Just a few years ago, Matt Ryan was about as entrenched with the Atlanta Falcons as a quarterback without a certain place in the Hall of Fame can be.
He's now an Indianapolis Colt. Ryan recently revealed how the significant change in his career and life unfolded, and there's no doubt it was directly related to his previous employer's pursuit of Deshaun Watson.
"I kind of got filled in to the loop that they were gonna look into Deshaun Watson," Ryan explained on The Ryen Russillo Podcast. "At that point, I said, 'Okay, I understand,' you know, but I also need to look into what I need to look into, and if this doesn't go down, find out if this is probably still the best fit for me. And as that week went on, and I just kind of looked into -- on my end -- what might be the best possible landing spot, or what was best for myself and my family moving forward. As we did that research, to me, it became one spot."
That spot was Indianapolis, a franchise with all the makings of a Super Bowl contender except at the most important position: quarterback. Ryan's arrival addresses that void and sets up the Colts for a run that owner Jim Irsay envisions lasting as long as a presidential term.
While Ryan adjusts to his new environment and leans on the guidance of legends like Peyton Manning -- "he loved it here," Ryan said of Manning -- he has also been forced to process the massive change to his life. It's not easy to part with the only franchise a player has ever known, and Ryan also has to come to terms with the fact it's likely he'd still be in Atlanta if the Falcons hadn't entertained the idea of replacing him with a Deshaun Watson.
"Um, you know, had none of this gone down, there's probably a chance," Ryan said when asked if he'd still be a Falcon had Atlanta not pursued Watson. "A pretty good chance. But it did, you know, and so when it does, when the situation is changed, when the circumstances change, you know, I had always thought -- like everybody -- when you're drafted there and you play there, this is where I'm going to play my entire career.
"(For) 14 years, every day I woke up to try to help the Falcons win a championship. And that had been reciprocated on the other end for me. And so, when that changed, I had to look into it, and it's certainly been a big change for sure, but a good one. So, it's hard to say, but I think honestly, you know, it's more than likely I probably would've still been there if circumstances had been different. But I'm excited with where I'm at."
Indianapolis presents Ryan with an opportunity he simply wouldn't have in Atlanta in 2022, and perhaps beyond. The Colts are built to win now and believed they only needed to upgrade at quarterback to get over the hump and into the playoffs.
Ryan might also represent a semblance of stability the team has lacked since the days of Andrew Luck -- and truly, since Peyton Manning.
The Colts' power duo of general manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich saw a chance to answer their issues at quarterback and seized on the opportunity. Ryan believes he still has plenty of good football left in him, and after splitting with the franchise he never envisioned leaving, he's excited about his new situation.
"I feel like I can still play at a high level. My body feels as good as it ever has," Ryan said. "You know, I think there's reasons for that. I think the rule changes have helped guys like myself. You mentioned Tom [Brady] or Aaron [Rodgers]. The way they protect the quarterback is certainly better than what it was early in all of our careers. I also think, you know, I've done a good job of taking care of myself. I've been lucky to not have had any real major shoulder or back or neck injuries, which can derail you a little bit. So, I feel like there's still a lot of football in front of me, and a lot of really good football in front of me.
"And I'm excited to be a part of a team where there's other guys to lean on, too. You can turn around and hand that thing off. (Jonathan Taylor) can go for big numbers for us. You got good wide receivers, good tight ends, great offensive line, really good defense. To me, that's one of the things that has me most excited."