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Why Matt Ryan’s 10-year yardage record is still significant

Many are trying to discredit yet another milestone for the Falcons QB. Sigh.

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

After another 300 yard game against the Panthers, Matt Ryan passed a significant career milestone - amassing the most passing yards in NFL history in a players first 10 seasons. Being ahead of guys like Peyton Manning and Dan Marino should demonstrate how respectable Ryan’s career has been.

Amazingly, I’ve seen some people suggesting it’s not impressive since the NFL has morphed into a pass heavy league over the past decade. While this is definitely true (though teams are shifting back to emphasizing the run), this achievement is still hugely significant. Here are some reasons why.

Career Longevity

This one should jump out, yet few people talk about this. One need only look at the number of QBs drafted in the first and second round over the past decade to see how rare it is for a QB to last a full decade in this league. Given how impatient NFL owners are, it’s no surprise, but it also speaks to how quickly Ryan was able to come in and contribute at a high level. Let’s not forget - before Ryan came into the league, it was very rare that rookie QBs would come into the league and start immediately.

Additionally, over 10 years, Ryan has only missed 2 games due to injury (in 2009). That is a remarkable testament to Ryan’s toughness and ability to avoid big hits, even when playing behind some terrible offensive lines at times.

All of this shows a QB that has put together 10 seasons in a league known for its violence and impatience with the most important position in the sport. You’d be hard-pressed to find any QBs who can currently match Ryan in this regard.

Consistency and reliability

Going along with the point above is a key component of why this record is impressive: it directly speaks to Ryan’s consistency and reliability over his career. When you consider some of the awful seasons in the middle of it (2013, 2014 I’m looking at you), this seems even more impressive.

Over his ten years, Ryan is averaging at least 4000 yards per season. While many correctly point out that this is the norm now in the NFL, it undermines the reality that many QBs have up and down years and don’t consistently achieve that number. Ryan - along with Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford - are the only active QBs in the NFL with 7 or more consecutive 4000 yard passing seasons. Given all the discussion about “how easy” it is to pass for 4000 yards now, it seems that very few QBs do it year over year over year.

Ignoring beginning of Ryan’s career

One final thought: when Ryan started his career in Atlanta, the Falcons wisely positioned him in an offense that was focused primarily on running the ball. Michael Turner was the focal point of the offense from 2008 through 2010, and some would argue even in 2011. That means Ryan’s passing production had to come on the back of an offense that was run-first. In fact, Ryan’s first 4000 yard passing season didn’t happen until 2010, a full year before Julio Jones arrived in Atlanta. You can easily argue that Ryan wasn’t in a pass-first offense until 2012, when Dirk Koetter arrived and took the emphasis off the running game.

One needs only look at the years between 2012 to 2017 to see that Ryan has done the most damage in that shorter period of time. That’s not to discount what he did early in his career - he did lead the NFL in fourth quarter comebacks during those years - rather, it’s to debunk the idea that he’s been in an offense that made this record easy to achieve. Reality shows that wasn’t the case for the first several years in Atlanta.

So, to the critics who want to discount yet another record that Ryan has set: here’s evidence that proves the contrary. Say what you want about the nature of the NFL now and how “easy” it is to put together a 4000 yard season. The reality is it’s nowhere near as easy to do it repeatedly and consistently over a 10 year span. This is an impressive record for a QB who is regularly downplayed by NFL fans outside of Atlanta. It’s time for people to give this great Quarterback the respect he deserves.