For years, the Indianapolis Colts were the antithesis of the Cleveland Browns (or what the Browns used to be). While some organizations searched high and low for franchise quarterbacks, the Colts had Peyton Manning and then Andrew Luck.
However, Luck has put them in an unfamiliar situation. Indy has yet to find an answer at QB following his shocking retirement at 29 years old in 2019.
After rolling with backup Jacoby Brissett for a year, the team added NFL great Philip Rivers in 2020. He led Indianapolis to the playoffs, but (given that he was 38 years old when he signed) Rivers retired after just one season in Indy.
The Colts then took a chance on Carson Wentz.
The Wentz experiment ended the way many thought it would: in an explosion. Indy missed the playoffs in 2021 due to a horrific collapse in the last two weeks of the season, and Wentz was a primary reason for the disappointing finish.
But the front office has since ensured it won’t happen again. Indianapolis traded for 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan this offseason, and he will likely be the team’s sixth different Week 1 starting QB in as many seasons.
Ryan turns 37 later this month, so any potential concerns about his situation being similar to the one the Colts had with Rivers would be justified. Owner Jim Irsay, though, promises that’s not the case.
Ryan has Indianapolis planning years into the future.
Jim Irsay thinks Matt Ryan could be on the Colts for three or four seasons
Unlike Philip Rivers, who signed a one-year deal with the Colts, Matt Ryan has two years left on his contract. He will likely play out these next couple of seasons, and he has even said he doesn’t plan on retiring after just a year.
Jim Irsay has also made it clear that this isn’t like the Rivers situation.
“Matt is different than Philip, this is definitely different than that,” Irsay recently said, per ESPN. “It’s not drafting Andrew Luck, but it’s different than Philip. We knew Philip was going to be a one-year sort of thing and we view this as very possibly a three-year thing. Who knows. It’s hard to put a number on it.”
Ryan certainly isn’t their quarterback of the future. So, are the Colts still looking for a long-term option after not selecting a QB in the 2022 NFL Draft?
“We hope Matt can be here for four years, maybe,” Irsay added. “We certainly have our radar out for a young guy that can be the long-term future.”
It sounds like the Colts are using the upcoming seasons to find their next guy, but they have a chance to win a lot of games with Ryan in the meantime.
How long can Matt Ryan play?
So, how much longer can Matt Ryan play at a high level? His numbers were down a bit last year (3,968 yards and 20 touchdowns), but he was on a team with a bad offensive line and little to no weapons.
The Colts are much more talented and can help him have great success.
Take Rivers, for example. He threw 20 interceptions in his last season on a struggling Los Angeles Chargers team in 2019. In 2020 with the Colts, he had just 11 picks and completed 68% of his passes, the third-best mark of his career.
Or what about Tom Brady? He looked done at 42 years old in 2019 after throwing for just 4,057 yards and completing only 60.8% of his passes with the New England Patriots. Last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 44-year-old led the NFL in passing yards with a career-high 5,316 and in touchdowns with 43. He also had a 67.5% completion percentage.
No, Ryan isn’t Brady, but TB12’s success with Tampa and Rivers’ one season with the Colts proves that aging quarterbacks can still have great seasons on good teams.
Perhaps Ryan can do something similar throughout the next few years with Indy. It’s hard to say how much longer he can play at a high level, but with the Colts having a talented team and a dominant running game, Matty Ice could still have several seasons left in the tank.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference