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The Maddening Case Of Matt Ryan


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This, basically. I'm super disappointed with Matt right now but he's not going anywhere. But I've accepted that we will never win a Super Bowl with him. 2012 and 10 yards away is a LONG time ago now.

The maddening case of Matt Ryan

In his eighth season, Matt Ryan has become the most maddening kind of NFL quarterback. He cannot make his team a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but it would be difficult to acquire a markedly better replacement. He will make his team respectable most seasons, but at the cost of a sizeable chunk of the salary cap. He’s Alex Smith with better receivers, Jay Cutler with social grace. He looks like a franchise quarterback, but really he’s a trap door into mediocrity.

On Sunday, Ryan led the Atlanta Falcons to their fourth consecutive loss, a 20-10 defeat at home against the Minnesota Vikings. He made one of the game’s crucial play, chucking an interception into a heavily trafficked portion of Minnesota’s end zone. He failed to make any other kind of dent on the proceedings, completing 22 of 31 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown, which came inside the two-minute warning when the Falcons trailed by 17.

After starting the season 5-0, the Falcons have lost five of their last six, the one victory a 10-7 rock fight against the Marcus Mariota-less Tennessee Titans. They still hold a playoff spot at the moment, but given their recent performance it would be stunning if they can hold off the scrum of NFC teams hunkered behind them, including the Seattle Seahawks, who sat at 5-5 entering Sunday. The Falcons look like both a crumbling team and a rudderless franchise, drifting somewhere south of ordinary with little opportunity to reverse the trend.

On Jan. 20, 2012, the Falcons led the San Francisco 49ers, 24-14, in Atlanta at halftime of the NFC Championship Game. They lost the lead, but still held the ball on the 49ers’ 10-yard-line in the fourth quarter, trailing by four, before Ryan fired a fourth-down incompletion to Roddy White. Since then, since coming 30 feet or so from the Super Bowl, the Falcons have gone 16-27 with Ryan under center.

The promise of the Falcons’ first month has unraveled, and Atlanta and Ryan now face big-picture questions under first-year head coach Dan Quinn. Where do they go from here? And will Ryan go with them?

Increasingly, Ryan appears to be part of Atlanta’s problems and not a victim of them. For the second straight week, Ryan threw a killer interception at a position on the field where a quarterback cannot afford to throw a killer interception. Last week, Ryan doomed the Falcons with a pick-six thrown into a linebacker’s hands from his own end zone. This week, Ryan took a snap inside the Vikings’ 10, rolled to his left, threw across his body into the end zone and, as a defender shoved him to the ground, watched as Vikings cornerback Terence Newman leaped and snared the pass.

As Ryan struggles and Falcons fans sour on the former No. 2 overall pick, he still seems to be wedded to the franchise. Forget, for a moment, the contractual considerations. How do the Falcons upgrade over Ryan? They could gamble on fallen stars like Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick, but what are the odds they could rehabilitate one of them? They could attempt to draft a quarterback, but that’s always a hazardous proposition, especially in the middle of the first round. They could try to trade for another quarterback, but teams aren’t parting with quarterbacks better than Ryan.

And then, there’s the money. He is in the second season of a five-year, $103 million pact — the going rate for a quarterback of his caliber, one who started his career with three trips to the playoffs in his first four seasons. Ryan will make $23.75 million next season, including $18.4 million in dead money – money that would count against the cap whether the Falcons cut Ryan or not. Ryan is set to make $23.75 million in 2017, too, and $21.65 million in 2018, the final year of his deal.

No option is more appealing, at least right now, than simply keeping Ryan. Just three years ago, Ryan seemed poised to keep the Falcons in year-after-year contention. The Falcons had little choice but to happily lock him up, and now they have little choice but to accept their place in NFL purgatory.

It would be great for the Falcons if Ryan remained on his original career path, and it would be easy for them if he was just terrible. Instead, Ryan is somewhere in the middle, exactly where the Falcons are stuck for the forseeable future.


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"As Ryan struggles and Falcons fans sour on the former No. 2 overall pick..."

He was the number 3 pick after Jake Long to the Dolphins and Chris Long to the Rams.

There are a few errors in the article (that NFC title game was on January 20, 2013, not 2012), but the overall point is spot on imo.

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