Five Years ago the Atlanta Falcons selected Matt Ryan with the Third overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, he was expected to become their franchise quarterback. Today, they made it official by paying Ryan like the Franchise Quarterback that he is. The Falcons have signed Matt Ryan to a five year, $103.75 million dollar deal including $59 million guaranteed per Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com. That type of coin puts Ryan in the upper echelon of the league in terms of contracts, it also shows where the Falcons view their QB in regard to his peers. Is Ryan deserving of this extension, did the Falcons overpay for his services, has he reached his ceiling? These are just a few questions that may come to mind after hearing about this large contract extension.
The Atlanta Falcons went from 4-12 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008, Matt Ryan’s Rookie Season. In 2009, the Falcons struggled a bit and finished the season 9-7. Move ahead to 2010 when the Falcons finished 13-3, that was the first year that the team made really garnered national attention with Ryan at the helm. Atlanta took a slight step back in 2011 finishing at just 10-6, last season they finished 13-3 for the second time in three years. The team’s record has had a direct correlation with Ryan’s individual performance and development. It is no secret that the NFL is a “passing league” and Atlanta feels great about who they have spinning the ball.
“One Playoff Victory.” That is the “stigma” that surrounds Ryan; much like Tony Romo and the word “clutch”, Matt’s body of work is often overlooked for what he has yet to accomplish. For example, the Falcons have not yet suffered a loosing season since the inception of the Ryan era. That can’t be taken for granted in the NFL where it’s easy for teams to have a good season, but hard for teams to sustain winning let alone remain in title contention. Ryan has continued to improve since his rookie campaign, his passer rating has improved every season since 2009. Four out of five seasons, he had a passer rating of at least 87, three out of the five seasons Ryan had a passer rating of at least 90. Every QB in the league makes mistakes, in 2,637 passes Matt completed 1,654. In those five seasons, not once has he thrown more than 14 interceptions. Ryan has been consistent, consistent in both his performance and development.
“You’re only as good as your last game.” This saying is fitting for this discussion, this applies to not only Ryan’s last game but his last season. The NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers was his last game in the 2012 season. Ryan played a heck of a game, his one blemish being an interception by 49ers Defensive Back Chris Culliver. Interception aside, Ryan completed 30 of 42 passes for 396 yards with three touchdowns. In the regular season he was one of the best in the league at his position. He threw the ball 615 times last year, 68.6% of those passes were complete which resulted in 4,719 passing yards. The Falcons were known for having an explosive offense, they accumulated many “chunk” plays (Plays resulting in huge chunks of yardage). According to Pro Football Focus, Deep Passing is passing attempts targeting a receiver 20 yards or more downfield. In such situations, Ryan connected on 27 of 67 attempts for 913 yards with 11 Touchdowns and two Interceptions. In Play-Action situations he was even more lethal, completing 67 of 97 passes for 919 yards with Nine Touchdowns and Two Interceptions. While numbers aren’t the end all-be all, they definitely don’t hurt Matt Ryan’s case.
If Ryan’s next five years resemble his first five years in terms of growth and production, the Falcons will not regret this extension at all. Far from a finished product, there is still room for Ryan to grow. He is a cerebral quarterback that seldom makes the same mistake twice, the Falcons have added Steven Jackson to take some of the pressure off of Ryan’s arm. The Falcons finished sixth in passing yards and 29th in rushing yards; outside of a few big plays in the run game, their offense was extremely reliant on the arm and mind of Ryan. It led them to a 13-3 record and a trip to the NFC Championship Game, is he deserving of the extension?
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