You guys really responded to the first Matt Ryan article Ryan Michael brought to us, and he volunteered to dive a little deeper and take a look at how much of the blame the veteran quarterback deserves for the last two seasons. You'll find his conclusions below for your consideration.
By: Ryan Michael
Pro Football Analyst
No starting quarterback in NFL history had ever won as many games as Matt Ryan did during his first five seasons (56). As his team support disintegrated around him, the Falcons fell from the NFC's No. 1 seed in 2012 (13-3)-to winning only ten games combined the next two years.
Blaming Ryan for the Falcons' struggles is akin to criticizing jockey for poor race placement when all he was given to ride was a sick pony. Sounds harsh? Perhaps. But it's the Falcons who have failed Ryan in recent years, not the other way around. So stop hurling eggs at the jockey.
After finishing 4-12 in 2013, the 2014 season was supposed to be a comeback year for the Atlanta Falcons. Their offensive line-which ranked amongst the very worst at the pro level in 2013-added Jake Matthews (the second OT taken in the draft). Julio Jones and Roddy White would return after missing a combined 14 games the previous season and the team hoped that Steven Jackson would bounce back after a horrible 2013 season.
The pass protection improved from atrocious (30th in 2013) to simply bad (19th in 2014). The running game extended the Falcons streak to five consecutive seasons ranking worse than 20th in rushing DVOA (2010-14). White played well while Jones exploded, but their efforts were futile as the Falcons defense degraded from horrible (29th in 2013) to dead-last (32nd in 2014).
Atlanta allowed their opponents to score an average of 26.9 PPG (2013-14), leaving Ryan and the Falcons one-dimensional offense to play from behind, knowing that scoring anything short of 27.0 PPG would likely result in a loss. What do you get when you combine playing from behind with an offensive line incapable of protecting the quarterback and a running-game incapable of producing on the ground? Answer: The perfect recipe for opposing defenses to load up on extra defensive backs while committing other players to attack the defenseless quarterback.
Ryan threw 14 interceptions in 16 games last season-But half of his interception-total came during three games in which the Falcons allowed their opponents to score an absurd 33.0 PPG.
Ryan threw (7) interceptions in the other 13 games-boasting a 1.4 interception-percentage for 81.25 percent of the 2014 season. How good was that? It would have been good enough to rank 3rd best amongst quarterbacks with 250+ attempts-above Brady (1.5), Wilson (1.5), Roethlisberger (1.5), Romo (2.1), Peyton (2.5) and Luck (2.6).
While many are quick to focus on the few games Ryan struggled in, they're even quicker to overlook the games he's played well in. Unfortunately for Ryan, their hasn't been a consistent correlation between him playing well as an individual and the Falcons winning games as a team.
Since 2013, the Falcons are 0-10 when Ryan records a passer rating below 85.0-but they're only 10-12 when he records a passer rating above 85.0. No quarterback since 2013 has lost more than (6) games when their passer rating exceeded 85.0-Ryan's lost double that (12).
If you compare the (12) best games of Ryan and Brady in 2014-they're nearly identical:
In Week 13 vs. the Packers, Ryan threw for four touchdown passes and recorded a passer rating of 116.9, but still lost behind a ground game that averaged a putrid 3.09 Y/A and a defense that forced zero punts while giving up 43 points (just short of allowing 50 had Rodgers not run the clock out in scoring range)-typical.
Via my QBS2 multigenerational grading formula that combines league ranking in QBR, DVOA and passer rating, Ryan ranked 7th in 2014 (72.91)-below only Rodgers, Romo, Peyton, Roethlisberger, Brady and Brees-but ahead of Luck, Rivers, Flacco, Wilson and others. It's a far cry from the perception of his placement amongst the league's best and even more impressive when you consider the quality of team support he's been given.
I compiled a list of all quarterbacks drafted in the Top-3 since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger and ranked them by their career QBS2 ratings. Of the 32 quarterbacks that qualified, Ryan ranks 2nd best in NFL post-merger history (76.03)-below only Peyton Manning (89.54) but ahead of Bradshaw (64.88), Luck (59.37), Aikman (56.24), Elway (52.07), Eli Manning (51.45) and others.
Ryan Michael is a Pro Football Analyst, Statistician and Interview Specialist.
Visit his website www.quarterbackscore.webs.com and follow him on Twitter (@theryanmichael).