"Had a spark when you started but now you're just garbage/Fell from top 10 to not mentioned at all..." — Jay Z from "Takeover" on The Blueprint (2001)
Do you remember a time when Matty Ice was regarded as a top 10 quarterback in the NFL? As recently as a few seasons ago, Ryan was at the helm of a potent Atlanta Falcons offense, a team that regularly dominated the regular season and became a mainstay in the postseason.
And as recently as the beginning of this season, Ryan was orchestrating a revived Atlanta, teaming up with Julio Jones to run roughshod over the NFL … or at least the laughable NFC East.
But if you've been paying attention for the past few weeks, Ryan has come crashing back down to earth, low-lighted by his weak Week 14 performance in a 38-0 shutout loss to the undefeated Carolina Panthers: 22 of 34 passing for 224 yards, an interception, two fumbles — one of which was lost — and an anemic 71.2 passer rating. It's part of an alarming trend for Atlanta's so-called franchise quarterback.
For the past few seasons, Ryan and the Falcons have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL. Missing out on the playoffs consecutive seasons is a rare feat for teams that have an "elite" quarterback so maybe Matt Ryan isn't that elite franchise quarterback the Falcons thought they had. Just a few years ago, Ryan was being mentioned in the same conversations with the top quarterbacks in the NFL. But since leading the Atlanta Falcons to the NFC Championship game in 2012, all has been downhill.
At the start of the 2015 NFL season, as mentioned, it appeared that Ryan and the Falcons were changing the culture in Atlanta. The Falcons were undefeated, and it appeared that they were on the road to at least have a chance to get to Super Bowl 50. Julio Jones was his usual dominant self, Devonta Freeman was arguably the best running back at that time, head coach Dan Quinn had the defense flying to the ball and Matt Ryan appeared to have his swagger back on the field. All was well in the house that "Prime Time" built until Atlanta faced off in an NFC South showdown against the New Orleans Saints.
Since losing to the Saints in Week 6, the Falcons have morphed back into playing uninspired football. Ryan has thrown an alarming 10 interceptions during Atlanta's last eight games, in which they've lost seven of those games. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know this, but when the quarterback isn't playing at a high level, the team falters.
We've witnessed quarterbacks such as Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton and Tony Romo get criticized for not meeting the expectations of being an elite quarterback. It's quite ironic that two of the three quarterbacks have more playoff wins than Ryan, who is second in the NFL with 14 interceptions and has escaped the criticism that he deserves for the most part. Instead of holding Ryan accountable, seem to point fingers elsewhere in Atlanta.
Over the Ryan's tenure as a member of the Falcons, he has had some of the best skill positions that a quarterback could ask for: Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, Michael "The Burner" Turner, Stephen Jackson and Julio Jones are just a few names to mention. His numbers may look good on paper, but his career winning percentage (not including the playoffs) is .570, which is slightly above quarterbacks such as Jay Cutler, Tim Tebow and Eli Manning. Unlike the aforementioned quarterbacks, none of them have been given the pass that Ryan has received to be an average quarterback. He has displayed all the attributes to be an All-Pro QB, but he has yet to put it all together in eight seasons as a pro. The way it's looking now, it may be too late.
That's in stark contrast to his early days, when he was arguably the next big thing at the quarterback position. Being compared to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady is a heavy load to shoulder for a then-young quarterback, which is exactly the type of talk we used to hear surrounding Ryan. Right now, he is proving that load may be just too heavy for his shoulders.
That's not to say this is the end of Matty Ice, but it has been eight years, after all, and we are still waiting for the MVP candidate to resurface. It may be safe to say — at this point — we have to accept him for the player that he is: an inconsistent quarterback with plenty of flaws to go with his impressive attributes.
Forrest Gump said it best:
“My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”
The inconsistent play of Matt Ryan has been a reoccurring theme as of late. There are times you get good Matt Ryan, and there are times you get bad Matt Ryan.
The expectations of quarterbacks in the NFL are sometimes unfair. They're expected to be the face of the franchise all while trying to throw for a perfect quarterback rating. The pressure is high, but that comes with the territory.
For $20 million a year, Matt Ryan can't get by with Forrest Gump's words. The once franchise quarterback that was once among the elite in the NFL is now a sometimes good quarterback with a habit of inconsistency — not the franchise quarterback he was purported to be.