Another month, another well-deserved reward for Matt Bryant.
Matt Bryant named the NFC's Special Teams Player of the Month.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) December 4, 2014
As far as I can tell, there's really no precedent for what Bryant has accomplished in his six years in Atlanta. Bryant had averaged around 80% on his field goals through seven previous NFL seasons, and he was 34 years old already when the Falcons signed him back in 2009, when he hit 70% of his tries in five games. Since then, he has averaged 90% and will almost certainly go down as a franchise legend when he does leave Atlanta, thanks to his unflappable air and the huge kicks he's made in pressurized situations. Kickers often stay effective until their mid-to-late 30's, but they rarely improve.
This award is just the latest acknowledgement of Bryant's late-career resurgence, in other words, and it fits nicely on the shelf next to the collective gratitude of Falcons fans. If the Falcons are going to make a real run at the post-season, Bryant's going to need to continue to nail some clutch kicks, and thankfully he seems to be immune to the usual year-to-year variance that strikes with your average kicker. The next question, of course, is how long his career will last from here.
I speculated last offseason that the Falcons might cut ties with Bryant this year and elect to save some money going with a younger kicker, which was silly because A) the Falcons love Bryant and B) the Falcons thought they'd be contending, so they wouldn't put that season in the hands of an inexperienced/lesser kicker. But with his contract up at the end of the year and his 40th birthday around the corner, it's fair to wonder whether Bryant will be in Atlanta in 2015. At this point, we all hope he'll return and make history as just the 14th pure kicker in NFL history to play after his 40th birthday, but given that it'll be an offseason of upheaval, we'll have to wait with bated breath.
Your thoughts on Bryant's award?