We continue our series on why we believe Matt Ryan deserves to be the 2016 NFL Most Valuable Player. The first part of the series focused on the statistics that back up Ryan’s case. Today, we address many of the criticisms that have surfaced in recent weeks to determine if they’re legitimate or not.
Ryan has benefited from YAC (yards after catch)
This criticism intends to say that Ryan makes a lot of easy throws. There are some key stats that disprove this point. First, PFF has a metric called aDOT (Average Depth of Target). It’s exactly what it sounds like - how far downfield the QBs targets are on his passes. Ryan is actually second highest of the four potential QB MVP candidates:
Asked by @tjcalkins, MVP Race QBs by aDOT:— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) January 2, 2017
1. Aaron Rodgers (9.0)
2. Matt Ryan (8.9)
3. Dak Prescott (8.6)
4. Tom Brady (8.4)
Additionally, according to this chart, Ryan’s % of YAC to his total yards is 48.1%. Aaron Rodgers sits at 46.1% while Tom Brady is at 49.3%.
Ryan may benefit from YAC, but he does not benefit significantly more so than the other MVP candidates. Also, Matt Ryan was a very good deep passer this year, despite what some people have said:
Matt Ryan's 136.1 passer rating on deep passes (20+ yards) is the highest in the past 10 years. Only QB not to throw a deep INT this year— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) January 4, 2017
Ryan has Julio Jones
I’ve seen this one come out a good bit, but it completely ignores NFL history. Joe Montana and Steve Young weren’t disqualified for having Jerry Rice. Tom Brady won MVP in 2007 with Randy Moss. Aaron Rodgers has Jordy Nelson. However, even with Julio, the reality is that Ryan has been even better throwing to his other targets in 2016. Take a look at his passer rating comparisons:
@ChrisWesseling Matt Ryan when not throwing to Julio: 290/405 for 3535 yards, 32 TDs, 3 INTs, 121.4 passer rating.— Stefan (@Steffnov) January 3, 2017
Having one of the best receivers in the game shouldn’t discount a player, and it frankly never has. People using this argument are grasping at straws.
Ryan has great running backs
Again, this speaks to the argument above and doesn’t address the fact that his passing numbers are still more impressive than his competition. While Rodgers has not had the benefit of a consistent running game, Tom Brady has had Legarrett Blount, who finished the year with 1,161 yards and 18 TDs. That’s pretty impressive in itself.
Ryan faced bad defenses all year
This one is funny, because it’s actually the exact opposite of the truth. According to Football Outsiders, Ryan and the Falcons faced the second hardest stretch of defenses in 2016. Aaron Rodgers? He faced the 27th hardest. Tom Brady? The 10th hardest.
Additionally, Matt Ryan faced 6 of the top 10 passing defenses and still averaged over 30 points per game against them. During the year, he only faced a bottom-10 passing defense 3 times. The idea that he feasted on poor competition couldn’t be further from the truth.
Rodgers or Brady is more valuable to his team than Ryan is to his
First, this is purely speculative. There’s no way to quantify a statement like this. Secondly, in the case of Brady, we already have a glimpse of reality. His team was 3-1 without him, while playing the 2nd and 3rd string QBs.
As for Rodgers, there’s little doubt he had an amazing run at the end of the year, but his team also started 4-6, in large part due to some poor games from him. Yes, he is definitely highly valuable to that team, but he was also responsible for them needing a 6 game winning streak to get into the playoffs. Incidentally, Ryan’s stats in that 6 game stretch were nearly as good as Rodgers.
Ryan has a good offensive line
This is comical. Apparently, MVP candidates are only allowed to have hot garbage surrounding them. Well, at least when the candidate is Matt Ryan.
In reality, Football Outsider’s stats showed that between Ryan, Rodgers and Brady - it was Ryan that had the worst offensive line for pass protection. They ranked 23rd, while Green Bay ranked 11th and New England 6th. In fact, Matt Ryan’s sack rate was 6.5% on the year. Rodgers was at 5.4% while Brady was sacked only 3.4% of the time.
Ryan has a well-designed offense
Again, this argument apparently only applies to Ryan. Joe Montana and Steve Young operated the innovate Walsh West Coast offense that tore up the league for decades. Yet, both players won multiple MVP awards.
Additionally, who was the last QB under Kyle Shanahan’s system to be in the MVP conversation? That’s right - no one. Don’t get me wrong - Shanahan has designed an amazing offense and has had success with it in multiple places. Yet, this is the first time he’s had a historic offense and a legitimate MVP candidate.
Since merger, 11 quarterbacks have era-adjusted QB rating of 140 or higher. These are *the* best all-time seasons. Matt Ryan 2016 makes it. pic.twitter.com/SEzeop18XI— scott pianowski (@scott_pianowski) January 3, 2017
One thing to notice about many of these historic performances: quite a few of them lead to MVPs for those QBs.
Ryan lost his team the KC game
That’s debatable, since the team did end up scoring 28 points in the game. However, he did give KC 9 of it’s 29 points on his pick-6 and pick-2. That said, the MVP award is not about being a “perfect” player. If losses were a key metric, no player would ever be capable of winning it.
While this argument may favor Brady, it does Rodgers no favors, since he was also partly responsible for several of the 6 losses the Packers had this year.
What’s remarkable about many of these arguments is that I’ve seen some of them from mainstream media. It really doesn’t take much to address these and a 2 minute search on the internet can provide more context than is really necessary. While I’m sure there will be more criticisms to come, I hope this list will at least quiet some of the noise until February rolls around.