“I think not only myself, but the addition of (cornerback) Stephon Gilmore, bringing him in, some veteran guys that have been around and Steph being in a building where there was a lot of success, too,” said Ryan, who was referencing Gilmore’s time with the New England Patriots.
The Colts, who play in the AFC South, were on the verge of the playoffs last season. However, with Carson Wentz at quarterback, they were upset in the regular-season finale by Jacksonville and were eliminated from playoff contention.
With a strong rushing attack and a solid defense, the Colts felt all they were missing was a quarterback. They traded Wentz to the Commanders on March 9.
The Falcons and the Colts struck the Ryan deal March 21.
“He’s got an urgency,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said. “He’s got an expectation not only from himself but from others. It’s hard to demand much of others if you’re not putting it out there yourself, which he does.”
The clock is ticking for the Colts and Ryan, who turned 37 in May.
“I think that experience of how you push through, how you get through. I really believe in this league you have to be hardened as a team and as individuals to really break through the way you want to,” Ryan said. “You have to be ready for those moments that are going to come up during the season.”
Ryan believes the Colts were hardened by missing the playoffs last season.
“I think this group is, having gone through what they’ve gone through the last couple of years,” Ryan said. “Sometimes you just add a piece here or there, the right voice here, and it starts to click for people. I’m hoping to help in that respect.”
Ryan had to learn the Colts’ offense.
“It’s really the first time that I’ve had to do that since my rookie year,” Ryan said. “I was just slightly behind the curve than of everybody else.”
The Colts accommodated Ryan when they changed coordinators.
“Even when I had new coordinators coming in, the group of players were all learning it together,” Ryan said. “We were all pretty much on the same page. (Colts coach) Frank (Reich), (offensive coordinator) Marcus Brady and (quarterbacks coach) Scott Milanovich, they’ve all done an excellent job of having me slowly digest it.”
There was some blending of concepts, too.
“Taking a look at what they’ve had success with here in the past,” Ryan said. “Being really open to looking at what I’ve had success with in the past in Atlanta. Just trying to find the things that will marry up to what we are trying to do as an offense. The collaborative side of it has been really good.”
Ryan’s best teams with the Falcons had strong rushing attacks.
In 2008, when he guided the Falcons to the playoffs as a rookie, running backs Michael Turner (1,699) and Jerious Norwood (489) combined to rush for more than 2,100 yards. In 2016, running backs Devonta Freeman (1,079) and Tevin Coleman (520) rushed for 1,599 yards to help power the Super Bowl run.
Last season, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor led the league with 1,811 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns.
“It starts with Jonathan,” Ryan said. “Our offense really starts with me and running the football and getting him going. He’s special.”
Ryan also likes running back Nyheim Hines as a change-of-pace back.
“I really think he is a talented runner and is exceptional in the pass game,” Ryan said. “Add that to a group of tight ends that I’m confident in, and I feel like we have a pretty good group.”
Michael Pittman has stepped forward as the top receiver. Ryan also spent the exhibition season working with rookie Alec Pierce, Parris Campbell and tight end Jelani Woods.
“We’ve got a good young group,” Ryan said. “We’ve got size. We’ve got talent. We’ve got speed. Those are all things you love to see. If you’re lacking one thing, maybe it’s experience.”
The Colts’ secret weapon may be former wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who is in his first season as the wide receivers coach.
“Reggie’s been unbelievable,” Reich said. “I cannot tell you how fast an adjustment he’s made to the coaching life. He’s had an impact in that (receivers meeting) room already; you can see it.”
The trade for Ryan, who holds most of the Falcons’ passing records, has been well-received by the Colts.
“The way that he’s like a coach in the field,” Colts owner Jim Irsay told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s awesome. We’re really excited about Matt. ... He’s excited about playing and excited about finishing his legacy over the next three, four or five years, or whatever it is.
“I know with the same ideas that we have, with a world championship. It’s been great having him.”
The Bow Tie Chronicles