Remember when we looked back at quarterback and Matt Ryan was the only starter over from 2008-2018 and you just kind of had to marvel. The story here isn’t quite the same, but Matt Bryant’s remarkable run with the Falcons offers a story of stability and greatness few have enjoyed.
Let’s dive in.
|2009||Jason Elam||Matt Bryant|
|2015||Matt Bryant||Shayne Graham|
|2018||Matt Bryant||Giorgio Tavecchio|
You may recall the Elam years. The three-time Pro Bowler was wrapping up his career by the time he arrived in Atlanta, having spent about a decade-and-a-half kicking at a pretty high level. His 2008 season was a master class, as he nailed 93.5% of his field goals, and there was no reason to expect that he’d suddenly drop off.
He did, though, setting the stage for my Matt Bryant-related age anxieties over the next decade. Elam was hitting just 63% of his field goals when the Falcons mercifully pulled the plug, ceding the kicking job to Matt Bryant, who was out on the street as a free agent at the time. He would make that look like one of the most brilliant moves in team history.
It’s worth noting that in 2009, the Falcons had not one but three quality kickers on their roster at one point. I stumped hard for the team to give the job to Steven Hauschka to start the year, a move that would have meant no Bryant and thus would have been unlikely to work out as well, but would have given the Falcons a young kicker who has had an excellent career in the NFL. It’s an interesting “what if?” but the Falcons made out great with their decisions.
Bryant, of course, ceded injury-related kicks to Shayne Graham and Giorgio Tavecchio in 2015 and 2018 but was otherwise durable, astoundingly great, and leaves the team with every single franchise kicking record as a result of his skill and longevity. He was the best kicker this team is likely to ever see and the decision to sign him wound up being the kind of mix of good scouting and incredible luck every team needs to stay good for any length of time. Now that he’s gone, I’m going to miss him terribly.