After spending the last few years on a team that lacked talent and any sense of direction, Matt Ryan will finally have a chance to compete again. For the first time in his career, Ryan will play on a squad that’s not the Atlanta Falcons, as he recently went to the Indianapolis Colts via trade.
The Colts have one of the most well-constructed teams in the NFL; they just needed a quarterback. Ryan has a chance to be that QB.
However, not everyone was impressed with the deal. In fact, Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens essentially questioned Ryan’s legacy in an absurd tweet.
Matt Ryan is going to the Indianapolis Colts
While he often gets overlooked (and rightfully so) in favor of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan has been one of the most successful quarterbacks of his generation.
Ryan is a four-time Pro Bowler and earned the 2016 NFL AP MVP. He is eighth in league history in passing yards (59,735) and ninth in passing touchdowns (367).
The Boston College product led the Falcons to the playoffs six times during his tenure, and he took them to the Super Bowl during the 2016 campaign. However, Atlanta has been one of the worst teams in football each of the last four years. They recorded a losing record each season and missed the playoffs.
The franchise’s struggles, combined with Indy’s talented roster, seemed to play a role in Ryan’s recent move to the Colts. He will join a team that featured an NFL-leading seven Pro Bowlers last season, but it missed the playoffs due to Carson Wentz’s inability to perform well when things matter most.
Terrell Owens, though, doesn’t have high expectations for Ryan.
Terrell Owens questioned Matt Ryan’s legacy
Following the trade in which the Colts sent a third-round pick to the Falcons for Matt Ryan, Odell Beckham Jr. tweeted his approval for the deal.
“Random thought …. Bruh I really think Matt Ryan to the colts was actually [fire],” he posted. “I think bruh will elevate and do sum special over there.”
However, Terrell Owens disagreed with Beckham’s take.
“No sir. I respectfully disagree,” the former six-time Pro Bowler tweeted. “[Julio Jones] made Matt Ryan who he was, he hasn’t been 1/2 the QB since Julio was traded.”
So, Owens not only dislikes the Ryan-Colts trade, but it appears he doesn’t appreciate the quarterback’s legacy altogether.
And while he is partially correct in the sense that Julio Jones helped elevate Matt Ryan’s game, his primary message is absurd.
Matty Ice would have still been a top quarterback without Julio Jones
Before we look at why Matt Ryan would have still been a top QB without Julio Jones, let’s make one thing clear: Julio played a major role in Ryan’s success in Atlanta. Their connection was incredible, and Jones has been one of the greatest receivers to ever lace up the cleats.
But Ryan wasn’t just lucky to play with him. He was a good quarterback on his own.
Before the Falcons drafted Jones in 2011, Ryan had already become a Pro Bowl quarterback in 2010. He also led Atlanta to a 13-3 record that season.
Jones then, of course, hit the ground running as a rookie in 2011. He helped elevate Ryan into the MVP quarterback he became, and the two were the NFC’s worst nightmare for nearly a decade.
In 2020, though, Jones only played in nine games for Atlanta, and Ryan still had a great season. He threw for a whopping 4,581 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
But I thought Ryan hadn’t been half-the QB without Julio?
The Falcons traded Jones to the Tennessee Titans last offseason, and Ryan’s numbers declined in 2021. However, he was also on a horrible team.
The QB threw for a mediocre 3,968 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, but he had an atrocious offensive line that ranked 27th in the final Pro Football Focus o-line rankings of the 2021 campaign. It allowed Ryan to get sacked 40 times and gave up 200 pressures.
How much of a role did that play in Ryan’s down season? With a clean pocket, he was still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, registering a 90.4 PFF grade.
So, yes, Jones helped Ryan have significant success with the Falcons. And Ryan’s numbers did, in fact, decline without him last year. But Ryan wouldn’t be in the top 10 in career passing yards and passing touchdowns had he never been an elite quarterback.
When given the time to make the right plays, Matt Ryan is one of the NFL’s best QBs – with or without Julio Jones.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference