Of Matt Ryan, The NFL Draft And Being An April Fool

Kevin C. Cox

A long-overdue mea culpa.

Over the weekend, some of you had a not-insignificant amount of fun with my 2008 predictions for Matt Ryan. It's somewhat of an annual tradition for Falcoholics to pull out my old articles and gleefully mock me, because really, what am I going to say? I've always been open about just how wrong I was about Ryan, but a fresh read from these 28-year-old eyes makes one thing abundantly clear about my prediction for #2.

It will haunt me to my grave.

Looking back, I could not have been more wrong if I had called Ryan a college pitcher and savaged his propensity for Vermont women. Here's a smattering of what I wrote about Ryan at the time, when I was a 23-year-old freshly married cub reporter working nights, gaining weight and trying to convince myself that the Falcons were not about to make a colossal mistake fresh off the fresh hell of 2007:

But wait! It's Matt Ryan's final year at college that makes him so gosh darn great, isn't it? It must be. Otherwise, everything I've ever been taught is a soul-scorching lie. Woe unto thee, O false prophet of Ryan's non-greatness!

Except, again, Ryan wasn't great. The 59.3% completion rate was the lowest since his freshman year, when he threw but 71 passes. His yards per attempt were a pedestrian 6.89, and he was sacked 21 times, the highest total of his college career. Yeah, he threw 31 TDs, but he also threw 19 interceptions. Which one do you think is going to translate to the pros during his first season? I'm going to bet picks. You can also forget about him doing anything with his legs; he ran 68 times for a total of two yards in 2007, and 51 times for -35 yards the season before.

Oh, that's pretty terrible. But surely I can do worse?

Anyways, everyone can sleep a little easier tonight knowing this. This really ups the odds that the Falcons go with Brian Brohm, Joe Flacco, Josh Johnson, Matt Flynn, or notorious gunslinger Dave the Falconer. Given the amount of money it would take to sign Ryan at the #3 spot, this is a wise decision that will look a hell of a lot better if some desperate team trades up with the Falcons. With that, the team might get even more draft picks to use on restocking a depleted team.

Oh sweet mother of mercy.

I drag this out for two reasons. The first, of course, is that I should feel like a cartoon hot dog wearing floppy clown shoes, because I was being an idiot. I had my mind made up that Glenn Dorsey was a future star and Matt Ryan would not be, and I was marshaling every possible argument to my defense. I had made up my mind about a prospect I had only limited knowledge of, and I was being totally, ridiculously strident about it. You don't watch a few BC games, study a little tape and suddenly know a man's innermost secrets, and you don't even truly understand what kind of NFL quarterback he can be. It was a lesson I needed to learn in the most embarrassing way possible.

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I'm a little older and wiser now. I've seen five great seasons of Falcons football, left behind my stressful, pointless newspaper job, had a son, gotten myself into vaguely human shape and discovered the joys of craft beer. I have mellowed out some since I wrote those infamous Ryan pieces, is what I'm saying. But I have also learned that even when I am angry, when I am deeply disbelieving, that I need to lean back and consider why I might be wrong and, to the greatest extent possible, avoid reflecting that deep disbelief in my writing. After all, if I'm wrong and the man I've been hacking to bits via the written word ends up as a Falcon, I'm in trouble. I've cut down on the time I spend looking like a moron by at least, say, 10 percent. Remember this when you see me calmly, coolly predict a player at 30 who is drafted four rounds later.

That brings me to my second point. The 2013 NFL Draft is approaching, and we're all getting wildly, somewhat irrationally attached to some prospects and dour toward others. In the course of our discussions, we tend to become inflamed with passion, ready to tear down the disbelievers and trumpet our cause. And we do so at our own peril, because chances are quite good that we are unbelievably wrong about our pet/hated prospect.

So I hope you can all learn from this cautionary tale and take a moment to consider why you might be wrong and what the ramifications may be among your fellow Falcoholics if you are. You don't necessarily have my platform, for good or ill, but your words are immortalized on this blog.

Take it from someone who has been there: You don't want to be so very, very wrong about the next Matt Ryan.

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