Atlanta Falcon fans face an unusual conundrum: How do they truly feel about quarterback Matt Ryan. From comparing him to the greats in his rookie campaign to questioning whether he is a franchise quarterback, Falcon fan opinion seems to be all over the map. It begs the question, “Why?”
When looking from a far, it is easy to see both sides. But football is a strange animal. No other sport is ruled so equally by both passion and cold statistics.
Without context, analysts could argue about Ryan almost infinitely. His stats are good but nowhere close to the Tom Brady or Drew Brees level. Though he has been somewhat hindered by a run first offense, there are indeed holes in his game. The heart of any NFL fan will point to Matt Ryan’s playoff record of 0-3. Those losses consist of one coulda woulda shoulda, one true team loss, and one absolute defeat of Titanic proportions.
But what if his four years were put into the context of the Atlanta Falcons history?
Heart might be the perfect word the passionate Falcon fan might use. For some, especially those that are season ticket holders, the phrase “heart attack” might come to mind. From his first pass being a touchdown to last second come from behind victories, Ryan has given fans plenty to cheer about. Heart is the one thing Matt Ryan has in spades. Simply compare critical moments between he and the former yet still loved quarterback Mike Vick.
Both faced games where the Atlanta Falcons were eliminated from the playoffs but still had a chance to have the first back to back winning seasons in 40 plus years. In front of a sold out Georgia Dome, Mike Vick admittedly quit during the game. A few years later, Matt Ryan pulls out a come from behind win in a frozen and hostile Jets stadium while suffering from turf toe.
He has gone on to give the Falcons four straight winning seasons and given the fans a true homefield advantage.
But what about stats one might ask…
Rewriting the record books:
In just four years, Matt Ryan has surpassed every quarterback in Atlanta Falcons history save 11 year starter Steve Bartkowski. And given his current pace, Ryan will hold every important team record within the next three years. This means that Ryan will surpass Bartkowski in 2/3 the time.
Matt Ryan already holds single season records for completions, attempts, yards, 4th quarter comebacks, and game winning drives. He is also the all time leader among quarterbacks that started at least 16 games in winning percentage, yards per game, quarterback rating, and lowest interception percentage.
So Atlanta Falcon fans will still have to debate Matt Ryan’s place among his contemporaries. But when they look through those black and red glasses of their own history, they can say confidently:
Matt Ryan is the greatest of all time… Sort of.