"With all of these players switching teams [through free agency and trades], you're basically cheering on laundry." --Jerry Seinfeld
The Falcons fan has been cheering Matt Ryan for 14 years. Think back to the 2007-2008 offseason for just a moment ... He almost single-handedly rescued, rehabilitated, and revived our favorite franchise. Before Matt Ryan, the franchise didn't have back-to-back winning seasons in over 40 years!!! He ended that immediately with five straight winning records, and four out five playoff appearances. (Ryan detractors should read that last line again.) Those of us who knew the state of the ATL following that 2007 season never would've thought that was possible. Ryan did it, and we loved him for it. Then we wanted the Falcons to trade him, or not resign him, because he couldn't win in the playoffs. PLAYOFFS? We're talking about PLAYOFFS? For the Atlanta Falcons? Yes we were, and we had Matt Ryan for helping put the Atlanta Falcons in that conversation.
A nationally syndicated sports columnist wrote in 2012 that he was so sick of seeing the same teams in the playoffs year after year, and he put the Atlanta Falcons on the list of teams he was sick of seeing. I was so stunned I had to reread what the man wrote a couple times, as I was so used to idiots, like him, taking shots at my favorite team. I looked it up, and The Falcons had been in the playoffs four out of five years at that point. I, like you, was so upset at the Falcons' playoff losses that I failed to consider how much consistency this #3 pick out of Boston College brought to the franchise. For those of us who have been Falcons' fans our whole life it's tough for us to realize we had a QB who engineered so many victories that it made a sports writer sick. (The theme of this article was that the much desired parity of the NFL failed, because the same teams are always in the playoffs.)
Drafting any player is a crapshoot, and drafting a QB makes or breaks a franchise from the bottom up, and it can rejuvenate a city. Most of my friends were disappointed by the draft, because they wanted Glenn Dorsey who they thought he was a sure thing. So, Matt Ryan went on to take over the most challenging position in all of sports, physically, mentally, and health-wise, and he missed three games in fourteen years.
Was Matt Ryan an elite quarterback? He was not in the P. Manning, Brady, Rogers, Brees (sorry Saints haters!), or Favre league, so he wasn't a top-five quarterback, and he'll probably be on the outside looking in Hall of Fame voting, depending on what he does for Indy. Was he in the top ten QB along with A. Manning, Wilson, and Rivers? I don't see how anyone outside the city of New Orleans could say he was't a top ten QB in Atlanta for fourteen years.
Through a series of missteps, the franchise fell apart, but Matt Ryan never complained, and he tried to win every single game of every year he played for the franchise. He did not win a Super Bowl for the Falcons throughout his 14-year tenure, but think about how close he brought them, and not just in the New England collapse. As the focal point of the franchise, Ryan receives most of the credit and most of the blame for the franchise, and rightly so with how much QB-play dictates wins and losses in the current game, but he can't block for himself, he can't catch the passes he throws, or play defense. Even a QB has to rely on his teammates to take some of the load off him. So, did Ryan fail in certain circumstances, or did his teammates fail him? We can probably find examples of both, but did Matt Ryan usually put the franchise in a position to win? I would say yes, more often than not, yes. (Unless we see a franchise QB in the next few years, I think even the biggest Ryan detractors on this board will eventually recognize that point.)
In the last few seasons, Matt Ryan saw his peers, Brady and Stafford, QBs, who both spent over ten years of their careers with the same franchise, leave, and win a Super Bowl ring. My guess is that Stafford's ring stung, because Ryan knows he's at least as good as Stafford, and everyone knew that the Lions would be rebuilding in 2021. Did Ryan want to go through another rebuild at 37? Or, did he see Stafford's 2021 season and think, "I can do that." He left our beloved team, and like Stafford and Brady, and he decided to go to a team that has several chess pieces in place to do just that. He claimed he saw the writing on the wall in Atlanta after the Watson chase, and it likely had something to do with it, but I think seeing Stafford win a Super Bowl ring really put his desire to force a trade in high gear. (My question is if either party hinted at the idea that they wanted to move on pre-Watson, why did the Falcons wait so long to put out feelers. My guess is that if they do it sooner, they get more than a third-round pick, but I could be wrong, and that's for another time and another rant.)
My question to you is, after everything Matt Ryan brought to this franchise, gave this franchise, and left it, are you going to root for him in blue in '22? Are you going to remain bitter for the way things turned out? Will you blame Ryan if the Falcons don't win in '22, or will you think, "How can I blame him for leaving for what some are arguing could be Armageddon to what could be paradise, in the twilight of his career? How many years does the normal 37-year-old QB have left in this league? Was he going to win a Super Bowl in Atlanta in 2022. No. Could he win one in blue? Many are saying that it's more than possible with the lineup they play to put on the field in '22. Put yourself in his shoes, what would you remember more about your career, the idea that you stayed loyal, no matter what for 16-17 years, or a Super Bowl ring?
I know there will be some who write that the Falcons paid him over $250 million dollars over the course his 14-years to bring a trophy home, and he failed. That's right, but if you've cheered on this franchise as long as I have, you know how much Ryan did to change the culture in the ATL, and he did it with a level consistency the loyal Falcon fan might never see again. So, long story short, I am an Atlanta Falcon fan, and I will be one for life, but in 2022 I will also be a Matt Ryan fan, as I will be cheering on the Indianapolis Colts throughout the season, and the postseason, but I will not be cheering them onto victory against the Falcons in Super Bowl LVII.