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Atlanta Falcons: Is It Time To Give Matt Ryan His Due?

To being this blog, I just want to take a moment to disclose that I am not a Matt Ryan fan.

For some odd reason, whatever it may be, I have never been sold on the Atlanta Falcons franchise quarterback. In this golden age of the quarterback, where passing for 4,000-plus yards a season seems to be the norm, his name is often never associated with the NFL’s best.

In my eyes, the truly elite Tier 1 QB’s of this era are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. Now I know I will likely catch some heat for leaving out the likes of Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer and reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton, but they have often put up great numbers in the regular season, only to fall short when it counts.

Where does Ryan rank, might you ask?

I honestly don’t know, and I think that’s part of the problem.

I can easily tell you who I think are the most overrated QB’s of today are in Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill—and to an extent—Andrew Luck. But he lacks A Super Bowl ring like Joe Flacco and isn’t as maligned like Jay Cutler or star-crossed and fragile like Sam Bradford.

Elite, great, good, overrated or just average? The riddle of Ryan has always vexed me.

Stats wise, Ryan is quite good—not great—but among the best, as he has passed for over 30,000 yards (34,230), 213 touchdowns and 109 interceptions while completing 64.6 percent of his passes for a 91.9 rating. Since being drafted No.1 overall out of Boston College in the 2008 NFL Draft, Ryan has compiled a 77-53 record as a starter.

Per The Football Database, Ryan’s 77 regular-season wins rank tenth among active starting quarterbacks. It is what he does in the post-season, that is perhaps why I feel some kinda way towards him. In five post-season games, Ryan is 1-4 with a pedestrian stat line of 1,230 yards passing, nine touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 85.2.

Overall, Ryan’s record as an NFL starting quarterback—including playoffs is 78-57. Again, Good but not great.

Perhaps I have been a bit harsh in my earlier judgment of Ryan, and that I held him to a higher standard. But it isn’t like he has had his chances. Make no mistake he has had home field advantage twice against the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick and lost in the Divisional Round and NFC Championship Game respectively.

He has had weapons such as running back Michael Turner, future Hall-of-Fame tight end in Anthony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Pro Bowl wideout Julio Jones. So any reason and excuse for Ryan proverbially choking are invalid.

Last year, when Atlanta came out the gates at 5-0, and Ryan looking like an early NFL MVP candidate, I was ready to hop onboard the Matty Ice bandwagon. This was before seeing him get cursed with a bad case of voodoo in a 31-21 loss to longtime rival New Orleans Saints down in the Big Easy.

Although this year looks to be different, it could be a case of more of the same.

Thanks to passing for a career-high 503 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-33 home win over the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers, Ryan appears to have finally taken his play to the next level.

It is still very early and a bit premature. Thanks to a bevy of new weapons such as Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, running backs Davonte Freeman and Tavon Coleman, reliable safety blanket in tight end Jacob Tamme and a bolstered offensive line led by Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, Ryan looks and seems more comfortable now, than at any point in his career.

Part of the credit for Ryan’s gradual ascension has been offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and his zone-blocking, tight end-friendly West Coast offense, which encourages more rollouts.

Perhaps this is the year that Ryan’s name enters the discussion of Tier 1 QB debates, or maybe not, but a win over the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos at Mile High–and improving his post-season record–would go a long way in helping add to that conversation.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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