For as good as Matt Ryan has been in his 12+ years with the franchise, there’s been no shortage of fans who have wanted to jettison him for a while now. His 2016 MVP season quieted some of those calls and his stellar 2018 helped again, but this 0-4 start has that chorus growing loud once again.
Here’s the thing: at 35 years old, I think the question about Ryan is now a fair one. The Falcons are almost certainly headed to a losing season and a complete overhaul of the front office and coaching staff, which changes the calculus in a way no move has since Ryan arrived in Atlanta back in 2016.
Reasons to find the next guy now
Top 5 draft picks are normally very hard to come by if you are a relatively well run organization. Despite the misgivings of this season, the Falcons have had a lot of success over the past decade. This year could be the first time since 2007 that they will even have a shot at a top 5 draft pick. That is also the range you normally have to be in to grab one of the best QB prospects of the draft. This year, that figures to be Trevor Lawrence and/or Justin Fields. While neither is a “guarantee” at the position, they both offer the type of athleticism that offensive coordinators are looking for in the NFL now.
While the team simply can’t afford to move on from Matt Ryan in 2021 and likely would not want to, having a veteran of his caliber help ease the transition for your next QB is a rare commodity. When you get to 2022, if that new QB is ready, Ryan will likely still have tremendous trade value, which could be critical to a Falcons team looking to rebuild.
Additionally, any head coach that comes in should have an eye towards the future. The guy you bring in should be thinking about sustainable success and not just maximizing a closing window for the best QB in your franchise’s history. That doesn’t mean Ryan has to go immediately, but it’s not unreasonable that a new coach will want to find “his guy” to build the future around.
Reasons to wait
Simply put: this roster has a lot of issues, and right now QB is not one of them. Ryan can realistically play at a high level for another 3 or 4 years, especially if you pair him with a competent offensive coordinator, and may even be able to stretch quite play into his 40s the way Tom Brady and (to a lesser extent) Drew Brees have. The offensive side of the ball is loaded with young talent that will be on the roster for several years along with Ryan. Assuming you fix the dismal running game, you can move away from an offense that relies on the QB throwing it nearly 50 times per game. That’s not a sustainable practice for any QB, much less one in his mid-30s, but a quality offensive line and receiving corps helps a lot.
Likewise, the defensive side of the ball has quite a few holes to fill. It will be much easier for a new head coach to find success if he can immediately focus his attention to one half of the roster instead of blowing up the whole thing. By focusing on defense, the team can commit draft capital towards pass rushers or safeties or linebackers. All while a former MVP QB and two star receivers carry the offense for a few more years until you’re ready to begin that rebuild.
When you consider the Falcons cap constraints, any new coach is going to be very limited in what he can do in free agency in the first couple of years in Atlanta. He’s going to have to make due with parts of the roster, and it would make sense to stick with the offense that has brought this team a lot of success over the years since it’s pretty built out already.
What do you think? It’s not a fun conversation to have, but there truly are merits to at least asking the question. You can vote in our poll below and/or share your thoughts in the comments. Let’s keep it civil, folks.
Draft a QB?
This poll is closed
Yes, go for a 1st rounder
Yes, but a later round pick
No, Ryan’s the guy now and in the immediate future