Watch football for any length of time and you'll be treated to the analysis of people who have all the deep thinking of a mouse brain sitting in a cookie sheet of water. This is especially true when it comes to evaluating quarterbacks.
Reaction to Matt Ryan's new contract has been largely positive. By and large, fans and pundits grasp that quality quarterbacks cost a small fortune, and that Ryan deserves to be among the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL given his track record. There has been a modicum of thoughtful, well-reasoned criticism of the deal, primarily centering around Ryan's dependence on his (very high quality) weapons and a handful of key mistakes in big playoff games. I can at least entertain that criticism.
What I can't stand is the lazy, fatalist analysis that seems to pop up every time Matt Ryan does anything. By now, you're undoubtedly familiar with the old saw that Ryan will "never win a Super Bowl" and that his 1-4 playoff record means he's not deserving of a major extension. This is more than just refusing to extrapolate into the future, it's the Catholic Church trying to tell Galileo the sun will never be the center of the universe.
Let's tackle those two points.
- You cannot—I repeat, cannot—tell me with a straight face that Matt Ryan will never win a Super Bowl. He was a couple of plays from making it to one just a season ago, and quarterbacks who the media harrumphed about have gone on to win, like Peyton Manning. Also, Terry Bradshaw and Trent Dilfer won Super Bowls. You can't hang it all on the QB's shoulders.
- You're not just paying for playoff performance, because that would be stupid. The Ravens didn't go ahead and sink $30 million guaranteed into Dilfer because he was their QB when they won a Super Bowl, and the Colts didn't let Manning walk because he "couldn't win the big game." They would have been moronic to do so. You pay for the body of a player's career and what his potential suggests he'll be able to do in the future, with playoff performance being a factor but not the primary one. Despite what you may have heard about Joe Flacco, he didn't get that fat contract solely on the back of his all-time great playoff run, but because that run and the season leading up to it suggested he would deserve that kind of money going forward.
Also, Mark Sanchez is 4-2 as a quarterback in the playoffs. You really want to hang your hat on that?
Both of these tired saws are a way for people who don't like Matt Ryan and want to dismiss him without having to dive into his actual performance to do so. You can't refute a future that hasn't happened yet, so they can say "come back and talk to me when he wins a Super Bowl, which he'll never do." It's lazy, intellectually dishonest and infuriatingly effective, because you can no more tell them Ryan's going to win one than they can tell you he won't.
I've seen the frustration with these arguments all over, but it's worth remembering that what we do know is that the Falcons locked up one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, and they're trying to surround him with the talent necessary to make a deep run. Ultimately, what matters is that the Falcons give themselves and Ryan the chance to make noise. We all hope it'll work out the way we want it to. Ryan's certainly good enough to ensure it does.