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Matt Ryan closes in on 50,000 yards, hopes for many more

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

When Matt Ryan was a fresh-faced rookie out of Boston College back in 2008, he was throwing passes to the likes of Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, and Harry Douglas. In 2019 at 34 years old, he’s throwing to the likes of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Russell Gage. That receiving corps, in other words, has changed a lot.

Ryan hasn’t really changed, though. He’s refined his game a lot, becoming more comfortable throwing passes with anticipation and timing and making plays with his legs, but he’s been durable and consistent throughout the last decade-plus, even with a couple of down years—and he’s kind of in one now, unfortunately—mixed in. That’s why he’s currently closing in on 50,000 yards even as he cracks the top ten in career passing yardage and closes in on the top ten in passing touchdowns.

Against a Saints secondary he’s feasted against in the past, Ryan has an outside chance of getting the 346-plus yards he needs to move to 50k. In an engaging writeup about that milestone, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure talked to Ryan about what that mark means and what records and achievements he still has to pursue. There’s also some nice compliments in the piece from Brett Favre and (ugh) Drew Brees.

But winning a Super Bowl “is the No. 1 goal for me and what motivates me to get out of bed every morning.”

Any individual accolades along the way are a bonus. And, sure, he’d love to finish his career as the NFL’s all-time leading passer.

”Everybody’s shooting for that,” Ryan said with a smile. “Anybody that tells you they’re not is lying. Of course you’re shooting for that. Of course you’d want to be recognized that way. But at the same time, there’s a long time to go between now and then.

Will Ryan be caught by others? Chances are good he will not. If he even plays three more seasons—quite reasonable to expect given his contract, age, and still high level of performance—he’ll close in on Dan Marino (5th in touchdown passes and yardage) and possibly surpass him along the way at his current career averages. Considering Eli Manning looks close to done, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers appear to be winding down, and only Matthew Stafford is close behind at this point, it’ll likely be a half-decade before anyone besides Rodgers or Stafford even comes particularly close, and Ryan can keep building those numbers during that span. We’ll leave his Hall of Fame case for another day, but he’s already in the company of greats and that’s only going to be more true as time goes on.