Fresh off a triumphant season that saw him finish as the NFL’s MVP, Matt Ryan is getting some re-kindled recognition as one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. A big question for him, seeing that he’s only 32 years old this year, is whether his career will eventually be seen as Canton-worthy.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Ryan needs to make it into the top ten in key metrics like passing yardage and touchdowns in order to make a convincing Hall of Fame case. Let’s further assume he’ll need at least one Super Bowl ring to really seal the deal, otherwise he’ll need to be somewhere within the top five.
What kind of career path would let him get there?
First off, it’s necessary to note there are active quarterback ahead of Ryan who will likely only continue to build their cases. It’s safe to assume that the end the line is coming for Eli Manning, Drew Brees, and perhaps Ben Roethlisberger, who has taken more hits than I thought humanly possible over the years. Brees has a good shot to finish his career #1 in overall passing yardage before being overtaken by Tom Brady, Eli Manning will probably be top 7, and both Philip Rivers and Roethlisberger figure to be top ten when the dust settles.
So knowing all of that, let’s look at two paths to the Hall of Fame for Ice.
#1: With A Ring
This is a much easier road.
Careers Averages: 4,189 yards, 27 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
I think it’s safe to assume that Ryan has at least a couple of years left where he can handily exceed those average numbers.
Five Years: 58,646 yards, 483 touchdowns, 231 interceptions
I’m going to assume that Eli Manning hangs on long enough to get around here, yardage-wise, and that would mean Ryan would finish around 8th in that stat. He’d be around 5th or 6th all-time in touchdown passes. If he’s got one or (god, please) two Super Bowl victories in that span, that feels awfully close to a Hall-worthy resume. There would be debates about just how great he was, how the era he played in influenced his numbers, etc., but I think he’d have a good shot at getting in.
Now let’s say he defied the odds and played until he was 39, giving him two additional seasons.
Seven Years: 67,204 yards, 537 touchdowns, 257 interceptions
That’s slam dunk, and all it requires is seven seasons of 16 games at career average levels. That’s not hugely likely, but given that Ryan should be able to put up great years for the next 2-3 seasons, at least, and is durable, it’s not outlandish to believe it could happen. The touchdown passes and yardage would be top five all-time, and even one ring over that span would be enough for Ryan to make it.
So if you can just win a Super Bowl, Falcons, you’re putting Matt Ryan in an excellent position to make it to Canton. What if he doesn’t win one?
#2: Without A Ring
To make the Hall of Fame with no championship as a quarterback, you need to have the kind of resume that would make Dan Marino blush. It’s worth noting that Marino is one of the few to make it without a ring, and he was the best quarterback in history, stats-wise, when he retired.
So for Ryan, you’ve got to assume the seven year numbers as a baseline, I think. If he can push to some big, round numbers—like 70,000 yards, 550 touchdown passes—he’d have an incredibly strong case. It’s worth noting that that would require Ryan to play at an extremely high level for at least five or six season, and history tells us it would be very rare not to see some level of dropoff along the way. Top five all-time numbers are difficult to argue with, but it’s worth noting that arguments are precisely what you’ll get if Ryan is ringless. Steel yourself for that possible future, just in case.
Ultimately, what matters is how long Ryan continues to play at a high level, and whether he can bring home at least one Lombardi Trophy. It seems a little crazy to talk about his Hall of Fame case now, as good as his numbers are, but he’s really not that far away if he can stay healthy and productive.
What say you?