Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was visiting Lake Oconee over the offseason just trying to relax.
“Oddly enough, I bumped into Matt Stafford,” Sarkisian said. “He just seemed like a great guy. He was with his dad golfing. Knowing Matt Ryan’s personality and then getting a chance to meet Matt Stafford, you could see why they get along.”
The best buds, Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford, will face one another when the Falcons (2-0) play the Detroit Lions (2-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Ford Field.
It will be their fourth meeting, with Ryan holding a 2-1 edge over Stafford, his travel partner, friend and church-league basketball teammates.
The two said their relationship started back at the Pro Bowl after the 2014 season.
Since, they’ve been pretty cool.
“(At the) Pro Bowl was the first time I really hung out with him,” Stafford told the Detroit media. “Had said, ‘Hey,’ to him before games before that, but that’s about it.”
Ryan remembers how the relationship started.
“I’ve gotten to know Matthew and I’ve known him for a bunch of years,” Ryan said. “I really got to know him at Pro Bowl and found out that I live close to him in the offseason. So, (we’re) certainly great friends with him and his wife, Kelly. They are just good people.”
After the Super Bowl loss, Ryan, his wife, Sarah, and Stafford went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for a little rest and relaxation. Kelly Stafford was pregnant and did not make the trip.
Sarah Ryan posted a photo of the trio on Instagram. Kelly Stafford commented on it, saying: “Loving everything about this picture except for the fact that I’m not in it and stuck in Michigan.”
Matthew Stafford did not want to discuss much about the trip or the double-dates.
“I’m not getting into that guys,” Stafford said. “I’m not getting into it.”
Ryan is three years older than Stafford. After Ryan was taken third overall in the 2008 NFL draft, Stafford went No. 1 overall in 2009.
“I don’t know,” Stafford said when asked why he and Ryan hit it off so well. “I obviously have a lot of respect for him and how he plays the game. I think he does the same for me.
“As you married people know, when your wives get along, that helps, too. So, our wives get along, which is nice. But I don’t know, he’s just a good guy. It’s kind of nice to have somebody in the league that you can talk ball with in the offseason.”
They played in the backcourt together in church-league basketball.
“He’s a pretty good player,” Ryan said. “He’s got a good shot. Actually, both of our wives are pretty good basketball players as well. They are probably the two best players.”
Neither of the quarterbacks wanted to play point guard.
“We just kind of stood in the corner and shot 3’s,” Ryan said. “That was our game.”
Like Stafford, a former University of Georgia standout, Ryan didn’t have any funny or off-beat stories to share.
“He’s just down to earth, honestly,” he said. “Really normal. Easy to be around and fun to be around.”
Ryan was happy for Stafford when he signed his $135 million contract. He admires his football skills, too.
“He’s a special player for sure,” Ryan said. “His ability to change arm angles. Throw from all kinds of different positions. ... He’s in his ninth season. Just seeing those plays throughout his career, he’s made some amazing plays.”
Ryan likes using Stafford as a sounding board on some matters.
“We go through a lot of the same things,” Ryan said. “A lot of the same issues. It’s a unique position. A unique fraternity. Quarterbacks throughout the league, there are a lot of things when you run into guys over the offseason, you get the opportunity to pick their brains about different stuff. We certainly talk about some of those things.”
Ryan does not have a golden star by this game because he wants to beat his buddy so bad.
“I think it’s pretty equal,” Ryan said. “You want to beat everybody. That’s how it goes. Week to week, you’re doing everything you can to find a way to win. Close. Not close. Whatever it is, for me that never changes.”
Ryan likes the aspect of the similarly-situated signal-callers, who can bounce things off one another.
“Just being a good friend,” Ryan said. “That’s about the biggest thing. He’s a great guy. We’ve got a lot of similar interest, a lot of things we like to do away from the field. Honestly, he’s just a good person. They are really good family. Just good friends.”
Stafford enjoys their quarterback bond.
“I don’t think his friendships is getting anything out of it other than just being a friend, and I think that’s kind of how we treat it,” Stafford said. “We enjoy talking football and talking about other guys, but it’s not like we’re in it to get a little information there, a little information here. We just talk about it and if you take something from it, you take something from it. If you don’t, you don’t.”
Sarkisian, who played quarterback in college, understands the nuances of the position and why Ryan and Stafford would be drawn to one another.
“I think playing quarterback in this league, especially, being one of the elite guys, the handful that these two guys are in, some elite company,” Sarkisian said. “When you can find that camaraderie with somebody else that’s maybe not right in your division that you play maybe once every couple, three or four years.
“I’m sure they are both are excited for the opportunity to play one another. I know there is a great deal of respect for one another. I’m sure they’ll go out and compete like crazy. ... One of them is going to be jabbing the other after this one is over with.”
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