The Falcons have a number of vital players on this football team, to put it mildly. It’s hard to envision the team surviving very long without Julio Jones, without Grady Jarrett, without Alex Mack, and so on. There are many great players who together conspire to keep the Falcons in games, and the talent level here is higher than it has been in many years.
That said, when we were prompted to write about one player who the team can’t afford to lose, there was only one real answer. That player is Matt Ryan.
For all the withering remarks directed Ryan’s way, he’s put together the best quarterbacking career in franchise history by a wide margin. Even in a down year, he’s only had a couple of genuinely lousy games (the last one against the Saints being the best/worst example) and has overcome some bad luck to keep things humming for this offense. Things could be so much better, both for Ryan and the offense at large, but subbing out Ryan for Matt Schaub would absolutely catastrophic for the team.
The downgrade in talent from Ryan to any other option—not to mention how vital the quarterback position is—makes him the team’s most important player. I shudder to think of what this offense would look like without him, even if the Falcons did finally lean on Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to get the job done.