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WOW! Matt Ryan the next Lebron, Kobe, Arod

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2008 Next Nominee:

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan

He's a savior in more ways than one.

by Dave Choate

Getty Images

Rough hair day, sure, but Matt Ryan ain't sweating it.

[Ed's note: All week, we're introducing you to candidates for ESPN The Magazine's 'NEXT' Athlete, an award won in the past by such superstars as Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard. The NFL nominee this year is Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan. To learn more about him, you can go here and here. Below is the official "nomination" of Ryan, written by Dave Choate of The Falcoholic blog.]

If any idiot is going to tell you how great Matt Ryan could be, it might as well be the idiot who initially thought he was going to be a bust.

I was one of those fans who scoffed at the idea of drafting Ryan and swore profusely when the Falcons actually did it. The knocks on his decision-making and arm strength made me wary, and the Atlanta Falcons don't have a history of Hall of Fame quarterbacks falling into their laps.

Yet today I'm devouring a heaping plate of crow. The fact that I have put my faith so completely in his ability after only half a season should give you an idea of just how talented the kid really is. The very first pass of his career was a 62-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Michael Jenkins, and he's grown by leaps and bounds since.

Ryan has kept his poise against tough defenses and made throws that I never would've suspected he could make. Thanks to aggressive promotion from management and a startling start, he's putting his stamp on the franchise.

If ("when" seems to be accurate, but I'll remain cautious) Ryan blossoms into a great starting quarterback, he could carry a listless fanbase with him. We Atlanta fans have never seen back-to-back winning seasons from our beloved Falcons, and the direction of this team is finally, blissfully giving us something to get excited about.

It's especially important that Matt Ryan succeed now following the poisonous atmosphere caused by the imprisonent of Michael Vick and the flight-by-night of former coach Bobby Petrino. There still are fans who value Vick over the team, but they're fading into the background as the Falcons become relevant once more.

I can't call his career this early on, but it seems to me there's a very good chance that Ryan will be a very good quarterback for a long time. If that happens, he could deliver the first sustained success we Falcons fans have ever seen.

Even an idiot like me can appreciate that.

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