After nearly a decade-and-a-half as the Atlanta Falcons’ starting quarterback, Matt Ryan is headed north to Indianapolis. It’s truly the end of an era for the franchise.
There have been enough words written on this website about what this loss means for the team, the fans and for Ryan, himself, so let’s take a different approach. We’ve compiled some of our favorite stories about Matty Ice throughout his run with the Falcons. Some of these cover major milestones in his career, and some of the stories offer brief looks at the narratives that often followed Ryan – for better and for worse.
The Falcons may have turned the page, but I wanted to try to capture as best I could an overarching view of Ryan’s time with the team. So, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Dave Choate wrote this nomination for ESPN midway through Ryan’s first season. The rookie quarterback was well on his way towards helping the Falcons to a surprise playoff berth, but Dave, as he often does, saw greater possibilities on the horizon:
“I can’t call his career this early on, but it seems to me there’s a very good chance that Ryan will be a very good quarterback for a long time. If that happens, he could deliver the first sustained success we Falcons fans have ever seen.”
Any list of this variety wouldn’t be complete without including some of the Matt Ryan debate that followed him throughout his career. After his third-straight playoff failure, Ryan’s detractors were reaching a fever pitch – leading to this impassioned plea from James Rael shortly ahead of a major leap from the quarterback.
In the midst of his first foray into the golden waters of MVP conversation, it became clear that Ryan had reached another level in his career. He also showed a fire that fans hadn’t necessarily seen before, highlighted by his lovely “Get the f*** off my field” comment after beating the Carolina Panthers. That was enough to convince Rael that this was a different version of Ryan.
One of the strongest narratives surrounding Ryan during the first half of his career was his penchant for delivering game-winning drives. Clutch performances and throws validated his Matty Ice nickname, and Ryan’s unflappable confidence in late-game scenarios made him one of the most exciting quarterbacks to watch with the game on the line. Alex Welch explained why after the 18th such drive of Ryan’s career.
Even after taking the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game during the 2012 season, Ryan still hadn’t won over all of the fan base – a task that would (for some reason) prove impossible. This time it was David Walker who came to No. 2’s defense, absolutely firing back at the notion that Ryan was “overrated” at this point in his career.
After his first major contract extension, many opinions surfaced about whether or not the Falcons were wise to invest in their young star with a poor playoff record. Dave, however, didn’t flinch, acknowledging why the arguments against the extension didn’t hold up to scrutiny.
The 2013-15 seasons was the first time in Ryan’s professional career that the Falcons had a sustained losing period. Confidence in the team was waning severely by the end of 2015 when the Falcons shocked the rest of the league by handing the Carolina Panthers their first loss of the season in the second-to-last game. The victory was highlighted by a beautiful deep touchdown from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones, who leaped over All-Pro Luke Kuechly to make the grab. Jeanna Kelley correctly identified this as a springboard moment for a magical 2016.
This piece by Adnan Ikic is part of a series looking back at some of Ryan’s best moments as part of the franchise (hey, wait a minute!). It’s an excellent recap of Ryan’s greatest season thus far in his NFL career, which earned him the franchise’s first-ever league MVP award.
My only entry on this list was one of the first stories I wrote for The Falcoholic. I was moved at the time to write about the narrative surrounding the 2016 MVP race, which was shaping up between Ryan, Tom Brady and – amazingly – Derek Carr. I looked at the numbers between all three and the arguments for and against each, arriving at the conclusion that Ryan was the clear choice.
Possibly inspired by my stirring prose just a few weeks earlier, Jeanna continued to drive the Ryan for MVP bandwagon after the Falcons’ season-ending victory against their hated rival. It was another virtuoso performance from Ryan in the game, who would go on to collect the hardware but had his sights set on more.
I believe it was Confucius who once said, “Haters gonna hate, and ainters gonna aint.” Well, Jeanna took a flamethrower to those haters, explaining what they missed about Ryan’s play throughout the 2016 season.
In the lead-up to Atlanta’s second Super Bowl appearance, many were reflecting on the path that led them there and the quarterback who made it possible. David Walker looked back on each of Ryan’s seasons leading up to the big game, shining a light on the magnitude of the moment.
Over a decade into his career and the debate about Matt Ryan rages on. Eric Robinson put together a wonderfully detailed look at the arc of Ryan’s career and why fans may feel the way they do about the long-time Falcon. It’s unclear how those feelings will evolve now that Ryan is elsewhere and Atlanta will turn the page at the position, but there is no telling the Falcons-Ryan story without including the weird fascination people had with debating his ability.
Do you have a favorite Matt Ryan story from over the years that we left out? Let us know in the comments below!