For as great as he’s been throughout his career, Matt Ryan isn’t often pointed to as the shining example of excellence in any one aspect of the game. On a recent episode of The Ryen Russillo Podcast, however, Ryan drew high praise for something he works meticulously at.
Three-time Super Bowl champion and Fox Sports analyst Mark Schlereth told Rusillo that Ryan’s understanding of footwork mechanics and route timing out of the shotgun was unrivaled.
“I’ll tell you, one of the guys who is kind of quote-unquote considered ‘The Godfather’ of mechanics in shotgun is Matt Ryan. And he’ll tell you - he’ll tell all his receivers, ‘You better come out of this break on time because I will be on time with the football. I will be on time with my footwork, and if you’re not then that’s on you as a receiver. That’s not on me.’”
Having been fortunate enough to cover Ryan for four years of his career and watch him closely, the effort he puts into footwork and timing is remarkable. It may be the part of his game he takes the most pride in, or at least he makes it come across that way.
Ryan has played in a great variety of offensive schemes throughout his career, and he’s been forced to evolve as a player along the way. The league has evolved during that time as well to become much more innovative in passing the football, but when Ryan first arrived in Atlanta in 2008 he was under center a lot. That set a foundation of footwork that has allowed him to excel regardless of the weapons around him.
Schlereth gave a really insightful explanation of exactly why it’s important for a quarterback to be disciplined with his footwork. It’s a longer quote, but it’s worth the read.
“This is what happens to a lot of the kids that come out of college now, you’re always in shotgun. And so your feet don’t necessarily tie with the throws that you’re making. And this is one of the big adjustments that college quarterbacks have coming into the national football league because every route and every route combination is tied to your footwork. So, if you’re talking about West Coast offense, your feet basically throw the ball for you. So when you hit a certain point in your drop that’s where that first read in your progression has to be triggered. And when you’re lazy with that stuff, especially in shotgun, because everybody is kind of lazy with it, because you just kind of take the ball and you’re just waiting. And it’s almost becoming a side thrower.”
Under Arthur Smith, the Falcons showed much more variety in their passing schemes than they have in previous seasons. The new coaching staff thinks highly of Ryan, and this is a unique example as to why they should feel that way. A quarterback’s footwork is a topic the casual fan knows very little about, but it is absolutely crucial to the overall success of an offense.
For however long the Falcons have Ryan behind center these intricate details of the game’s most important position won’t be a problem. That’s one reason why it would be nice to have him around a little longer.