'It's about now': Jeff Saturday, Matt Ryan aren't worried about Colts' NFL draft position

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INDIANAPOLIS — Matt Ryan has heard this kind of talk before.

A few too many times for his liking, but the Colts have dropped five of their last six games, sit at 4-7-1 and face the unsettling truth that their playoff hopes are going to take a miraculous finish to realize.

With that in mind, a segment of the Indianapolis fan base has understandably turned its eyes to the future, to the possibility of finding the city’s next franchise quarterback in the draft, and for those fans, any Colts win down the stretch is, at best, unfortunate, and at worst, a disaster, because a win hurts Indianapolis in the draft order.

Ryan’s been through that before.

When he was quarterbacking the Falcons, Atlanta came back to beat Tampa Bay in the 2019 regular season finale picking up a win that dropped the Falcons from 7th to 14th in the first round. Fans in Atlanta weren’t exactly happy about the result.

“As a player, you’re like: ‘What are we supposed to do? We’re out there, we’re playing this game, we’re going to win,’” Ryan said. “I get it. I understand where (the fans) are at, but I think as players, you’re not thinking about that.”

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan (2) rushes the ball Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan (2) rushes the ball Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

But the experience is relevant to a Colts team that desperately needs a long-term solution at quarterback and is currently picking 14th, typically outside of the range needed to pick one of the best prospects at the game’s most important position. Given the Colts' challenging schedule the rest of the season, a spot in the top 10 is possible.

But Indianapolis interim coach Jeff Saturday is right there with Ryan.

“For the guys in this room, and myself included, I know my name’s getting attached to wins and losses, so whatever happens after, that ain’t my business,” Saturday said. “I’m about W’s and L’s, and I want to be the best head coach I can be.”

Saturday played on a lot of good football teams in his career.

Rarely played for losing teams, except in 2011, when the Colts stumbled to a 2-14 record because of Peyton Manning’s neck injury, an injury that ultimately led to the drafting of Andrew Luck. For a franchise that dominated the previous decade, the 2011 season was a tough pill to swallow.

“I learned so much about myself as a football player, as a man, as a leader, in those darkest days,” Saturday said. “This will be a defining time in your life.”

With that in mind, the interim coach’s message to the team mirrored his quarterback’s.

“You want to be driving the ship,” Ryan said. “You want to be the one the division is running through, playing for position, home-field advantage. But I also told the guys, in these kind of situations, I’ve learned more about players I’ve played with than really, in any other situation. I’ve gained respect and lost respect for certain guys. … It still matters. Every time we step on the field, it matters.”

In other words, even if Indianapolis produce the miraculous finish they have to be hoping to get, the Colts need to prepare and play as if they’re driving the ship.

A spot in the NFL is a fragile piece of job security, and change often comes after a disappointing season.

Change that rests on the perception the rest of the league has about a player.

“Whether you’re playing here, whether you’re playing somewhere else,” Ryan said, “Every time you put it out there, it’s your resume.”

The players have to prepare for the future.

The only way to do that is to play well at the moment, regardless of what it means for the long-term future of the Colts franchise.

Indianapolis needs a long-term answer at the quarterback position.

An answer that likely has to come from the draft.

But that’s not something the Colts can worry about at this moment.

“My train of thought, it’s never been about, whether I was a player or as a coach, what it looks like next year,” Saturday said. “It’s about now.”

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts: Jeff Saturday, Matt Ryan aren't worried about NFL draft position