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The Athletic - Does Matt Ryan Belong in the Hall of Fame...


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The absense of this article on AFMB felt conspicuous.  Bottom line is his best comparison historically is Ken Anderson - I agree...

At some point during Monday’s loss to the Packers, as Matt Ryan and the banged-up Atlanta offense labored through yet another drive, a random thought about the Falcons’ quarterback crossed my mind: Is Matt Ryan a Hall of Famer? In the span of about a minute, my answer changed about five times.

Hall of Fame debates are often complicated, but Ryan’s case is particularly knotty. Any answer from “of course” to “of course not” would seem reasonable. Ryan has an MVP award, but 2016 was also the only time he was ever voted first- or second-team All-Pro. He ranks ninth all time in passing yards, but those numbers are inflated by today’s pass-happy approach. Every argument in Ryan’s favor seems to have a counter.

This may seem like an odd time to legislate Ryan’s Hall of Fame credentials, but maybe it’s not. Ryan is 35. He’s been Atlanta’s starter for 13 seasons, the same number Aaron Rodgers has started in Green Bay. And as the Falcons wade through yet another tough start and changes loom, it’s possible Ryan could have to juggle a new staff and system during the final productive years he and Julio Jones will spend in Atlanta. It wouldn’t be outrageous to say the most relevant parts of Ryan’s resume are already set in stone. So, taking all those factors into account, I wanted to answer a seemingly simple question — does Ryan belong in the Hall of Fame? — with a fairly tangled answer.

Before digging into the evidence, let’s acknowledge something: If the Falcons had held onto their lead and beaten New England in Super Bowl LI, Ryan would almost certainly be in. Joe Theismann is the only quarterback to win an MVP and a Super Bowl and not make the Hall of Fame, and his career numbers are nowhere near Ryan’s, even adjusted for era. With a Super Bowl win in his back pocket, Ryan’s career accolades would look similar to Hall of Famers like Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler, who won one Super Bowl and some version of an MVP (Namath’s came during his AFL days; Stabler took home the current award in 1974). Super Bowl wins are a massive part of the equation when it comes to Hall of Fame inclusion. Guys with considerably worse numbers than Ryan have gotten in thanks to their postseason success, and only five modern-era quarterbacks without a title have made it to Canton. If Ryan avoids getting sacked by Dont’a Hightower or Julian Edelman doesn’t get his fingers under the ball, he’s probably wearing a gold jacket someday. That’s how slim the margins are. But you don’t have to tell that to Falcons fans.

Even without the ring, though, Ryan’s body of work is still incredibly impressive. As noted, Ryan ranks ninth all time with 52,432 passing yards and will likely still be there by season’s end (Eli Manning, in eighth place, has about 4,500 yards on him). With 15 more touchdown passes, Ryan would pass Fran Tarkenton for 10th all time. Moving to his rate stats, Ryan has the 12th-best adjusted net yards per attempt average at 6.76. Unsurprisingly, that list is dominated by current players who’ve benefited from a considerable uptick in passing efficiency (Kirk Cousins and Jared Goff are tied for 10th at 6.82).

Comparing stats across eras can be tricky, but Pro Football Reference has put a considerable amount of effort into making it possible. The Adjusted Passing indices try to account for how a quarterback compares to his contemporaries by assigning a single number to stats like completion percentage, adjusted net yards per attempt and others. A score of 100 is average and every 15 points represents one standard deviation from average. I thought it’d be useful to look at the five modern-era quarterbacks who’ve made the Hall of Fame without winning a Super Bowl and compare their numbers with Ryan’s.

Of all the adjusted passing stats at Pro Football Reference, adjusted net yards per attempt — which takes into account yards per attempt, touchdowns, interceptions and sacks — probably paints the most accurate picture for how well quarterbacks played across eras. For our purposes, I looked at the percentage of seasons those six quarterbacks were at 115 or above, the number of seasons they were below 100, their career averages and how many times they were voted first- or second-team All-Pro. Collectively, those numbers provide a solid idea of how often the numbers said a quarterback was truly elite, how often they say he was below average, what a typical season looked like and how often they were perceived as elite.

Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt

Name Seasons % of seasons at 115+ % of seasons below 100 Average 1st or 2nd team All Pro
Dan Fouts 15 46.7 26.7 114.4 4
Jim Kelly 11 18 18.2 109.45 2
Dan Marino 17 70.6 5.9 119.4 4
Warren Moon 15 20 33.3 106.3 1
Fran Tarkenton*  18 55.6 27.8 110.8 2
Matt Ryan 12 25 25 110.25 1

* — Due to available data, Tarkenton’s numbers are based off adjusted yards/attempt 

Looking at those numbers, Ryan seems to stack up pretty well. He’s behind two of the most prolific passers in Dan Marino and Dan Fouts, just behind Tarkenton and ahead of Jim Kelly and Warren Moon. Digging a little deeper, though, there are spots where Ryan’s resume diverges. Moon entered the league at 28 and his exclusion from the league out of college, along with his incredible production in the CFL, likely contributed to him being voted in. Despite never winning the big one, Tarkenton and Kelly made multiple Super Bowl appearances for defining teams of their decades. If Atlanta edged out the 49ers in the 2012 NFC Championship Game and Ryan’s Super Bowl appearances doubled to two, the conversation likely shifts a bit.

Using Pro Football Reference’s similarity scores, we can see some of the other useful comps for Ryan. Of the 10 quarterbacks with careers most similar to Ryan, eight of them have been enshrined in Canton or are virtual locks to eventually get in: Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, John Elway, Russell Wilson (who’s on track), Rodgers, Fouts, Marino and Kelly. But the two who aren’t guaranteed Hall of Famers might actually be more telling.

When I brought up Ryan’s Hall of Fame case to The Athletic’s Mike Sando, a Hall of Fame voter, Anderson was the first name he mentioned. The similarities between Ryan’s and Anderson’s careers is kind of eerie.

PLAYER AVG ANY/A MVP SEASON AGE PLAYOFF WINNING % 1ST OR 2ND TEAM ALL PRO SUPER BOWL APPEARANCES
Matt Ryan
110.25
31
40
1
1
Ken Anderson
110.6
32
33.3
2
1

Like Ryan, Anderson was a highly productive, winning quarterback for most of his career. Like Ryan, Anderson won his lone MVP award in his early 30s — only to lose in the Super Bowl to the defining dynasty of his era. (In Anderson’s case, that was Montana and Bill Walsh). Despite being a very good quarterback and franchise pillar in Cincinnati for more than a decade, Anderson was always a tier below a legendary group of quarterbacks that included Montana, Marino and Elway. In many ways, Anderson is the perfect comparison for Ryan, and 36 years after his final season, the Bengals great is still waiting for that knock on the door. He was one of 12 senior finalists in the Class of 2021 but was passed over in favor of former Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson. It’s possible that if Ryan continues on his path, he’s destined to wind up like Anderson.

The other player with a similarity score in Ryan’s range is Philip Rivers, and a tale of the tape between those two brings up some other pressing questions about Ryan’s candidacy. Rivers and Ryan have almost completely overlapping careers as starters. When Ryan took over as the Falcons’ starter as a rookie in 2008, Rivers was entering his third season as the Chargers’ starting quarterback. The average adjusted net yards per attempt across Rivers’ 14 seasons with the Chargers was 112.9, slightly better than Ryan’s 110.3. Rivers hit the 115 mark or above in seven of those 14 seasons. He’s been to the Pro Bowl eight times, twice as many as Ryan. Rivers is missing Ryan’s MVP award and his Super Bowl appearance, but other than that, it’s easy to make the case Rivers has put together a more impressive career. And that’s where the case for Ryan takes a significant hit.

Ryan’s lack of All-Pro honors shows how infrequently he was one of the best two quarterbacks in the NFL. But take it a step further. How often was Ryan one of the four best quarterbacks? One of the top six? When the Falcons went 13-3 in 2012 and barely missed getting to the Super Bowl, Ryan finished seventh with 7.03 adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A). You could argue Ryan’s second-best season, after his 2016 MVP campaign, was in 2018 as the Falcons finished 7-9. That year, Ryan finished fifth in ANY/A among quarterbacks with at least 10 starts — one spot behind Rivers. Ryan played the first half of his career in the shadow of Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. In his twilight, he’s been overtaken by Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and the group of young quarterbacks that now owns the NFL.

Compared to most quarterbacks, Ryan’s career has been remarkable. He ranks 22nd all time in Pro Football Reference’s approximate value. His presence has stabilized the Falcons. During Ryan’s tenure, the Falcons’ average finish in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA has been 11th. They’ve finished outside the top 15 only once — the year before Ryan and Kyle Shanahan took over the NFL in 2016. He’s started at least 14 games every year of his career. For a decade and a half, the Falcons have largely been relevant because Ryan was their quarterback. “Matt Ryan is, in my mind, the epitome of consistency,” Dimitroff said in 2016. “In how he approaches things, how he leads, his intelligence, his desire to get better.”

Ryan has been the Falcons’ rock, but it’s easy to argue that for most of his career, he wasn’t even the scariest player on his offense. When teams assembled their game plans for the Falcons, Jones, not Ryan, was likely the focus of their plans. Numbers are helpful in exercises like this, but gut feel plays an important role, too. I don’t know how many times a defensive coordinator has lost sleep because Ryan was on the other sideline, or how many times I’ve looked at a slate of NFL games and said, “I can’t wait to watch Matt Ryan.”

Maybe we have a collective blind spot for how rare a really good, reliable quarterback really is. Maybe if Ryan had his own version of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees partnership, we could have seen what he was truly capable of accomplishing. Maybe if Shanahan sticks around for three or four seasons, Ryan’s career and the conversation might be different. But as Ryan nears a decade and a half in the NFL, there’s a good chance his Hall of Fame chances suffer the same fate as the Falcons’ title hopes have too many times: falling short despite so much promise.

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When considering player, team matters. Ryan playing on better team = HOF. Ryan playing on Falcons = maybe not   Maybe we have a collective blind spot for how rare a really good, reliable

Personally if Ryan were to retire today I don't think he'll get in because people would remember mostly the years after the 28-3.   Ryan would have to end his career on a good note with the

Hall of Fames are stupid for team sports. You telling me that Terry Bradshaw and Joe Namath were better QBs than Matt Ryan??? Tommy Nobis is generally regarded as one of the best in his era during a t

I don't think anyone here said MR was the best QB in the league. Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Manning would always be ranked higher than him. And now Mahomes, Wilson etc are ranked higher. So while its hard to argue top 4, he was certainly top 6 in his time, maybe even now. Whats more annoying is that he was good enough to win a Super Bowl, and that window is closed, imo. While he may still have a few years left, if Atlanta get a high pick, the discussion needs to be had on drafting a QB.

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I feel this is a fair argument, fringe HOFer right now if he had won that SB it would be a no brainer.  Fact is he didn't and that will follow him.  This team definitely let him down multiple times.  Brooking on 3rd and 16/Harry Douglas being tackled by the yard line/Freeman missed block combined with the hold that negated the first down catch by Sanu, followed by the mistimed leap by Alford that tipped the ball within reach of Edelman.  Ryan is in a lot of ways a victim of the falcons ability to find loses.   He is part of that too but I feel its a culture problem that he helped fix to some extent.  He led us to back to back winning seasons back to back playoffs.  He changed how this team views success and it will be a sad day when we have to move on.

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When considering player, team matters. Ryan playing on better team = HOF. Ryan playing on Falcons = maybe not

 

Maybe we have a collective blind spot for how rare a really good, reliable quarterback really is. Maybe if Ryan had his own version of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees partnership, we could have seen what he was truly capable of accomplishing. Maybe if Shanahan sticks around for three or four seasons, Ryan’s career and the conversation might be different.

 

This says it all

 
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We have to acknowledge that all of the players, (other than Rivers), are retired, so we know exactly what their credentials area.  Ryan could play another 3-4 years at a high level, and be top 5 on most categories, including wins.  The one thing that is rarely talked about is his durability and the ability to deliver under pressure.  Ryan being so good for so long, should be talked about more than it is.  It's tough to imagine, but what if the Falcons had a head coach like Reid, Shannahan or Payton.....where he could have the same system for 10+ years......the what if factor.

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7 minutes ago, blutarski said:

We have to acknowledge that all of the players, (other than Rivers), are retired, so we know exactly what their credentials area.  Ryan could play another 3-4 years at a high level, and be top 5 on most categories, including wins.  The one thing that is rarely talked about is his durability and the ability to deliver under pressure.  Ryan being so good for so long, should be talked about more than it is.  It's tough to imagine, but what if the Falcons had a head coach like Reid, Shannahan or Payton.....where he could have the same system for 10+ years......the what if factor.

Ain't no "what if" in reality

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A better question should be, has the standard to enter the Hall of Fame been watered down? To that I would say YES.

This question has been brought up in the past and for good reason.

If to be a Hall of Famer meant the player or coach met at least one of three criteria: 1. Did he dominate the position 2. Did he change the way the game is played. 3. Did he elevate the sport. Then it's clear that many people inducted into the HOF should be removed.

It's also why when people mention some HOF players the response is "who?" 

Pull up the highlights of some HOFers and you go WOW!!  The others well, those are the stat guys.

Frank Gore is the best RB in 49er history. I would never say he's the best ever in the history of the NFL or top 10. But he has the stats to be a HOFer.

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22 minutes ago, FinalScore2.0 said:

To put it another way, you hear young players say I admired and studied Deion Sanders, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady etc. When have you ever heard a young QB say I admired and studied Matt Ryan?

Never , n thats not a knock on him but he's really just dull and bland for qb's today 

I get bored and fall asleep watching him sometimes

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Just now, FinalScore2.0 said:

A Hall of Famer who was dull and bland and never won a Super Bowl.

Doesn't sound right.

Exactly , he does nothing breath taking like Manning or Brady did. He just did his job, thats not something i want to emulate. I admire it but he's not a player i want to be like 

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13 minutes ago, caponine said:

Exactly , he does nothing breath taking like Manning or Brady did. He just did his job, thats not something i want to emulate. I admire it but he's not a player i want to be like 

When Nfl fans make a top 10 QB list they literally always forget about him. Most times they don’t even mean to not include him they just forget all about him. It’s been happening since like 2011. That’s just the NFLs consensus of Matt, very forgettable.

He unfortunately won’t be remembered as one of the greats of his era except by some falcons fans. He doesn’t really have that defining attribute about him the sets him apart from the other good QBs. He’s like a suped up Kerry Collins.

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9 minutes ago, Jerz #GurleySZN said:

When Nfl fans make a top 10 QB list they literally always forget about him. Most times they don’t even mean to not include him they just forget all about him. It’s been happening since like 2011. That’s just the NFLs consensus of Matt, very forgettable.

He unfortunately won’t be remembered as one of the greats of his era except by some falcons fans. He doesn’t really have that defining attribute about him the sets him apart from the other good QBs. He’s like a suped up Kerry Collins.

You cant really blame them tbh like you said he just so forgettable. I dont put him with the likes of Brees, Ben, Rodgers. He's a tier below that too me. 

The only attribute he will be known for is choking, im sorry to say but this team has blown so many leads 

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1 hour ago, caponine said:

You cant really blame them tbh like you said he just so forgettable. I dont put him with the likes of Brees, Ben, Rodgers. He's a tier below that too me. 

The only attribute he will be known for is choking, im sorry to say but this team has blown so many leads 

I swear you have a agenda against the man and its sad. Team sport but all you do is throw digs at Ryan. Man is not the problem for years. Defense blown all those games. Quit being a hater. 

Edited by ROMERO
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Hall of Fames are stupid for team sports. You telling me that Terry Bradshaw and Joe Namath were better QBs than Matt Ryan??? Tommy Nobis is generally regarded as one of the best in his era during a time when a lot of fantastic linebackers played. Had he been drafted by, GB, Pittsburgh, Dallas etc he'd be in. 

Way too much emphasis on team accomplishments for an individual award.

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6 minutes ago, ROMERO said:

I swear you have a agenda against the man and its sad. Team sport but all you do is throw digs at Ryan. Man is not the problem for years. Defense blown all those games. Quit being a hater. 

Ohhh ok , the truth hurts ig. Offense just blows game so too much, even before Quinn. Matt Ryan were apart of thise teams too. This team chokes including Matt Ryan. Not a first ballot HOFer too me at all 

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