Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford have spent their entire NFL careers as conference rivals, with Ryan on the Falcons and Stafford leading the Lions. But this hasn’t stopped the quarterbacks, who entered the league one year apart, from being close friends. Most NFL fans don’t know that the two have a close bond. It seemed like fate brought them together. The backstory behind their friendship is an interesting one involving an NFL event.
Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford’s NFL careers
The Falcons took Ryan with the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, and he has started 189 of a possible 192 regular season games in his 12 seasons in the league. He has led them to a 109-80 record in those games while completing more than 65% of his passes. He has thrown for more than 51,000 yards and 321 touchdowns, with 147 interceptions. The 35-year-old is a four-time Pro Bowler who was named the NFL MVP in 2016.
Stafford was the top pick in the 2009 draft. He’s started 149 games for the Lions in the last 11 seasons. The QB has a 62.5% completion rate and has accrued 41,025 yards through the air, with 256 touchdowns and 134 interceptions in his career. Stafford’s record with Detroit is 69-79-1. But this is partly because he’s played on a lot of subpar teams. The 32-year-old has just one Pro Bowl appearance, but it was key to his friendship with Ryan.
The beginning of Ryan and Stafford’s bromance
ESPN tells the tale of how the Ryan-Stafford bond started. Neither quarterback was initially picked to play in the 2015 Pro Bowl. But then big names, like Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady pulled out of the game. So Ryan and Stafford replaced them.
Teammates in the game, they became friends that week while practicing together. During that time, they learned that they had mutual interests in food and golf. They also learned that they lived close to each other in Atlanta during the offseason, and Ryan’s wife got along with Stafford’s wife-to-be. They started hanging out together in the offseason. Mutual friend Tyler Heyman says the players’ bromance “has grown quicker than any relationship I’ve seen.”
Months at the Pro Bowl, Ryan and his wife were guests at Stafford’s wedding. Then, the couples started vacationing together, as well as being frequent companions in Georgia. The men relax together and lean on each other when needed. The ladies also have commonalities and share the ups and downs of being married to the faces of an NFL franchise. Stafford says, “It’s kind of nice to have somebody in the league that you can talk ball with in the offseason.”
The quarterbacks share a negative trait
While Ryan and Stafford have a lot in common, not all of it is good. Both players have a reputation for not being able to win big games. Stafford doesn’t have much experience with big games, having made the playoffs just three times. But the Lions lost all three of those games, and Ryan totaled just four passing touchdowns in the contests.
Ryan has made the postseason six times, but Atlanta is 4-6 in 10 games. The only time he’s led the Falcons to multiple postseason wins in a postseason was in 2016. That season, they made it to the Super Bowl but blew a 28-3 lead to lose to the Patriots, 34-28.