We spend quite a bit of time talking about Matt Ryan’s place in team and NFL history, for the twin reasons that he’s one of those rare Falcons with a shot at Canton and because it seems apropos to look back at his career now with Dirk Koetter and Mike Mularkey returning. For all the time we spend on the good times, though, it’s worth noting that a dark cloud has hung over the Falcons nearly his entire career.
That dark cloud is the state of the defense. We’ve known for some time now that the Falcons have often won in spite of their D, but this tweet from Austrian analyst ViennaFalcons is beyond sobering, in that it erases the couple of feel-good years and puts Ryan’s entire run in the context of the defenses he’s been working with.
Let's update this old tweet: Over Matt Ryan's career (08-18) ATL D ranks...— Vienna Falcons (@ViennaFalcons) March 6, 2019
-22nd in passer rating allowed
-26th in comp% allwd
-26th in Y/A allwd
-27th in total yrds allwd
-27th in 1D allwd
-29th in Y/C allwd
-30th in pass yrds allwd
-32nd in sacks
-32nd in 3D conv % allwd https://t.co/uO4kQi1G4a
Simply put, the Falcons have made the playoffs in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, and 2017 despite a bottom ten defense, and nearly won a Super Bowl with one that was just a bit better. The offense has been prolific in almost every single year of Ryan’s career, and some years that hasn’t even been enough to overcome the team’s ongoing struggles to stop opposing teams.
Given this, it’s all the more remarkable that the Falcons have been a good team so often in Ryan’s career, and it’s a testament to Ryan, his stellar supporting cast, and the team’s long-suffering good defenders, not to mention the leg of Matt Bryant. It’s remarkable how much draft capital and free agent dollars have gone into these defenses under two defensive head coaches with tangible progress so often being erased the very next season.
There’s a reason Dan Quinn is seizing the reins of the defense this offseason, and it’s primarily because he both senses that his time in Atlanta might grow short if he doesn’t improve the defense, but also because the defense he has is talented enough to start to break out of this unfortunate mold. It would be fair to say we’re well overdue for that.