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Never mind legacy: Matt Ryan proving greatness now


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By Jeff Schultz - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

All this talk about legacy seems silly. Matt Ryan is 31 years old. He’s a quarterback in his ninth NFL season, possibly the midway point of his career.

“The way they protect quarterbacks now — don’t get me started — he can be around another eight or nine years,” Falcons teammate Dwight Freeney said with amusing bitterness.

“Let’s just leave that legacy stuff until way down the line,” coach Dan Quinn said.

People wondered about John Elway’s legacy when he was 36 and had a 7-8 playoff record and 18 postseason interceptions. Then he won two Super Bowls at the ages of 37 and 38. There’s your legacy.

But because of this stage, because of the size of the contracts, because everybody wants everything to happen five minutes ago, absolute declarations in sports usually come quicker than they should — particularly at quarterback, the position most associated with wins and losses.

It’s conference championship weekend. Three of the four quarterbacks this week have won Super Bowls: Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New England’s Tom Brady and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. All three likely are going to the Hall of Fame.

The other quarterback is Ryan, who has done much to enhance his resume this season with a regular season that may win him the MVP award and the Falcons’ divisional playoff win over Seattle last week. Ryan completed more than 70 percent of his passes for 338 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He led an offense that rolled up 36 points against the NFL’s No. 3 scoring defense.

The Falcons could have scored another touchdown if Ryan didn’t take a knee three times from the Seattle 2-yard line with two minutes left. They took pity on the opponent.

Let’s not talk about legacy. Let’s talk about now.

Matt Ryan is right there with the other three quarterbacks still playing, even if he’s not there in rings. The adjustments he has made in a scheme many believed was not best for his skill set, the improvements he has made in his game and his continued growth in leadership and toughness puts him in that top tier of quarterbacks.

Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was Houston’s quarterback coach when he evaluated Ryan coming out of Boston College and others before the 2008 draft

“From the throwing ability, you could see he had that back in college,” Shanahan said. “But it’s not just about that. It’s the person inside. You have to have a certain intelligence level to handle all the stuff. You have to be able to handle the pressure. That’s usually what separates people. You never really know that about someone until you get around them.”

This was a season in which Ryan could have easily gone south.

He was coming off arguably the worst season of his career, with a 21-16 touchdown-interception ratio and a career-high 12 fumbles (although some of those could be attributed to the pre-Alex Mack chaos at center). He struggled with his footwork in Shanahan’s scheme. He struggled in play-action and often having his back to the defense. Ryan had some level of success before Shanahan arrived, and offensive coordinators tend to get married again.

He and Shanahan, both stubborn in their own ways, sometimes bumped heads, but Quinn vowed he was committed to Shanahan. For the first time since drafting Ryan, there were questions about whether the Falcons might soon move on from their starting quarterback.

The season caused Ryan to enter into serious re-evaluation to learn what went wrong. He broke down his mistakes on film. He got together with Shanahan for a little détente. He organized a passing game with several teammates in south Florida.

Former teammate Tony Gonzalez spoke with Ryan about the struggles he went through after his second NFL season, and the feedback seemed to resonate with the quarterback. As Gonzlaez recently told the AJC and the “We Never Played The Game” podcast, “There’s nothing like getting embarrassed nationally. It hurts. And it should hurt. Then you start to turn over stones that you never would have before. You can’t keep doing it the way you were before because that way didn’t work.”

Told of Gonzalez’s comments this week, Ryan said, “I’ve talked to Tony about that a lot. Tony’s one of the most open and honest people that you’ll ever get to know, and he’s one of my great friends, and one of the things he talked about coming back from that second year is sometimes you try to do too much, and it can wear on you and make you unproductive. It’s about striking the right balance and finding what works for you. One of the things I respected about Tony the most is the way he knew for himself what it took to get ready. He was really over the top about it. He was kind of insane about his preparation. It always struck me as: I have to find that right mix for me. That’s been a process I’ve tried to go through.”

Great athletes are born with great skills. But they become great athletes only when they recognize their weaknesses and what it takes to get to a certain level.

“When I first got here Matt wasn’t as comfortable with his back to the defense,” Shanahan said. “He was, ‘Why do I have to do a play fake? I can just stand back and throw that the same way.’ I said, ‘You’re right, you can. But if you (carry out the fake), you may get the D-line to play the run instead of just teeing off on you. The (offensive) line might get a little bit better.”

Gonzalez talked about leading the NFL with 17 drops in his second season and what that did to him. “You kind of have to go through that transformative power of crisis to get your routine down, your mind right and achieve greatness,” he said.

Ryan acknowledges he went through that. So did Quinn when the Falcons tumbled in the second half of last season, and the coach certainly noticed a change in Ryan.

“I’ve always thought Matt was a good quarterback,” Quinn said. “What I can tell you is there has been a shift, there has been a jump in his play: his intent, his ability to know where to go, his decision-making. He already knew how to play. But I totally recognize that he has gone to the next level.”

Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger. Has Ryan earned the right to be referenced with this elite group?

“Absolutely,” Julio Jones said. “He’s there now, ain’t he?”

http://www.myajc.com/sports/football/never-mind-legacy-matt-ryan-proving-greatness-now/TxLRuRcjtZlsz9NHnyZbmL/

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47 minutes ago, fuego said:

By Jeff Schultz - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

All this talk about legacy seems silly. Matt Ryan is 31 years old. He’s a quarterback in his ninth NFL season, possibly the midway point of his career.

“The way they protect quarterbacks now — don’t get me started — he can be around another eight or nine years,” Falcons teammate Dwight Freeney said with amusing bitterness.

“Let’s just leave that legacy stuff until way down the line,” coach Dan Quinn said.

People wondered about John Elway’s legacy when he was 36 and had a 7-8 playoff record and 18 postseason interceptions. Then he won two Super Bowls at the ages of 37 and 38. There’s your legacy.

But because of this stage, because of the size of the contracts, because everybody wants everything to happen five minutes ago, absolute declarations in sports usually come quicker than they should — particularly at quarterback, the position most associated with wins and losses.

It’s conference championship weekend. Three of the four quarterbacks this week have won Super Bowls: Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New England’s Tom Brady and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. All three likely are going to the Hall of Fame.

The other quarterback is Ryan, who has done much to enhance his resume this season with a regular season that may win him the MVP award and the Falcons’ divisional playoff win over Seattle last week. Ryan completed more than 70 percent of his passes for 338 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He led an offense that rolled up 36 points against the NFL’s No. 3 scoring defense.

The Falcons could have scored another touchdown if Ryan didn’t take a knee three times from the Seattle 2-yard line with two minutes left. They took pity on the opponent.

Let’s not talk about legacy. Let’s talk about now.

Matt Ryan is right there with the other three quarterbacks still playing, even if he’s not there in rings. The adjustments he has made in a scheme many believed was not best for his skill set, the improvements he has made in his game and his continued growth in leadership and toughness puts him in that top tier of quarterbacks.

Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was Houston’s quarterback coach when he evaluated Ryan coming out of Boston College and others before the 2008 draft

“From the throwing ability, you could see he had that back in college,” Shanahan said. “But it’s not just about that. It’s the person inside. You have to have a certain intelligence level to handle all the stuff. You have to be able to handle the pressure. That’s usually what separates people. You never really know that about someone until you get around them.”

This was a season in which Ryan could have easily gone south.

He was coming off arguably the worst season of his career, with a 21-16 touchdown-interception ratio and a career-high 12 fumbles (although some of those could be attributed to the pre-Alex Mack chaos at center). He struggled with his footwork in Shanahan’s scheme. He struggled in play-action and often having his back to the defense. Ryan had some level of success before Shanahan arrived, and offensive coordinators tend to get married again.

He and Shanahan, both stubborn in their own ways, sometimes bumped heads, but Quinn vowed he was committed to Shanahan. For the first time since drafting Ryan, there were questions about whether the Falcons might soon move on from their starting quarterback.

The season caused Ryan to enter into serious re-evaluation to learn what went wrong. He broke down his mistakes on film. He got together with Shanahan for a little détente. He organized a passing game with several teammates in south Florida.

Former teammate Tony Gonzalez spoke with Ryan about the struggles he went through after his second NFL season, and the feedback seemed to resonate with the quarterback. As Gonzlaez recently told the AJC and the “We Never Played The Game” podcast, “There’s nothing like getting embarrassed nationally. It hurts. And it should hurt. Then you start to turn over stones that you never would have before. You can’t keep doing it the way you were before because that way didn’t work.”

Told of Gonzalez’s comments this week, Ryan said, “I’ve talked to Tony about that a lot. Tony’s one of the most open and honest people that you’ll ever get to know, and he’s one of my great friends, and one of the things he talked about coming back from that second year is sometimes you try to do too much, and it can wear on you and make you unproductive. It’s about striking the right balance and finding what works for you. One of the things I respected about Tony the most is the way he knew for himself what it took to get ready. He was really over the top about it. He was kind of insane about his preparation. It always struck me as: I have to find that right mix for me. That’s been a process I’ve tried to go through.”

Great athletes are born with great skills. But they become great athletes only when they recognize their weaknesses and what it takes to get to a certain level.

“When I first got here Matt wasn’t as comfortable with his back to the defense,” Shanahan said. “He was, ‘Why do I have to do a play fake? I can just stand back and throw that the same way.’ I said, ‘You’re right, you can. But if you (carry out the fake), you may get the D-line to play the run instead of just teeing off on you. The (offensive) line might get a little bit better.”

Gonzalez talked about leading the NFL with 17 drops in his second season and what that did to him. “You kind of have to go through that transformative power of crisis to get your routine down, your mind right and achieve greatness,” he said.

Ryan acknowledges he went through that. So did Quinn when the Falcons tumbled in the second half of last season, and the coach certainly noticed a change in Ryan.

“I’ve always thought Matt was a good quarterback,” Quinn said. “What I can tell you is there has been a shift, there has been a jump in his play: his intent, his ability to know where to go, his decision-making. He already knew how to play. But I totally recognize that he has gone to the next level.”

Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger. Has Ryan earned the right to be referenced with this elite group?

“Absolutely,” Julio Jones said. “He’s there now, ain’t he?”

http://www.myajc.com/sports/football/never-mind-legacy-matt-ryan-proving-greatness-now/TxLRuRcjtZlsz9NHnyZbmL/

Matt has finally turned super saiyan lol he's gonna be great today 

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Great article. But all that said, how about 37k yds and 240 TDs in year 9...those are fantastic numbers. Now you have an first team All pro to go with 5 pro bowls, a ROY and possibly a MVP. Those numbers alone are saying...HOF if you add a couple more great seasons. We win the SB...and Matt is in the HOF, no doubt.

lets just assume, Matt wins the SB and only plays 4 more seasons (Ithink he can play more than that) and stays at his current career stats level. That's 350 TDs and 53k passing yards! That puts him in top  10 all time even in the pass happy modern league!

if Matt plays 8 more years (that's how long Peyton playing) and we take his career arc, and discount the fact that he's ascending statistically; he projects to 69k passing yards, and 453 passing TDs that  good for top 5-7 all time in both categories even projecting numbers for current stars like Brady, Brees, Big Ben, Eli and rivers. All who are far older than Matt.

tbh looking at Matt's Ascension as a QB, I think it's feasible to adjust a bit higher and project to 73k passing yds and over 500 TDs. 

basically only Brees and Brady of that bunch project to higher numbers than Matt. Although both Brees and Brady had ascending stats at Matt's age and continued to ascend for quite a few years

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1 hour ago, MSalmon said:

Great article. But all that said, how about 37k yds and 240 TDs in year 9...those are fantastic numbers. Now you have an first team All pro to go with 5 pro bowls, a ROY and possibly a MVP. Those numbers alone are saying...HOF if you add a couple more great seasons. We win the SB...and Matt is in the HOF, no doubt.

lets just assume, Matt wins the SB and only plays 4 more seasons (Ithink he can play more than that) and stays at his current career stats level. That's 350 TDs and 53k passing yards! That puts him in top  10 all time even in the pass happy modern league!

if Matt plays 8 more years (that's how long Peyton playing) and we take his career arc, and discount the fact that he's ascending statistically; he projects to 69k passing yards, and 453 passing TDs that  good for top 5-7 all time in both categories even projecting numbers for current stars like Brady, Brees, Big Ben, Eli and rivers. All who are far older than Matt.

tbh looking at Matt's Ascension as a QB, I think it's feasible to adjust a bit higher and project to 73k passing yds and over 500 TDs. 

basically only Brees and Brady of that bunch project to higher numbers than Matt. Although both Brees and Brady had ascending stats at Matt's age and continued to ascend for quite a few years

I disagree. You always view HOF candidates relative to their peers. And while historically Matt Ryan's numbers are good. The fact of the matter is just about every Top 10 QB is putting up numbers that will end up landing them with a ranking in career passing yards and TDs. The MVP this year will certainly help his case but I do think Ryan needs to come away with a Super Bowl victory. I also think he needs to eclipse 40 TDs to be considered a HOF. With Big Ben its tough. I'm not sure I view him as a HOF guy. He didn't really have great Super Bowl stats. That's the thing when you look at guys like Brady and Montanta. You give them that credit for being 4x Super Bowl champions but they also played extremely well in those games. Because obviously, if Ryan was to never win a Super Bowl you can't really say that Dilfer, Hostetler, or Brad Johnson were better QBs just because they won Super Bowls.

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29 minutes ago, strat1080 said:

I disagree. You always view HOF candidates relative to their peers. And while historically Matt Ryan's numbers are good. The fact of the matter is just about every Top 10 QB is putting up numbers that will end up landing them with a ranking in career passing yards and TDs. The MVP this year will certainly help his case but I do think Ryan needs to come away with a Super Bowl victory. I also think he needs to eclipse 40 TDs to be considered a HOF. With Big Ben its tough. I'm not sure I view him as a HOF guy. He didn't really have great Super Bowl stats. That's the thing when you look at guys like Brady and Montanta. You give them that credit for being 4x Super Bowl champions but they also played extremely well in those games. Because obviously, if Ryan was to never win a Super Bowl you can't really say that Dilfer, Hostetler, or Brad Johnson were better QBs just because they won Super Bowls.

Relative to his peers is valid. But relative to Eli, Ben and Rivers Matt is equal and actually projects to better stats. Eli is in the conversation because of yards, SBs and TDa, but QBR isn't very great and he has horrid seasons sprinkled in. Big Ben  has been good and has 2 SBs. He's on pace for at least top ten in terms of passing yards and possibly TDs all time. He's at 47k yards and 301 TDs right now. He's got at least three years left. You're talking 55-57 K yards and 390-400 TDs, plus 2 SB wins. No all pros but 5 pro bowls

Rivers has been outstanding statistically and very similar to Matt, but no MVP or all-pro. Matt is about the same level statistically as Brees and Brady at his age. Add the MVP and all-pro, plus ascending numbers if he plays to their age he'll be right there number wise. Of course a SB seals the deal.

Rodgers is interesting, simply because he sat for a bit behind Farve. He could be the best assuming the lack of wear and tear balances out his age.

dilfer, hostelter and Johnson don't even come close to matching Matt for career consistency. Fran Tarkenton, Jim Kelley all played in SBs and lost resoundingly but got to HOF. Fouts, who's similar to Matt despite different era never got to SB. Marino got to one and lost. Warren Moon is another one. So even not winning or playing in a SB is not a HOF deterrent

the opposite extreme is Plunkett who had a terrible career stat wise but won 2 SBs and ROY and SB MVP. But his stats and and consistent good to great seasons weren't there

Eclipsing 40 TDs as a criteria? That doesn't even make sense as a criteria. Career passing TDs is definitely a criteria. Bottom line relative to his peers Matt has far out-performed most (Flacco being an example) and is on pace to exceed rivers, manning and Big Ben in stats...so not sure why you think the way you do

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36 minutes ago, strat1080 said:

I disagree. You always view HOF candidates relative to their peers. And while historically Matt Ryan's numbers are good. The fact of the matter is just about every Top 10 QB is putting up numbers that will end up landing them with a ranking in career passing yards and TDs. The MVP this year will certainly help his case but I do think Ryan needs to come away with a Super Bowl victory. I also think he needs to eclipse 40 TDs to be considered a HOF. With Big Ben its tough. I'm not sure I view him as a HOF guy. He didn't really have great Super Bowl stats. That's the thing when you look at guys like Brady and Montanta. You give them that credit for being 4x Super Bowl champions but they also played extremely well in those games. Because obviously, if Ryan was to never win a Super Bowl you can't really say that Dilfer, Hostetler, or Brad Johnson were better QBs just because they won Super Bowls.

And to make the case even stronger for Matt in HOF, even if we lose he has two NFC championship appearances, 5 playoff appearances, 3 times we've won the NFC South, and only 2 losing seasons (one .500 season) out of nine years. Sir, that is excellence in itself. 

Lets say we at least win the NFC championship today that's yet another push, not too mention we are 87-61 with Matt under center. That's number nine among his "peers" and the only guy his age who has a better win/loss is a decking Flacco. Flacco statistically is falling way behind Matt 

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