The Falcons are at a pivotal point in franchise history. Whether we like it or not, Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff were handed one last chance to right the ship. They are still in control, which means yet another year of this team’s overall trajectory is in their hands.
Rarely mentioned in all the discussion about the Falcons getting back on track in 2020 is how the continuation of the Quinn and Dimitroff eras will affect Matt Ryan’s future with the team. It’s hard to imagine life as a Falcons fan without Matt Ryan under center. Sure, he wasn’t the first great quarterback to don a Falcons uniform. Steve Bartkowski, Chris Chandler, and Mike Vick paved his way, each in their own way. But Ryan is and has been the guy for over a decade.
I had a recent conversation with a friend that rightfully considers himself a lifelong Bears fan. Having grown up in the Chicagoland area, he’s endured hapless play from a long list of mediocre quarterbacks. “I wish we had Matt Ryan,” he told me. “Yah, I know,” I responded.
But imagine for a second a worst case scenario where the Falcons don’t get back on track in 2020. (Let’s be honest, you’ve likely imagined it already.) They sputter out the gate and fail to make the playoffs, notwithstanding their heavy reliance on some truly original and motivating slogan(s) and catchphrase(s).
Ryan will turn 35 in May. He’s far from the baby-faced newbie the Falcons drafted in 2008. He’s ... seen things. Compound his age with another disappointing season and what will you get? Haters. Lots of them.
NFL fan bases are a finicky bunch. And let’s be honest, the Falcons fan base is really no exception. Because we invest substantial time, money, and energy in this team, we want results. We feel like we deserve results. So when those results don’t come, right or wrong, we react. It’s only a matter of time before Ryan becomes a target. Heck, if you’ve been here long enough, you’ve likely already seen this inexplicable phenomenon crop up here and there. With guys like Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes suddenly dominating the NFL landscape, the presence of fans that aren’t enamored with Ryan’s more traditional skill set isn’t shocking, even if that mentality is flawed on its face.
So this is your warning, Falcons fans. The older Ryan gets, the more vulnerable to criticism, both fair and unfair, he becomes. Because I have little faith in the current regime’s ability to get this team back on track in 2020, I can only imagine what next offseason might bring. The Ryan haters will come on slow at first but over time they will be hard to ignore. Inasmuch as we can keep the conversation factual, Ryan’s legacy will endure. But fast forward a couple of years and they may have a loud voice in this conversation.
Keep your head on a swivel.