Matt Ryan calls it a career. The quarterback officially announces his retirement

Updated Apr. 22, 2024 5:22 p.m. ET

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — On the very first pass of his very first NFL minicamp, Matt Ryan delivered a wobbly throw that left his new Atlanta Falcons teammates shaking their heads.

They couldn't help but wonder if the team made a huge mistake drafting this skinny kid out of Boston College with the No. 3 overall pick in 2008.

“He threw a duck,” said former Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins, chuckling at the memory. "We're like, ‘Uh, is this the guy?’”

He was.


After putting up numbers that will surely put him in consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ryan formally announced his retirement Monday to cap a 15-year career in which he spent all but one season as the steady-as-they-come quarterback of the Falcons.

He signed a one-day contract with Atlanta so he could officially close his career with his longtime team.

“I took the hometown discount," Ryan quipped.

The decision was not a surprise, given the quarterback had not played since a single disappointing season with the Indianapolis Colts in 2022. He worked last season as an analyst for CBS, receiving a rousing ovation when he called a game in Atlanta.

Ryan, who turns 39 next month, threw for 62,792 yards and 381 touchdowns in his career, quickly becoming the face of the Falcons during the most successful era in franchise history.

He ranks seventh in NFL history for passing yards, ninth in career TD passes and won the league MVP award in 2016 when he guided the Falcons to only their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

But Ryan came up heartbreakingly shy of the ultimate goal when Atlanta squandered a 28-3 lead to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the title game, losing 34-28 in overtime.

“It hurts,” Ryan conceded. “It's one of those things that's always a part of you. 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've got to pick up and move on.”

The lack of a championship — and the improbable way the Falcons lost to the Patriots — could hurt Ryan's bid for a spot in Canton.

“Obviously, if you had that Super Bowl victory, it might make things a little easier," Jenkins said. “But I do think he's a Hall of Famer.”

Jenkins was among three former teammates who attended Ryan's retirement announcement at the Falcons training complex in suburban Flowery Branch. Team owner Arthur Blank sat with Ryan's wife, Sarah, and the couple's three young sons.

Ex-Atlanta center Todd McClure, who snapped the ball to Ryan for his first five seasons, will always remember how the guy who became known as Matty Ice helped steady the franchise as a rookie.

The Falcons were reeling from franchise quarterback Michael Vick being sent to prison for running a dog-fighting operation and Bobby Petrino abandoning the head coaching position after just 13 games the previous season.

Right from the start, Ryan brought much-needed professionalism to the locker room to go along with stellar play on the field, leading the Falcons to a surprising playoff berth in 2008 coming off an awful 4-12 season.

“You look back, the Petrino fiasco and everything that happened with Mike,” McClure said. “To be able to get a guy that would come to this organization and play for as long as he did, be the ultimate competitor, the ultimate pro, it meant a lot. He steadied the franchise. He steadied the fan base."

Ryan's rookie campaign turned out to be the first of five straight winning seasons for a team that had never put together even back-to-back records above .500 over the first 42 years of its existence.

Ryan thanked pretty much everyone who worked in the Falcons organization, from Blank and the front office, to the coaches and players, and even included a shoutout to the training staff and media relations team for contributing to his success.

But he reserved the biggest thanks for his wife, who he met when both were athletes at Boston College.

“I would not have had the career that I've had without you,” Ryan said, his voice choking with emotion. “I prided myself on coming to the building every day with the same mindset and being consistent for my teammates. But I know I wasn't that for you when I came home. You are the one person on the planet who saw how it really was every day for me.”

Ryan would lead Atlanta to one more playoff appearance in 2017 — a season he's especially proud of coming off that Super Bowl debacle and the Falcons becoming the butt of jokes from around the nation.

But Ryan closed his career with five straight losing campaigns. When the Falcons went into rebuilding mode after the 2021 season, the aging QB and his mammoth contract were dealt to the Colts for a mere third-round draft pick.

His tenure in Indianapolis didn't go as planned.

Ryan posted a 4-7-1 record as the starter, had a career-low 14 touchdown passes and was benched for the first time in his pro career. At the end of the season, he was quietly let go by the Colts.

Ryan joined CBS and kept one eye on possibly returning to the field with another team. He got several offers, but nothing to his liking, so he finally decided it was time to call it a career.

With Ryan at the helm, the Falcons won three division titles and made six playoff appearances, also reaching the NFC championship game during the 2012 season. He had 10 straight seasons with more than 4,000 passing yards, highlighted by his MVP season when he set career highs with 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and a 69.9 completion percentage.

Ryan was a four-time Pro Bowl selectee and remarkably durable over his career, missing only three games during his Atlanta tenure because of injuries. After turf toe sidelined him for two games during the 2009 season, he made 154 consecutive starts before a high ankle sprain sidelined him for one week in 2019.

He finished his career with a record of 124-109-1 as a starter, including a 120-102 mark with the Falcons.

Asked if he thought his credentials were Hall of Fame-worthy, Ryan paused briefly but didn't waver from making his pitch.

“I think my body of work is strong. I think I did a lot of things the right way," he said. "But ultimately, it's not my call.

"I will say this: I'm really proud of the things that I accomplished, that we accomplished as a group. If you would've told me at 15 this was the way it was going to shake out, I would've signed up for it every time.”