Matt Ryan’s heading into a new chapter in a career, one that has frankly had a lot of them. He’ll be on his third head coach and fifth offensive coordinator (sixth if you count Dirk Koetter twice), and has seen more change over the last 14 years than most of the high-end franchise quarterbacks in this league.
What he hasn’t done is switch teams, and he’ll head in 2021 with only 10 quarterbacks having played more games for a single franchise than he has. He’s at 205 games and soon to be counting there, and if the team’s commitment to him for the next 3-5 years stays rock solid, he’ll be very near the top of that list when his career winds up.
The players he’s keeping company with here are players you should recognize instantly, with Tom Brady (285), Brett Favre (255), Dan Marino (242), Eli Manning (236), John Elway (234), Ben Roethlisberger (233 and counting), Drew Brees (228), Phillip Rivers (228), Peyton Manning (208) and Johnny Unitas (206) comprising the list. When he plays his second 2021 game, Ryan will surpass Unitas and with his fourth 2021 game, he’ll pass Manning. One more year of a full-time starting job in Atlanta in 2022 would catapult him past Rivers, Brees, Elway, and Eli Manning.
Regardless of how you feel about Ryan and the team’s push to build around him for the immediate future, the fact that the list above is so tiny should tell you everything about how remarkable his career in Atlanta has been. In addition, Ryan’s joining rare company within his own draft class.
In total, only eight active players remain from the 2008 class, with cornerback Brandon Carr the only one without a current team. In addition to Carr, there’s three quarterbacks (Ryan, Joe Flacco and Chad Henne), one wide receiver (DeSean Jackson), one tackle (Duane Brown), one defensive lineman (Calais Campbell), and one legendary special teamer (Matthew Slater). There’s a similar number of players still kicking around from the 2005-2007 classes, while there’s just four left from 2004 and only one from 2000-2003, and that is of course Tom Brady. You have to play a particular position like long snapper or be pretty great to stick around that long, frankly, and the longer Ryan sticks around, the more that durability and longevity impresses.
The only thing that’s truly eluded Ryan to this point on his career bucket list is a championship, and while it’s hard to see how the team will realize those hopes in the next year or two, it’d be awfully nice to cap off #2’s long career in Atlanta with a Super Bowl win. Fingers crossed.