Julio Jones had a spectacular season, and the Pro Football Writers of America recognized his accomplishments by bestowing All-NFL and All-NFC honors on the wide receiver for the 2018 season. But they snubbed the hell out of Matt Ryan for All-NFC recognition.
First things first, Julio deserves All-NFL and All-NFC honors. He led the league in receiving yards with 1,677, over 100 more yards than De’Andre Hopkins, who finished second in the NFL and also had a spectacular season. Jones averaged over 100 yards per game, scored eight touchdowns despite not touching the end zone a single time before Week 9, and he converted 70.8 percent of his catches for first downs. It’s the third season of his career that Jones has been named to the All-NFL team.
Jones is joined in the receivers group for the All-NFL squad by Hopkins and the Saints’ Michael Thomas. Both are deserving. Hopkins contributed 11 touchdowns to the Texans this year, and Thomas had 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns. You could make the argument for Antonio Brown, who led the league in touchdowns with 15, or Davante Adams, who was right behind Brown with 13, but the three receivers selected are all quality choices.
Patrick Mahomes, the league’s probable MVP for the 2018 season, earned the quarterback spot on the All-NFL team as well as the All-AFC team. It’s hard to argue with the selection of a guy who had over 5,000 yards and threw for 50 dang touchdowns, adding two scores with his legs, in a single season.
But Drew Brees was named the quarterback of the All-NFC squad, and folks, I’m not going to lie. I am mad online and ready to fight for Matt Ryan’s honor.
Let’s let the numbers do the talking.
Ryan finished third in the league for passing yards with 4,924, and tied with Russell Wilson for third in the league with 35 passing touchdowns and had .just seven interceptions. Brees, on the other hand, came in 13th with 3,992 yards. That’s just 102 more yards than Case Keenum threw this season. Brees did throw 32 touchdowns against just five picks, which is good. But in case you, like me, are not great at math, 35 is more than 32.
The big difference between Brees and Ryan this year was the number of wins each team got to enjoy. Much to the chagrin of all of us, the Saints were actually great this season, and the whole concept of evaluating quarterbacks based on wins is deeply flawed. There are 11 guys on the field at any given time, and it takes all 11 of them to make or break a season.
With that said, Matt Ryan bore a lot of responsibility for the Falcons’ success this season, limited as it may have been. Ryan’s 2018 performance was an echo of his 2016 MVP season, and the offense carried the team when injuries decimated the defense. He had almost no run game support to speak of, with Devonta Freeman and both starting guards on injured reserve, which led to a lot of instability on the offensive line. Ryan had the 27th-ranked run game in the league in his corner. The Saints running game finished the year ranked No. 6.
Even if you don’t agree that Ryan deserved this recognition, I still have to ask why it would be awarded to Brees over Jared Goff (4,688 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and 12 picks), or even Aaron Rodgers (4,442 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only two interceptions). Even Kirk Cousins and Eli Manning put up more passing yards in the NFC than Brees did this season, and Cousins threw almost as many touchdowns as Brees with 30.
As much as I enjoy talking trash about the Saints, I will freely admit that Brees has been one of the league’s best since coming to New Orleans. He’s not just a great quarterback — he’s a probable first-ballot Hall of Famer. But Matt Ryan should have been PFWA’s All-NFC quarterback in 2018.