Goober Pyle

A conversation with Matt Ryan: On adversity, and how to truly move on from the disappointment of the past

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Jay Glazer - The Athletic

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is clearly one of the best at what he does. All you have to do is look at his numbers to know he’s elite, and one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL.

But I don’t talk to Ryan because of his Pro Bowl numbers, nor his MVP-type accolades. I come to him because he and adversity have struck up quite the relationship. He’s a great guide to take us through the process of overcoming on-field difficulties; he’s a walking book on How To Compartmentalize.

From dealing with the Falcons’ horrific Super Bowl collapse to the way they lost in the playoffs to the Eagles at the end of last season to losing the same way this past Thursday night against those very same Eagles, Ryan is … what’s the right word … a mensch.

Unlike others who gruffly shy away when things go south, Ryan was willing to stand in the line of fire and truly take us inside the mind of a team leader and how he helps himself and others overcome the types of late-game hardships that would have made anyone but him and his Falcons cave.

This is the Open Book of Matt Ryan.

Let’s start with last week’s game and work backwards from there. You had a whole offseason and you still ended up in the same situation against the Eagles on Thursday’s opener that you were in your playoff loss to the Eagles last season. The moment Julio (Jones) got pushed out of bounds as time runs out, is it going through your head like, “how the **** do we possibly get right back here?”

Not right away, because you’re thinking more about, specifically, the situations that we were in that moment. Clearly, when you start to get asked about it afterwards you’re like “holy cow, that did shake out really similar to how it did the year before!” You would have loved to have changed that outcome… You would have loved to have had thrown that touchdown, come away with the game-winning situation, but that’s not how sports work.

That’s not how life works. You don’t automatically just pop up into the situation next time and do it right. Sometimes, it’s a struggle to get it, but I have that belief that we’re going to get this right.

Does it cause you to fall into a rut?

With the guys we have, the way that we practice, the way that we work, the way that we do things, in my experience with 10 years in this league, we are doing it the right way. Even though the result wasn’t there, the first opportunity that we got this season, I have that belief that it’s going to be there moving forward.

It’s disappointing, right? It’s disappointing. You certainly hope you don’t fail at the first opportunity that you get this season.

In the heat of the game, when you’re marching down the field with time running out, are you realizing this is exactly what was going on last year in the playoff game against the Eagles too. Same exact scenario.

You know what? No. As crazy as that sounds, no. And you know this from your fight game, you are locked into what is in front of your face right now. What am I seeing right now? Where am I reacting to? Where am I going to go with the football? Right now, after what I see out there, how do I execute this play? That’s it honestly. That’s what you’re thinking in those spots.

When you get back to the locker room and you’re flying home that night, yeah, that stuff pops into your head and you think about it, but not when you’re in it. When you’re in it you’re, at least for me, I was locked in to what we have to do right now, right here.

How long does it take you to get over something like this? Was is easier or harder to get over the big losses earlier or later in your career. How do you compartmentalize?

I’m better at it now, for sure. They sting, they sting, but you’re bull****ting yourself if you’re not moving past it and getting on to who we’re facing next. How are we going to be better next? What do I have to do to improve? If you’re sitting there just going, “man, that sucked that we didn’t come away with the outcome that we wanted, we didn’t make the play,” you can lose yourself in that. The tougher thing to do, the more productive thing to do, is to say “ok, what didn’t we do good enough? What can we improve on in practice this week? How can we do better this following week?” And concentrate on those things.

Do you give yourself a certain amount of time to mourn?

By the time we watch that film the following day — whether in the case of a night game, 14, 15 hours after playing that game, we’re watching the film, we’re finishing it, we’re making our final notes, we’re putting together what we’ll do if we see them again, having that kind of discussion with our coordinators, going through what we liked, what we did here, we didn’t like what we did here. If we get into this situation again and we start seeing these things, what are we going to do against them next time?

But by the time you finish with that meeting, then you have to move on to, all right, who’s next?

Is that your ritual? The moment you’re done with film you say to yourself, OK, deep breath, done?

Yeah, but frankly it’s easier to do when it’s a Monday after a game and you’re on to, oh we’re playing next Sunday? It’s harder to do when you have that Thursday night game, and you’re just hanging around for the weekend, so it certainly lingers longer after that because you’re not necessarily preparing as much as you normally would so fast after a game.

So you’re saying this past weekend sucked?

Yeah. It did. It sucks when you’ve got time off after a loss. I mean, that’s the worst, right? Because you’re not necessarily preparing the same way, but typically you have got to move on quick, and that’s why it’s so tough at the end of the year in playoffs, it’s because of the finality of it. You’re moving on and then asking yourself, “what are we preparing for the following week?” It’s hard.

When you lost in the playoffs last year to the Eagles, how long did it take you to get over as opposed to getting over the Super Bowl?

Well, I mean, last year was different for me personally, we had twins in February, twin boys. So life changes right? My wife went into the hospital, I guess the Tuesday before we played Philadelphia, she went in for complications with the pregnancy and then was on bed rest in the hospital for six and a half weeks.

Oh, I didn’t know that Matt. I’m so sorry, man.

Our boys came early — I don’t want to go into it too much — but for me there were other bigger things going on in my life at the time that is more important…

Wow man, that’s… that’s a lot, Matt.

I was obviously pissed that we lost and all of those things, but at the same time, life gets in the way sometimes and my focus was elsewhere.

You had two new teammates coming into your life, a little bit more important.

Exactly, right? Like dude, OK, I’ve got to be around and I’ve got to help as much as I can and this is more important.

They were born almost two months early, and then they spent six or seven weeks in the ICU.

Wow. Honestly, sometimes we truly don’t ever ask enough about you guys as humans, only players and for that I’m sorry. How did they pull through?

They are studs, I’ll send you a picture of them. Yeah, they’re doing great dude, they’re doing awesome.

They’re fighters like their dad and their mom, obviously. That’s great.

I think they would kick my butt already.

So did you simply never mourn the end of the last season?

Yeah, probably later than normal. When we started to get back to work, you start to watch the cut ups and you go through it, and you’re like… “man, we had opportunities here.” That was frustrating, that is disappointing. It was probably just a little bit more delayed than other previous offseasons, but certainly when we got back to work in April and you’re reviewing those things, then it kind of stung again. I was like, “man, I probably didn’t process this as fully as I needed to flush it from my system.”

But then, like anything, that next thing in front of you of what you’re working toward, that’s the best remedy, that’s medicine. That makes you want to be better — your next chance, your next opportunity.

What have you learned from Thursday’s opener against the Eagles that has helped you make corrections for next week?

Well, I think number one, when you’re playing against a team like we played against in the Eagles, and they’re as productive as they are with their front four, we have got to do better on first and second down. I think we had nine-plus third-and-eights in the game against them.

You’re just not going to be successful like that. Creating a little bit of a better balance on first and second down, and staying in front of the chains, staying in the game, scoring points when we get the opportunities early in games, to make those scenarios different at the end of the game. To me, it’s a combination of all of those things, and then, even if all of that stuff doesn’t go right, being better when we get our late-game chances. We’ll be better for it and learn from those mistakes, and we’ll probably see some of those similar types of coverages that we saw from them at the end of the game throughout this year. We have to be better for it, let’s have our plan of what we want to do the next time we see it.

In my opinion, adversity is the greatest gift anyone could ever give you. We have to learn how to handle it in life. I think it’s underrated what you guys did to get to the playoffs last year despite that Super Bowl breakdown constantly being brought up to you guys…. it’s hard to escape yet at the same time you’ve got to play again. After something like that [the collapse], I’ve got to think it’s difficult when things in games went wrong last season and “Uh oh, here we go again,” popped up.

The credit truly goes to Dan (Quinn). He did such a good job of driving this bus the right way because it’s not easy. We can decide how we react to some things, but we can’t decide how many times you’re going to get asked or what people are going to want to talk about. We can only control our response and how it affects us and that’s where I think he nailed it, that’s where he did a great job of getting us going in the right direction.

What’s the fine line of you thinking, “we went through a bad thing in the Super Bowl so we can overcome anything” as opposed to, “**** we’re snake bitten here we go again?”

It’s between your ears man! You have to force yourself to believe the first option, because that doubt or, like you said snake bite, can enter as much as the other side of it. You have to force yourself to choose the positive side of it. You have to force yourself to believe we’re better for this, we’re going to be tougher for this, we’re going to be more prepared for these situations, we can do anything we need to do. You have to believe that and you have to choose to believe that and you have to work at it. You know, it’s not just, “OK,  I’ll choose to believe it and I’ll be good to go,” no. That’s a daily choice, a daily process of getting yourself mentally prepared and into the right space to do it.

When were you truly, truly over the sting of what happened in the Super Bowl?

I think a piece of it’s always there. A piece of it is always there and that is going to drive you to be better as you move forward. It makes you get out of bed in the morning, it makes you work, it makes you do all of those things.

But ultimately, you know you’re over it when you can start talking about it with other people and you don’t go back to that spot of being frustrated or letting it not….

Go to that dark place?

Yes, where you don’t let it make you unproductive. That was probably as we got into training camp last year. I think that’s probably the best time for me, I’m working every day, we’re here all day, every day, training for what’s in front of us, that’s probably when it felt the best.

I do think it’s amazing, I can’t stress enough, that you guys went all the way deep into the playoffs, after what happened the year before that.

And it’s going to serve us well, dude. I really believe that. I have to believe that.

 

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Glad Ryan's family is alright. That can't have been an easy game last season for him, no matter how much you've trained yourself to tune out the outside world during game time. 

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Oh, I didn’t know that Matt. I’m so sorry, man.

Our boys came early — I don’t want to go into it too much — but for me there were other bigger things going on in my life at the time that is more important…

Wow man, that’s… that’s a lot, Matt.

I was obviously pissed that we lost and all of those things, but at the same time, life gets in the way sometimes and my focus was elsewhere.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Not that it's surprising but this is what everyone was saying after the game on here. His mind was not in the right place in that playoff game vs Philly.

 

athell and JDaveG like this

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Great interview, and Ryan is a class act and exhibits all the admirable qualities.

But as a fan, it stinks when the articles written about your QB are "wow, he is so good at coping with sad results," lol. Maybe one day Falcons fans will get to read an article where our QB gets to talk about winning the Super Bowl, rather than losing to Super Bowl winners. 

JDaveG and Lowndesfalc like this

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Well he should have been more focused on football

25 minutes ago, tl;dr said:

In before someone has the "well he should have been more focused on football!" comment. 

Motherf*****!

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17 minutes ago, JDaveG said:

Oh, look, MAD is miserable and spouting loser speak again. 

Who could have seen that coming?

Both sides, Muh gunz!!!!

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I didn't take Ryan's comments about his twins as being unfocused during the game.  The questions pertained to how he got over it afterwards.  About how it stung afterwards but he couldn't dwell on it because his children were fighting for their lives.

Ryan, no matter what you want to believe, is locked in during a game.  He might not make a read or whatever, but you can bet your *** he was locked in on that final drive last year.  JJ slipped, he bought some time, & put a decent ball up there for JJ after the play blew up.  

But read whatever you want to from it man.  And LMAO at MAD, the resident neg artist.  Have a clue man.

JDaveG and Falconer89 like this

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13 minutes ago, HASHBROWN3 said:

I didn't take Ryan's comments about his twins as being unfocused during the game.  The questions pertained to how he got over it afterwards.  About how it stung afterwards but he couldn't dwell on it because his children were fighting for their lives.

Ryan, no matter what you want to believe, is locked in during a game.  He might not make a read or whatever, but you can bet your *** he was locked in on that final drive last year.  JJ slipped, he bought some time, & put a decent ball up there for JJ after the play blew up.  

But read whatever you want to from it man.  And LMAO at MAD, the resident neg artist.  Have a clue man.

I'm fine with Ryan, I got no problems with him but you just can't deny the history of ATL and Ga sports teams. We will always lose at the worst possible time our teams are always soft and fold under pressure. 50 + years and 150+ season of pro sports in this city shows that.

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1 hour ago, MAD597 said:

I'm fine with Ryan, I got no problems with him but you just can't deny the history of ATL and Ga sports teams. We will always lose at the worst possible time our teams are always soft and fold under pressure. 50 + years and 150+ season of pro sports in this city shows that.

I agree that our teams are frustrating.  All the soft crap & stuff is just your fluff.

What is worse is that you use drama & finger-pointing & hyperbole to exacerbate all the issues.  

What we need around here is more positive energy & less agitation by you & others.  Demonizing & poking the lion constantly only shows a willingness to capitalize on misery.  Shameful man.  

Imho, you simply enjoy being a drama queen or you're a miserable wretch who enjoys causing other's the same misery.

Your trying to steal everyone's joy is......... DENIED!

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2 hours ago, MAD597 said:

I'm fine with Ryan, I got no problems with him but you just can't deny the history of ATL and Ga sports teams. We will always lose at the worst possible time our teams are always soft and fold under pressure. 50 + years and 150+ season of pro sports in this city shows that.

Then why be mad or disappointed if you know it's going to happen anyway?

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If work ethic, leadership, and mindset could get a ring on their own, we'd be very happy Falcons fans. Alas, that's not how it works.

On the one hand, this article puts things right in perspective. Of COURSE you're not sitting there thinking about a play-off loss when your children are fighting for their lives. I get mad when people throw "It's just a game" at me when I'm trying to get over a loss even as a fan. But, when I look at it objectively and in a larger context, yes, it really is just a game.

Still, it's an IMPORTANT game to us players and fans. I so hope this guy and our Falcons can get just one ring. Would be nice to prove those final lines of the interview right.

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33 minutes ago, HASHBROWN3 said:

I agree that our teams are frustrating.  All the soft crap & stuff is just your fluff.

What is worse is that you use drama & finger-pointing & hyperbole to exacerbate all the issues.  

What we need around here is more positive energy & less agitation by you & others.  Demonizing & poking the lion constantly only shows a willingness to capitalize on misery.  Shameful man.  

Imho, you simply enjoy being a drama queen or you're a miserable wretch who enjoys causing other's the same misery.

Your trying to steal everyone's joy is......... DENIED!

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150 + pro sports seasons in Atlanta

1 championship

Reality already did what you claim I'm trying to do

Positive energy here isn't going to win us crap or change the outcome of games

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1 minute ago, MAD597 said:

150 + pro sports seasons in Atlanta

1 championship

Reality already did when you claim I'm trying to do

Positive energy here isn't going to win us crap or change the outcome of games

Fine then.  Please continue kicking & screaming & howling at the moon.  The louder you squeal like a stuck pig, the closer we'll get to a championship... got it.  

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27 minutes ago, jeebus said:

Then why be mad or disappointed if you know it's going to happen anyway?

Who said I was mad or disappointed? I've come to fully except our teams to suck and blow it at the worst possible time. It's more surprising when they don't blow it. I wish wish I was not a sports fan born in this state.

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44 minutes ago, MAD597 said:

Who said I was mad or disappointed? I've come to fully except our teams to suck and blow it at the worst possible time. It's more surprising when they don't blow it. I wish wish I was not a sports fan born in this state.

You know you don't have to be.  You aren't obligated to be a fan of anything.  

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