Falcons great Matt Ryan officially retires from NFL, ready for ‘next chapter of life’

Arguably the greatest quarterback in franchise history

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Matt Ryan, perhaps the greatest quarterback in Atlanta Falcons history, officially retired from the NFL on Monday.

“It was a helluva ride,” Ryan said. “I’m excited to see what’s next. This next chapter of life and kind of see where that takes us. Today, it’s exciting for me because you never have control in this profession of where you’re going to start. I could not have been luckier, that it was a start here in Atlanta and it went for 14 years.”

Ryan, who didn’t play last season and started out on a career in broadcasting, made the announcement on social media.

Ryan signed a one-day deal with the Falcons to end his career where it started.

In a video message, Ryan said: “I’m honored to retire as a Falcon. Thank you to all the Falcons fans for your continued support. Through the highs and the lows, I always felt your energy and passion. I want you to know that every day I felt the responsibility to give you the best version of myself.”

Ryan, who was the third player taken overall in the 2008 NFL draft, is the winningest quarterback in franchise history, hold most of the passing records and took the team to the playoffs a record six times. He is one of two quarterbacks – Chris Chandler after the 1998 season – to take the team to the Super Bowl.

He’s the only player in franchise history to win the league most valuable player award.

Ryan had a 14-year run with the Falcons until he was traded to the Colts for a third-round pick over the 2022 offseason. He played a season for the Colts before being released.

After being released by the Colts, Ryan did not immediately retire because he wanted to keep playing. He was holding out hope that a team would call him last season. The Jets elected not enter the veteran free agent quarterback market after Aaron Rodgers was injured. The Browns played five different quarterbacks and turned to Joe Flacco, who was drafted the same year as Ryan, late in the season. Flacco helped to guide the Browns to the playoffs. The Colts also owed Ryan $12 million for the 2023 season.

“I had multiple conversations, but nothing that I wanted to do,” Ryan said.

Ryan won the NFL MVP award in 2016 after guiding the team to Super Bowl LI, where it blew a 28-3 lead in losing to the Patriots.

“It’s hurts,” Ryan said of the Super Bowl loss. “I think that’s one of the things that always apart of you. That falling short of what you ultimately set out to do. But that’s life.”

Ryan was an immediate starter for the Falcons after being drafted from Boston College. He helped guide the team to the playoffs as a rookie, the first of four playoff appearances in his first six seasons.

Ryan reflected on his first pass in the NFL, which went for a 62-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins. He began his career under quarterback coach Bill Musgrave.

“He helped me so much in terms of time management,” Ryan said. “I have this acronym that I live by since then and it’s TSVR and Bill is who taught me it. Time Spent Value Received. It was an incredible valuable lesson at an early age. Let’s invest our time in stuff that is going to impact us playing well.”

Over 14 seasons, Ryan has completed 5,242 of 8,003 pass attempts for 59,735 yards and 367 touchdowns – all franchise records. He also holds franchise records for career passer rating (94.2), career completion percentage (65.5) and career 300-yard passing games (73).

After getting traded to the Colts, Ryan kept his home and continued his social action in Atlanta.

“It’s always disappointing at first,” Ryan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an exclusive interview after the trade. “That’s a very human reaction. But as you go through it, you understand that those things can happen. When they do, it’s about how you respond and how you react.”

Ryan came to the Falcons at a critical time, a year after Pro Bowl quarterback Michael Vick went to prison on federal dog-fighting charges and coach Bobby Petrino quit with three games left in the 2007 season.

Ryan, leaning on a 2,000-yard rushing attack led by running backs Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood, came in and won games immediately. He also became a pillar of the community through his charity work.

Ryan turned into the most prolific passer in team history, shattering all of Steve Bartkowski’s passing marks. He led the franchise to its first back-to-back winning seasons in 2008 and 2009.

After the last trip to the playoffs, because of some poor drafting from 2017-20, the Falcons have fallen on hard times. They have not had a winning season since 2017.

As the Falcons started to slip back into the lower reaches of the NFC, some fans started to bash Ryan.

“You have a ton of people who love Matt and some who don’t, I don’t know why or for whatever reason,” said former Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas, who also was drafted by the Falcons in 2008. “But we have to give him his respect because his respect is due. He’s been so great for this organization. It’s funny how quickly we forget what somebody meant to us. ... Let’s not bash this man, who for 14 years gave you everything that he had on that football field.”

The Falcons used "AirBlank1" to fly in quarterback Matt Ryan after he was drafted by in 2008. The team used his private jet to help hold private workouts before the draft. (By Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

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