarterback. But that’s ignoring Watson’s horrific sexual assault allegations. However, by doing so, the Falcons lost any opportunity to compete in 2022. Their fourth quarterback is Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder. They have no additional draft picks. They have no proven offensive weapons. So let this be a lesson to any team looking to improve as a quarterback. Don’t let your current quarterback go until you get your new guy home.
The Falcons are the most miserable franchise in the NFL right now. They could have had Ryan another year and paired him with Drake London. However, they failed to keep Ryan happy, causing him to leave. They failed to land his replacement. They couldn’t take any of the other proven veteran quarterbacks and were forced to draft Ridder in the third round of the draft a year before Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson and CJ Stroud were available. Oh! That’s a terrible offseason, and it could have been avoided entirely if only they had made the best player in their franchise history a little more comfortable.