Falcons HC Smith: Matt Ryan Trade to Colts 'Wasn’t Tough' Because Atlanta 'Moved On'

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 9, 2022

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan holds his new jersey following a press conference at the NFL team's practice facility in Indianapolis, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

After 14 seasons and 222 starts, the Atlanta Falcons moved on from Matt Ryan this offseason, trading him to the Indianapolis Colts.

While some fans may take a bit of time to get used to a new quarterback under center, head coach Arthur Smith thinks it's all part of the business. 

"It wasn't tough, because it had nothing to do with the respect I have for him," Smith told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer of the trade. "We'd moved on. He had a great career, and I'll always be appreciative of it, very thankful I got to work with him. But we moved on, and that's the nature of the game. Professionally, you have to separate that from your personal relationships and do what’s best for the team and organization. And that's what we did."

The Falcons made their desire to move on all but known by getting into the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. While Atlanta ultimately lost out to the Cleveland Browns, the writing was on the wall for Ryan's tenure in Atlanta. The Falcons traded Ryan to Indianapolis in exchange for a 2022 third-round pick and signed Marcus Mariota to be their presumed starter in one fell swoop on March 21.

Smith is coming off a 7-10 debut campaign as a head coach, a mark that clearly left him unsatisfied with the roster's direction. The former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator went with a largely status quo roster, minus Julio Jones, in 2021 and seemed committed to Ryan as his quarterback.

That changed as the season went along, with the Falcons offense sputtering amid a dearth of skill-position talent and Ryan failing to prop it up. Ryan threw for 3,968 yards and 20 touchdowns against 12 interceptions during the regular season.

The yardage number was his lowest since 2010, and his 20 touchdowns tied for the second-worst mark of his career—a major concern given that he had an extra game to work with. Ryan's 46.1 QBR was the worst mark of his career.

The Falcons set off for what appears to be a short-term rebuild, one likely aimed at landing a quarterback at the top of the 2023 draft. 

Ryan, meanwhile, will be the latest in a revolving door of Colts quarterbacks since Andrew Luck's retirement in 2019.