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Matt Ryan announces retirement, signs one-day contract with Atlanta to retire a Falcon

Ryan was the Falcons starting quarterback from 2008-22 and set every major franchise passing record during his tenure. 

Matt Ryan signs a contract at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Ga. On Monday, April 22, 2024. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta Falcons)
Matt Ryan signs a contract at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Ga. On Monday, April 22, 2024. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta Falcons)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — An Atlanta Falcons staple has officially hung up his cleats.

Quarterback Matt Ryan announced his formal retirement from the NFL on Monday, doing so in Atlanta as he signed a one-day contract to retire as a Falcon. His professional career spanned from 2008-22, and all but one season was spent with the organization that first gave him a shot at 22 years old. He's now 38.

"It was a hell of a ride," Ryan said. "I'm excited to see what's next, this next chapter of life and see where that takes us. But today, it's exciting for me because you never have control in this profession of where you're going to start and I could not have been luckier that it was a start here in Atlanta and it went for 14 years and now I can bookend it and retire as a Falcon today."

Ryan was brought to Atlanta from Boston College in 2008 as the No. 3 overall draft pick, and his run as QB1 began immediately. During his rookie season, Ryan started all 16 games, going 11-5 and completing 61.1% of his passes for 3,440 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Ryan helped the Falcons earn a playoff bid that year, falling short to the Arizona Cardinals in the wild-card round.

Fast forward to 2021, Ryan started all 17 games in what would ultimately be his last season in a Falcons jersey. He completed 67% of his passes for 3,968 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Falcons closed out the schedule 7-10, a record they have not topped since.

In total, Ryan started in 222 of a possible 225 regular-season games for the Falcons. He compiled a winning 120-102 record and made six playoff appearances in his 14 years with Atlanta. There was a Super Bowl run in the 2016 season, but the Falcons lost to the New England Patriots.

"It hurts," Ryan said. "I think that it's one of the things that is always a part of you, right? Falling short of what you ultimately set out to do is tough, but that's life. There's so many things in your life that are going to go that way. You got to pick up and move on. I remember seeing a Winston Churchill quote: 'Success isn't final, and failure isn't fatal. What counts is the courage to continue on.'"

Which he did, by instead setting every major franchise passing record.

Ryan is the Falcons’ all-time passing leader with a stat line of 5,242 completions in 8,003 attempts for 59,735 yards, 367 touchdowns and 170 interceptions. He boasts the best average, with 269.1 passing yards per game. He completed the most passes (65.5%) out of players who appeared in at least 10 games. He has thrown the longest pass – 93 yards in 2019, which doubled as the league-high mark that year, too.

Because of his success, Ryan received multiple national accolades. He was named The Associated Press' Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008. He later earned first-team All-Pro recognition, the Offensive Player of the Year award and the title of MVP, all from AP in 2016. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl four times (2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016).

"When I was going back and reading these notes and getting ready for today," Falcons team owner Arthur Blank said, "it amazed me in the 14 years that we were graced with Matt as our franchise quarterback and leader, really, what he's accomplished.

" … This is an exceptional football player but probably more exceptional as a human being, as a husband, as a father and as a great friend. He's been a beloved friend to me for that period of time, to my whole family. They view Matt as kind of one of our own, and he is one of our own. He's certainly one of Atlanta's own. It's a great honor for me to be here today to represent our franchise and having Matt end his career as an Atlanta Falcon."

Ryan worked under three full-time head coaches while with the Falcons: Mike Smith (2008-14), Dan Quinn (2015-20) and Arthur Smith (2021). Current head coach Raheem Morris served as Ryan's interim head coach for 11 games in 2020 after Quinn was released after the opening five games.

The Falcons traded Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts on March 21, 2022, in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

That year saw Ryan's final season of action. In 12 starts with the Colts, Ryan went 4-7-1 and completed 67% of his passes for 461 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He missed two games – Weeks 8 and 9 – due to a shoulder injury, and Sam Ehlinger stepped in. Ryan was then replaced by Nick Foles in Week 16 for the remainder of the season. The Colts finished 4-12-1.

"I think we were hoping for a different result, but I am thankful for that opportunity," Ryan said. "You don't take it lightly in this league to have the chance to go out there and play. So, thank you to everyone in Indianapolis."

On May 15, 2023, CBS Sports announced Ryan would join the network as an NFL analyst for select games and shows for the upcoming season. When Ryan shared the news on Instagram, he made sure to add, "P.S. - this is not a retirement post."

This, however, is.

"I wanted nothing else as a kid other than to play professional sports," Ryan said. "In April of 2008, (the Falcons) gave me that opportunity. I know draft picks are never an easy decision. There's lots of options, there's lots of ways you can go. So, for me, it was a responsibility every day to make sure you guys were right and I tried to do that the best that I could for the 14 seasons here.

"Thank you for the confidence then, thank you for the confidence through those 14 years, and thank you for the friendships that continue on. I'll certainly always be pulling for Atlanta and the Falcons."

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