The Matt Ryan experience didn’t work out well for the Indianapolis Colts but the NFL world shouldn’t be putting too much blame on Ryan.
Matt Ryan has started seven games for the Indianapolis Colts and the Week 7 start against the Tennessee Titans may have been his last. The Colts announced that they will be going with Sam Ehlinger at quarterback for the remainder of the year and that brings Ryan’s future with Indy, and in the league, into question. This isn’t an outcome many imagined when Indianapolis traded for Matt Ryan back in March.
When Ryan was acquired, optimism was high in Indianapolis. Everyone in the organization was raving about his leadership, his accuracy, his timing, and just Matt Ryan overall as a quarterback. With him now leading a talented Indianapolis roster, the Colts were expected to be one of the best teams in the NFL and contending for a Super Bowl in the final months of the season. However, the reality was different and it didn’t take long for it to hit.
In Indianapolis’ first game of the season, a matchup with the Houston Texans, the Colts found themselves down 20-3 entering the fourth quarter. Ryan had already thrown an interception and lost a fumble. However, he did lead Indy’s comeback as they tied the game. If not for some special teams’ miscues, Indy could’ve won.
The initial inclination was that maybe the game was just a fluke, a case of Week 1 jitters. However, when the Colts were blown out 24-0 by the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2, a game where Ryan threw three interceptions and fumbled once, it was clear that Indianapolis had some serious issues. Five weeks, three wins, and two losses later, the Colts made the decision to move on from one of those issues: Matt Ryan. While Indy didn’t trade or release him, yet, the fashion in which they benched him certainly means it’s the end of the partnership.
To many, this signifies the death of Ryan’s NFL career. He’s now viewed as a washed, aging quarterback that a talented team couldn’t even win with. While that’s going to be the prevailing narrative surrounding Ryan, it’s not entirely true. He certainly had his fair share of struggles but the Colts also failed Ryan and they’re responsible for his damaged reputation that is currently lower than his actual ability.
Colts failed Matt Ryan and they know it
To be clear, Ryan wasn’t perfect by any means and he does share some of the responsibility for his current standing. After seven games, Ryan leads the NFL in both fumbles (11) and interceptions (9). A lot of the turnovers were inexcusable, especially for a 15-year veteran quarterback. But, the Colts have a larger role in the downfall of Matt Ryan than Ryan himself.
Ryan is also towards the top of the leaderboard for most sacks taken with 24. That trails only Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears who’s been sacked 27 times. That sack number isn’t Ryan’s fault, it’s Indianapolis’. Sure, there were some sacks that Ryan could’ve avoided but the point is that Indy’s offensive line has been terrible and everyone knows that. Anytime a quarterback is playing under those circumstances he’s bound to make some careless turnovers.
Just as Ryan ranks highly for some negative categories, he ranks pretty high for some good categories as well. Ryan has a 68.4 completion percentage, which is fifth-best among starting quarterbacks. He also has the fourth-most passing yards with 2,008 and he’s tied for the 10th-most passing touchdowns with nine. Additionally, Matty Ice has been surgical late in games. In fourth quarters and overtime of one-score games, Ryan had a 75.4% percentage for 508 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He also had four comebacks through the first six games.
Quite frankly, the Colts have been putting all of the offense’s hopes on Ryan’s 37-year-old arm and that wasn’t the plan or expectation. After Jonathan Taylor’s breakout season last year, it was expected that Ryan would have the luxury of playing off of a strong run game. Unfortunately, just as the team struggled to pass protect, they also struggled to run block. Indianapolis has the 30th-ranked rushing offense, averaging just 81.0 yards a game and 3.5 yards a carry. That’s 68.4 yards less a game and nearly two yards less per carry than last season when Indy had the second-best rushing attack.
Regardless of how this situation is viewed by fans, the media, or anyone else, it’s the Colts that are the real problem. Frank Reich even admitted to the media that he told Matt Ryan that, explaining that Indianapolis didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. While the defense has been stellar, that’s probably the only promise Indianapolis was able to deliver for Ryan.
But, the entire franchise can’t be benched, so Matt Ryan has to be the scapegoat. Unfortunately for Ryan, it’s his career and reputation that’s going to take the hit. He may never have another starting quarterback job in the NFL, at least not a good one, and that’s unfortunate because he showed that he can still play at a level that many competent teams would welcome.
As much as the NFL props up quarterbacks and tries to give them credit, or blame, for everything, the reality is a quarterback is only as good as the team surrounding him. Contrary to expectations and the names on the roster, Matt Ryan didn’t have a good team surrounding him with the Colts and that’s why it’s Indianapolis’ fault that Ryan is now on the bench.