INDIANAPOLIS -- "A breath of fresh air" is how Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady described having veteran quarterback Matt Ryan as the team’s new starter. Brady was referring to having another voice outside of just the coaching staff during the team’s offseason workouts.
To some, the breath of fresh air could also have meant Carson Wentz's short stay had officially ended since Ryan is now throwing passes and working with his teammates during workouts.
“You feel him in this building,” Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said of Ryan.
Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said Ryan reminds him of former teammate Philip Rivers, another veteran who spent most of his career with one team -- the Chargers -- before ending it with the Colts in 2020.
A presence at quarterback is exactly what the Colts need. The type of presence that carries the respect of the coaches, inside the locker room with his teammates, and on the football field.
That’s what Ryan has brought already since being acquired from the Atlanta Falcons in March.
“I cannot even tell you how refreshing he is. [He has a] very strong opinion, but also very engaging, but very humble, like very humble,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “Very humble but very strong. It’s just good. It’s a really good dynamic, very professional in every way. It’s just a collaboration, but he also understands he’s coming in and learning a new offense, and he feels that right now, he feels it.”
The Colts, who have been seeking stability at quarterback since Andrew Luck’s retirement nearly three years ago, don’t look at Ryan’s stay in Indianapolis as a quick one. Owner Jim Irsay said over draft weekend that he would like Ryan, who turns 37 on May 17, to quarterback the team for the next three, possibly four, seasons.
The offseason workouts are still in the infant stages. The passes Ryan is throwing to his receivers are routes against air. Time will tell if things will run just as smoothly moving forward, because remember, there was this same kind of vibe at this time last year with Wentz.
"I can't say enough about Matt Ryan," Irsay said. "There's no way I can sit here and explain to you, unless you look at [general manager] Chris [Ballard] and Frank and different people in this organization's eyes, and see the difference that goes on right now because of Matt Ryan being in this building. His professionalism, his stature still at 36 and coming in here, and we really are fortunate."
Ryan’s experience will be needed because the Colts have a young receiving room. Of the receivers currently on the roster, only one -- 25-year-old Keke Coutee -- is over 24. And while the front office and coaching staff believe in the young group, especially since the Colts have yet to sign an outside free agent at that position, there could be some rough moments.
That means patience will be a necessity for Ryan.
“These guys are young, for sure, but their attitude, their energy, their sense of professionalism for young players is really good, and I’ve been impressed with them,” Ryan said. “... I think as a veteran player, there’s a level of patience that has to come with it, and it’s a slow, meticulous approach to trying to improve, but I think [Ballard] does a great job here of trying to get the right people in the building. From my short amount of time here, I get that sense from the guys.”
This isn’t the first time that Ryan has worked with a group of youthful receivers. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts were all rookies catching passes from Ryan at different times during his 14-year career with the Falcons.
But the Colts don’t have a Jones, Ridley or Pitts, all former first-round draft picks, on their roster. Michael Pittman Jr., who had 1,082 yards last season, is the closest Indianapolis has to that level of talent.
Former Falcons receiver Roddy White taught Ryan about patience early in the quarterback's career with Atlanta after Ryan came in with a demanding personality. That moment has stuck with Ryan over the years, and it's something that will help him when the inevitable bumps that come about for the Colts' young receivers next season.
"I think the way the league is set up now, regardless of whether or not you’re in the same building or a new team, there’s so much transition, there’s so many player transactions that take place, so much fluidity within the roster, that you’re constantly having guys come in and out of the building," Ryan said. "You can’t have a reasonable expectation that they’re going to know the system as well as you do, and you’ve got to be really good with your communication and understanding, and patient with sometimes just the amount of volume that you give guys.
"I think sometimes, you see a certain skill set and you say he can do all these things. But he’s not going to do any of them well if you overload them ... It’s striking that balance and being patient. Not trying to, you know, overload them mentally so that their physical skill set doesn’t show up.”