There's been a good bit of debate about whether Matt Ryan is a good, great, or even an elite QB. Many who engage in the debate are quick to point out that guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers both had playoff wins and hoisted the Lombardi trophy within their first four years. Others quickly point out that those guys stepped into organizations that were consistent winners.
But what do the numbers say about Ryan so far? How does he compare against some of the best QBs in the league? Notably, how does his first four years look compared to the first four of some great QBs playing today? I think when you see the hardened numbers, you'll be surprised at what you find.For my purposes, I'm setting the bar incredibly high. I'm going to compare Ryan to 2 sure-fire first-ballot hall-of-famers and a third QB who is getting there fast. This comparison will be between Ryan, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees and their first four (full) seasons in the league. NOTE: for Brees and Brady, they didn't start a full season until their second year in the league.
Here's how the breakdown looks:
Ryan - 14,238 / 95 / 46
Brees - 12,127 / 79 / 53
Manning - 16,418 / 111 / 81
Brady - 13,919 / 97 / 52
At first glance, you can see that Ryan stacks up decently. He's behind only Manning in total yards, while he's very close to Brady for TDs. But he leads in fewest INTs of any of the QBs here. In fact, Ryan has the best TD-to-INT ratio of any of the quarterbacks listed, as you can see here:
Ryan - 2.065
Brees - 1.490
Manning - 1.370
Brady - 1.865
Ball security is a key stat for QBs, and Ryan has been doing it better than anyone on this list. In fact, Ryan has only 1 game on record where he had 3 or more interceptions in one game. The same cannot be said for Brees, Manning or Brady. And for those who think it's because Ryan was in a run-heavy offense, you'll also note that his yards and total TDs are comparable to the other 3 QBs - dispelling the notion that he didn't pass as much as these potential hall of famers.
Wins / Losses / Playoff wins
Ryan - 43 / 19 / 0
Brees - 31 / 28 / 1
Manning - 32 / 32 / 0
Brady - 48 / 15 / 9 (3 Superbowl wins)
This category is where the pain begins for most Falcons fans, but I think it's important to make the comparison. For starters, you can clearly see that Ryan is not alone in his lack of playoff success. Manning also went without a playoff victory in his first four seasons. And while Brees did have a playoff win on his resume, he and Manning were barely above .500 for the first four years of their careers.
Brady is in a whole other category and his first four years are a clear reason why he's considered a first-ballot hall of famer. Ryan compares favorably in regular season wins, but is obviously winless in the "second season" thus far.
I know that people who question Ryan will not be easily persuaded by these numbers, and I'm certainly frustrated by the lack of playoff success. But, I also believe Ryan is on a great pace as a starting QB in this league. He compares favorably against some very tough competition, and in some cases, is doing better than they did. I'm looking forward to what his fifth year in the league is going to look like.