Matt Ryan’s in the midst of his best season ever and quite possibly his first league MVP award, and it’s largely because of one thing: efficiency.
From 2012-2015, the longtime Atlanta Falcons quarterback racked up more than 600 passing attempts in each of the four seasons, with a career-high 651 coming in 2013.
Things are a bit different in 2016.
With two games left in the season, Ryan has just 465 passing attempts. And Unless the Falcons decide to sling the ball wildly around against the Carolina Panthers Saturday and the New Orleans Saints next week (possible since they’re the only two teams worse against the pass than Atlanta), he’ll finish the year with the third-fewest attempts in his career.
Ryan’s 32 touchdown passes and 4,336 yards rank second and third in the league, respectively. Drew Brees leads with 34 touchdown passes and 4,559 yards.
But Brees has also thrown the ball 589 times — most in the NFL and 124 more times than Ryan.
Ryan’s 465 attempts are currently the 19th-most in the league. Other quarterbacks in the same range include Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger, who both have 476 passing attempts. Luck has thrown for 27 touchdowns and 3,631 yards; Roethlisberger has 26 touchdowns and 3,540 yards. Also keep in mind both quarterbacks missed a game.
Quarterbacks who also have more passing attempts than Ryan but fewer passing yards and touchdowns: Brock Osweiler (470), Sam Bradford (469), and Russell Wilson (469). None of those three quarterbacks have yet to eclipse 20 touchdown passes.
No quarterback comes close to Ryan’s 9.3 yards per attempt average. The quarterback who’s probably the main competition for the MVP award is Tom Brady, and his average is more than full yard behind Ryan.
There’s only one quarterback with a better yards per attempt average in Falcons history than Ryan, and that was Chris Chandler in 1998 with 9.6. If we expand that to all-time, the ninth-year quarterback is tied for 13th.
We can’t ignore the fact he’s only tossed seven interceptions, tying him with Andy Dalton and Aaron Rodgers. Only Derek Carr (6), Alex Smith (6), Tyrod Taylor (6), Bradford (4), Dak Prescott (4), Colin Kaepernick (3), and Brady (2) have fewer (among qualifying quarterbacks).
And then there’s the 68.6 completion percentage, tied for a career-best and third behind Bradford (71.6) and Brees (71.1).
Ryan is having an excellent season, but his efficiency makes it better than you probably think.