It took Matt Ryan a little more than six seasons to become the Atlanta Falcons all-time leader in touchdown passes, passing yards and completions. He only added to those franchise leading numbers over his final seven seasons with the Falcons.
Johnny Unitas. Peyton Manning. Andrew Luck. Philip Rivers. Colts history is filled with great quarterbacks.
Ryan spoke about that tradition to begin his introductory press conference with the Colts on March 22, saying he is “humbled by the caliber of play” at quarterback that’s happened in Colts history.
“[My family and I are] all so, so excited to be here in Indianapolis and to be part of this Colts organization,” Ryan said. “It’s an organization that has a long lineage of incredible quarterback play.”
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From Johnny Unitas to Philip Rivers
The Colts are one of just seven teams in NFL history with three quarterbacks recording at least 23,000 passing yards with the franchise.
That doesn’t include Philip Rivers, who threw for 59,271 yards with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, and Matt Hasselbeck, who reached 29,434 passing yards with the Seattle Seahawks. Rivers and Hasselbeck each appeared in at least 15 games with the Colts.
It also doesn’t include Earl Morrall or Bert Jones, both of whom won league MVP awards while serving as Colts starting quarterbacks.
Colts signal callers have won nine MVP awards since the introduction of the award in 1957. That’s the most for any team in history. The Green Bay Packers are the next closest with their quarterbacks winning league MVP seven times.
Ryan now joins that lineage of great Colts quarterbacks. In his Indianapolis introductory press conference, Ryan mentioned Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Rivers by name.
Unitas and Manning combined to win seven MVP awards and led the Colts to their two Super Bowl victories.
At Boston College in 2007, Ryan won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, given annually to the most outstanding senior quarterback in the country.
“Starting with Johnny Unitas – an award that I was fortunate enough to win when I was in college and got to meet his family,” Ryan said. “It’s amazing to be here almost 15 years later sitting in the place where he started. Obviously, a different city but the same organization.”
Ryan went 1-2 against the Colts with the Falcons. In those games, Indianapolis started Hasselbeck, Curtis Painter, and Jacoby Brissett behind center.
But Ryan still discussed Luck and Rivers as if he knew them very well.
“I know all about Andrew Luck as well,” Ryan said. “[He’s] an unbelievable competitor. Then another guy in Philip Rivers, that I had to go against throughout my career. He came in here and had an amazing year when he played here.”
Ryan and Rivers squared off three times during Rivers’ 16 seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers. Ryan won two of those three games.
Following in the Footsteps of Peyton Manning
While Ryan was complimentary of all the Colts quarterbacks he mentioned, he spoke the most glowingly of Manning.
The Colts all-time leader in touchdown passes and passing yards, Manning won two MVP awards before Ryan was a sophomore in college. Then, Manning led the Colts to the Super Bowl during Ryan’s junior year at Boston College.
In Ryan’s first two NFL seasons, Manning again won back-to-back MVP awards.
Ryan said that growing up, he wanted to be like Manning.
“I’ve gotten the chance to get to know him during my career and there’s not a better representative for this organization,” Ryan said. “And not a better mentor I could have asked to have had than him.”