Matt Ryan announces his retirement and signs a one-day contract with Atlanta to retire a Falcon

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – An Atlanta Falcons staple has officially hung up his cleats.

Quarterback Matt Ryan announced his formal retirement from the NFL on Monday, doing so in Atlanta when he signed a one-day contract to retire as a Falcon. His professional career lasted from 2008 to 2222, with all but one season spent with the organization that gave him his first opportunity to turn 22 years old. He is now 38.

“It’s been a great ride,” Ryan said. “I’m excited to see what’s next, this next chapter of life and to see where that takes us. But today it’s exciting for me because in this profession you’re never in control of where you’re going to start and I couldn’t have done that either.” I’ve been luckier that it was a start here in Atlanta and it lasted 14 years and now I can book it and retire today as a Falcon.

Ryan was brought to Atlanta from Boston College in 2008 as the No. 3 overall draft pick, and his run as QB1 began immediately. During his rookie season, Ryan started all 16 games, going 11-5 and completing 61.1% of his passes for 3,440 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Ryan helped the Falcons earn a playoff bid that year, falling to the Arizona Cardinals in the wild-card round.

Fast forward to 2021, Ryan started all 17 games in what would ultimately be his final season in a Falcons jersey. He completed 67% of his passes for 3,968 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Falcons finished the schedule 7-10, a record they haven’t surpassed since.

In total, Ryan started 222 of a possible 225 regular season games for the Falcons. He compiled a winning record of 120-102 and made six playoff appearances in his 14 years with Atlanta. There was a Super Bowl run in the 2016 season, but the Falcons lost to the New England Patriots.

“It hurts,” Ryan said. “I think it’s one of those things that’s always a part of you, right? It’s hard not to live up to what you ultimately set out to do, but that’s life. There’s so many things in your life that are going that way You have to pick up the thread and move on. I remember seeing a quote from Winston Churchill: ‘Success is not final, and failure is not fatal.’

Which he did, by setting every major franchise record instead.

Ryan is the Falcons’ all-time passing leader with a stat line of 5,242 completions in 8,003 attempts for 59,735 yards, 367 touchdowns and 170 interceptions. He has the best average, with 269.1 passing yards per game. He completed the most passes (65.5%) of players who played in at least 10 matches. He has thrown the longest pass: 93 yards in 2019, which also doubled as the league’s highest mark that year.

Due to his success, Ryan received multiple national awards. He was named Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press in 2008. He later earned first-team All-Pro recognition, the Offensive Player of the Year award and the title of MVP, all from AP in 2016. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl four times (2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016).

“When I went back and read these notes and got ready for the day,” said Falcons team owner Arthur Blank, “in the 14 years that we have been honored to have Matt as our franchise quarterback and leader, it really amazes me what he has accomplished.

“… This is an exceptional footballer, but probably even more exceptional as a human being, as a husband, as a father and as a good friend. He has been a beloved friend to me all this time, to my entire family. They see Matt is one of our own players, and he is certainly one of the people of Atlanta. It is a great honor for me to be here today to represent our franchise and to have Matt end his career as an Atlanta Falcon.

Ryan worked under three full-time head coaches with the Falcons: Mike Smith (2008-14), Dan Quinn (2015-20) and Arthur Smith (2021). Current head coach Raheem Morris served as Ryan’s interim head coach for 11 games in 2020 after Quinn was released after the first five games.

The Falcons traded Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts on March 21, 2022, in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

That year saw Ryan’s final season of action. In 12 starts with the Colts, Ryan went 4-7-1, completing 67% of his passes for 461 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He missed two games – Weeks 8 and 9 – due to a shoulder injury, and Sam Ehlinger stepped in. Ryan was then replaced by Nick Foles in Week 16 for the remainder of the season. The Colts finished 4-12-1.

“I think we were hoping for a different outcome, but I’m grateful for that opportunity,” Ryan said. “You don’t take it lightly in this league to get the opportunity to go play there. So thank you to everyone in Indianapolis.”

On May 15, 2023, CBS Sports announced that Ryan would join the network as an NFL analyst for select games and shows for the upcoming season. When Ryan shared the news on Instagram, he added: “PS: This is not a retirement post.”

“As a kid, there was nothing I wanted to do other than play professional sports,” Ryan said. “In April 2008, the Falcons gave me that opportunity. I know draft picks are never an easy decision. There are a lot of options, there are a lot of ways you can go. So for me it was a responsibility every day to make sure you guys are right and I have tried to do that as best I can during my fourteen seasons here.

“Thank you for the trust then, thank you for the trust over those fourteen years, and thank you for the friendships that continue. I will certainly always support Atlanta and the Falcons.”

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