How Matt Ryan’s season fell apart with the Colts

WHEN WENTZ WAS traded in March and Ryan was later added to the fold, arguably not enough attention was paid to the strengths and weaknesses on the rest of the roster.

The Colts added defensive standouts Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue. But they also had key outputs on their offensive line (including left tackle Eric Fisher, a past No. 1 overall pick by the Kansas City Chiefs), lost an elite blocking tight end to retirement (Jack Doyle) and had one of the younger groups. of receivers and tight ends in the NFL.

The first signs that something was wrong came almost immediately.

In the season opener, Ryan was under constant pressure. The only thing worse was the way Ryan responded. He called for the ball four times, fumbled once, and threw a nasty interception. Ryan’s heroics in the second half allowed the Colts to clinch a tie and allowed Ryan to save some face.

But in Week 2, when the Colts were embarrassed again in Jacksonville in a 24-0 loss, it became clear that they might not be the team Ryan thought he would join. By Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans, it was clear that the pass rush was taking a toll on Ryan and was seriously affecting his decision making. He was hit 10 times, sacked three times and pitched a pick-six in the 19-10 loss. The synergy that Ryan hoped to develop with his new teammates seemed non-existent.

Ryan couldn’t in good conscience argue that he was playing well, even though the Colts were sitting at 3-3-1. He had an adjusted QBR of 41.3 (23rd in the NFL at the time) and led the league with nine interceptions. But he, too, had been sacked 24 times, and the Colts, surprisingly, ranked 29th in yards per rushing attempt. Much of the burden fell on Ryan. That was never the intention.

In a private moment, Reich told Ryan exactly that.

“We didn’t keep our end of the deal,” Reich said, recalling the conversation. “You came here and we promised you a great NFL running game and we promised you great protection, and really, as an offense, we haven’t delivered on that. And that really starts with me.

“We thought the marriage of Matt Ryan and his history with our running game … he’s had an incredibly productive 14 years, great quarterback play with great game action. So, we thought there was going to be a natural marriage there. It made a lot of sense.”

RYAN HAD SUSTAINED a sprained right shoulder in the Titans game, but the quarterback trade was initially intended to be made for the remainder of the season. That left Ryan trying to process the unknown location of him with the team. Reporters asked him if he had considered requesting a trade (he hadn’t) or if he had asked for his release, seeing as he was third on the quarterback depth chart (he didn’t do that either).

Instead, this was the moment where Ryan’s character stood out.

He’s always done and said the right things in his career, whether that means taking the blame for the Falcons’ historic Super Bowl loss (blowing a 28-3 lead) to the New England Patriots in 2017 or acknowledging interceptions. that they were the fault of their recipients. Here, even when he was little more than a bystander, Ryan served as a study in leadership.

“To see him sitting there off the bench, it’s a horrible feeling,” center Ryan Kelly said. “The guy’s had such an incredible career, and it’s a hard pill to swallow. But his ability to come out and not sulk and not call attention to himself, just be consistent… I think that was huge. And that takes a lot “. You had to put your ego and pride aside, and that’s a hard thing to do, especially when you’ve been in the league for 15 years.”

Linebacker Zaire Franklin added: “I feel like he took it gracefully, as much as he could. He’s had one of the best careers by a quarterback, extremely successful. And he’s coming into a new environment for the first time and things went exactly the wrong way around. as he wanted.

ONE QUESTION REMAINS UNANSWERED: Should the Colts have seen this coming?


Start with the numbers. Ryan had what was the lowest adjusted QBR of his career last season in Atlanta (52.2). That’s down even further this season, falling to 43.6. Going a bit further, the four lowest adjusted QBR marks of Ryan’s career have come in the past four seasons, suggesting the decline began a long time ago. As for Ryan’s league-high 15 fumbles (five lost), they may seem surprising. Then again, he had 11 last season.

But the Colts didn’t do Ryan any favors either.

The decision to start the season with Matt Pryor at left tackle seems indefensible in hindsight. Ryan has never had mobility, and his immobility became a fatal flaw with Pryor playing poorly in a position he’d never played. Pryor allowed 12 sacks in nine starts before being benched. Instability at right guard exacerbated the problem, and weak links affected the performance of remaining veterans like All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson.

Now, Ryan must contemplate his future after the last three games for the Colts. The team also has some decisions to make. Ryan has one year left on his contract, with $12 million of his 2023 salary guaranteed.

But thoughts about the next season have been mostly put on hold due to how the current season is unfolding.

“It’s been tough,” Ryan said. “It’s been hard sledding, and I haven’t performed well enough, consistent enough.”

If this is it for Ryan, 2022 hasn’t been the ending that anyone wanted. Neither Ryan nor the Colts could have been more wrong about what their partnership would produce.

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