Today we’re kick off a new series breaking down the change (or lack thereof) to every position on the roster over time. We begin, quite naturally, with quarterback.
This Falcons roster has changed a lot over the years, cycling out stars and scrubs since Thomas Dimitroff and Matt Ryan arrived in 2008. As you’ll see when we go forward, some positions have changed almost on a yearly basis, and very few have been stable over the course of the last decade-plus.
One of those, fortunately, is quarterback. The position is widely perceived to be the most important on the field, and in Matt Ryan, the team stumbled upon the most successful QB in the franchise’s history. It’s not just that Ryan has every passing record in franchise history at this point, is one of just two QBs (alongside Chris Chandler, of all people) to pilot the Falcons to a Super Bowl, and has been a key piece of the winningest era in team history. It’s that he’s been so remarkably available this entire time, which is an underrated skill for a franchise quarterback given the backup situation around the NFL.
The chart below maps out the quarterbacks the team has had on its roster from 2008-2018. You’ll notice a common thread.
Falcons QB Evolution
|2008||Matt Ryan||Chris Redman|
|2009||Matt Ryan||Chris Redman||John Parker Wilson|
|2010||Matt Ryan||Chris Redman||John Parker Wilson|
|2011||Matt Ryan||Chris Redman||John Parker Wilson|
|2012||Matt Ryan||Luke McCown||Dominique Davis|
|2013||Matt Ryan||Dominique Davis||Sean Renfree|
|2014||Matt Ryan||T.J. Yates||Sean Renfree|
|2015||Matt Ryan||Sean Renfree|
|2016||Matt Ryan||Matt Schaub|
|2017||Matt Ryan||Matt Schaub|
|2018||Matt Ryan||Matt Schaub|
This team has managed to hold on to a handful of multi-year backups, most notably Chris Redman, Dominique Davis, Sean Renfree, and Matt Schaub, who is entering his fourth season as Matt Ryan’s clipboard holding pal. That entire time, though, Ryan has been the starter, missing just two games back in 2009 and throwing for 46,720 yards and 295 touchdowns over that span. Ryan is not solely responsible for the team’s success from 2008-2018, but he’s very much a key factor in it, and you need only look at the Buccaneers to see what happens when you can’t find your guy at the most vital position on the field. The Falcons are in flux and their talent is exciting but in spots very unproven heading into 2019, but you can feel confident that they’ll compete because of franchise rocks like Ryan, Julio Jones, and of late, Jake Matthews.
What can we glean from the trend in this chart above? The Falcons are going to ride Ryan until the day he retires, which is hopefully many years away, but their backup picture has tended to be 3-4 years of steady veteran play followed by experimentation with a younger player. If that trend continues, as I noted earlier today, the Falcons will probably turn to Kurt Benkert or another young quarterback once Matt Schaub’s time in Atlanta winds down, likely in 2020.
Next time out, we’ll look at running back, a position which has enjoyed a fair amount of stability but reminds us just how short the shelf life at that position can be.