During his debut performance with the Colts, Matt Ryan exhibited ball-control issues, throwing one interception and fumbling four times. Should the Colts be concerned by Ryan’s fumbled snaps?
In week one – a 20-20 tie at division-rival Houston – Matt Ryan threw one interception and fumbled four times – one, a strip-sack recovered by the Texans, and three fumbled snaps recovered by the Colts. Should the Colts be concerned by Ryan’s repeated miscues with center Ryan Kelly? No, and here’s why.
The Colts Quarterback Is In New Territory
The first, and most obvious, reason is that after 14 years with the Atlanta Falcons, Ryan is taking snaps behind a brand new (to him) offensive line and new center. Compounding that issue, Ryan and the first-team offense only played in two of three preseason games, for a total of seven series, during which Ryan took only 32 snaps. It is reasonable to expect a few issues as the new quarterback-center duo get acclimated to each other.
Even so, three fumbled snaps – one from shotgun and two from under center – are concerning and had the potential to impact the game adversely. Are such fumbles normal for Ryan? To answer that question, I reviewed Ryan’s career statistics.
This Is Not A Recurring Theme For Colts’ Ryan
Prior to the 2022 season, Ryan had 89 fumbles in 14 seasons (6.4 fumbles per season), with a total snap count of 10,680 (0.9%). In those 14 seasons, Ryan had a high of 12 fumbles (2015) and a low of three fumbles. While some expressed concern for Ryan’s fumbles in 2015, that concern doesn’t appear to be a recurring theme throughout his career. Ryan’s fumble stats appear to be inline both with recent Colts quarterbacks, and with an arbitrary sampling of other, contemporary quarterbacks throughout the league (Source: Pro Football Reference)
- Peyton Manning: 75 fumbles, 17 seasons (4.4 fumbles/season)
- Matt Ryan: 6.4 fumbles/season (0.9%)
- Philip Rivers: 111 fumbles, 17 seasons (6.5 fumbles/season)
- Andrew Luck: 44 fumbles, 6 seasons (7.3 fumbles/season), 5,926 snaps (0.7%)
- Carson Wentz (w/Colts): 1 season, 8 fumbles (8.0 fumble /season), 5,778 snaps (1.1%)
Other NFL Quarterbacks:
- Tom Brady (Tampa Bay): 8 fumbles, 2 seasons (4.0 fumbles/season)
- Aaron Rodgers: 84 fumbles, 16 seasons (5.3 fumbles/season)
- Drew Brees: 111 fumbles, 20 seasons (5.6 fumbles/season)
- Matt Stafford: 74 fumbles, 13 seasons (5.7 fumbles/season)
- Tom Brady (New England): 121 fumbles, 20 seasons (6.0 fumbles/season)
- Matt Ryan: 6.4 fumbles/season
- Joe Flacco: 90 fumbles, 14 seasons (6.4 fumbles/season)
- Ben Roethlisberger: 115 fumbles, 18 seasons (6.4 fumbles/season)
- Tony Romo: 62 fumbles, 9 seasons (6.9/season), 3,216 snaps (1.9%)
- Jared Goff: 51 fumbles, 6 seasons (8.5 fumbles/season), 5,517 snaps (0.9%)
- Carson Wentz: 66 fumbles, 7 seasons (9.4 fumbles/season), 5,778 snaps (1.1%)
(Note: career snap counts are only listed for quarterbacks who did not play prior to 2012. Snap counts for seasons prior to 2012 were not readily available. )
Overall, Ryan is in good company with respect to quarterback fumbles, both among past Colts quarterbacks and throughout the league. Additionally, these career statistics do not differentiate between fumbled snaps and other types of fumbles, including strip sacks and fumbles while scrambling. To determine if Ryan has demonstrated a particular issue during the snap, I reviewed the play-by-play of every one of his games from 2017 through 2022. What I found may be of interest.
An Outlier The Colts Shouldn’t Worry About
During this six-season span, Ryan had 44 fumbles. Of those, four came in 2022 week one. Thus, in the five previous seasons, Ryan had 40 fumbles, or eight fumbles per season, on a snap count of 5,273 (0.8%), playing behind a notoriously bad offensive line in Atlanta in recent seasons.
Of those 44 fumbles, 14 were fumbled snaps and 28 were strip sacks. Of the 14 fumbled snaps, seven were from shotgun and seven were from under center. But here’s where things get interesting: 11 of those 14 fumbled snaps occurred in four games. For whatever reason, in four of the past six seasons, Ryan has had a single game in which he exhibited issues with fumbled snaps:
- 2017 Week Eight @ New York Jets (three)
- 2020 Week Seventeen @ Tampa Bay (two)
- 2021 Week Thirteen vs Tampa Bay (three)
- 2022 Week One @ Houston (three)
In the other 157 games in his Career, Ryan has only three fumbled snaps. Thus, it is more likely that fumbled snaps, and games with multiple fumbled snaps, are a statistical outlier for Ryan. Surely, if they continue in week two and throughout the 2022 season, the Colts may become concerned. But unusual things happen in the NFL: not just on “any given Sunday”, but also in divisional games.
It appears that Ryan’s week one fumbled snaps are a product of lack of playing time with a new offensive line, and a statistical anomaly. The Colts have other issues of much greater concern, offensively, including stability at left tackle and an unproven wide receiver corps. More than likely, Matt Ryan taking snaps from Ryan Kelly will prove to be a non-issue as the season progresses.
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