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Atlanta Falcons: Anatomy of a turnaround (Part Four) (last one)


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The first thing you notice about the 2009 version of Matt Ryan is the confidence.

On Tuesday at the team's complex in Flowery Branch, GA, Ryan calmly controlled his press conference from the word "Go."

The shorter-haired Ryan is pleased to have his rookie year out of the way. He's been through this procedure before and is more comfortable with everything, and it shows.

"I've got a year under my belt...I know that I've got great teammates around me, so that makes it a little bit easier."

Ryan stressed the word "know" in that statement, not to say he didn't believe that last year but after experiencing the 2008 season with them, he's seen it and has no reason to doubt it.

In addition to the confidence, the second-year quarterback seems at ease in his skin.

In answering questions he'll often flash his grin and spout off a one-liner about the NFL rewarding playoff teams with a tougher schedule the following season or about feeling fortunate to not only be in the south but to also have met "some of the right people," alluding to owner Arthur Blank, who helped him get in a round of golf at Augusta.

But with a flip of a switch, his eyes narrow down to a laser focus and his voice lowers and you know he's serious when he says things like "teams are going to understand what we're capable of, but at the same time we also understand what we're capable of," about the idea that the Falcons snuck up on teams in 2008 and the '09 season will not allow them that luxury.

To avoid that letdown factor, Ryan said the team has to work harder than last season. He seems to recognize that work ethic starts with him. The disappointing playoff loss to Arizona gave him a taste of the playoff experience and he was quick to get back to work preparing for the 2009 season.

"Losing in the playoffs, that serves as great motivation and so I started to come back a little bit early...to start preparing for next year."

He added, in an interview with Atlanta's AM 790 (The Zone) earlier that morning that "a playoff appearance is great, and it was great for the organization, but that's not what we want to do."

Coach Mike Smith said recently in an interview with NFL.com that following the Arizona loss, the very next morning Ryan was at the team's complex in the quarterback room studying film.

"Matt really understands what it takes to be an NFL quarterback," Smith said.

The NFL's Rookie of the Year has had a lot of demands of his time in the offseason and he's realized quickly that he will not be able to accommodate every request.

"For me, my job and my responsibility is to come in here and try and help this team win and I've gotta really tailor everything that I do around that," he said. With a laugh, he added, "besides getting out and playing at Augusta."

The idea that the organization has been too inactive in the offseason has been a frequent topic of conversation thus far in '09. Ryan said he has complete confidence in what the NFL's Executive of the Year Thomas Dimitroff and the front office are doing.

He pointed out the mid-season extension of receiver Michael Jenkins and said he was happy to have a target that he loves throwing to back in the fold, adding that "we look forward to picking up some more good guys in the draft."

The 23-year-old quarterback acknowledged his coach's ability to deliver a message that is always appropriate when he mentioned Smith's "humble and hungry" mantra for the upcoming season.

"I think it's perfect for where we're at right now because I feel like that's the way guys are," Ryan said. "They're in here to get better. ...We're hungry and hopefully that translates into a good season next year."

Ryan's play on the field completes the circle of success that has served as the foundation for the Atlanta Falcons.

Looking back over the previous year, it appears that every decision from Blank's hiring of Dimitroff to Dimitroff's hiring of Smith to Dimitroff and Smith's drafting of Matt Ryan has been exactly what was needed to get this franchise on the right track.

But the NFL has always been known as a "what have you done for me lately" league and with the 2009 season quickly approaching, the Atlanta Falcons, from top to bottom, are looking to prove that they're not one-year wonders.

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Thanks for posting these. Ryan does have the "it" factor, but I think TD is going to have a draft that shocks many of the "experts". I think he has a plan to recoup compensatory draft picks in 2010 that will give us a bonanza of choices next year. For 2009 I also think he will address FA after he sees what he gets from this year draft.

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