Good article on Ryan
11-30-2010, 06:31 AM
Good article on Ryan
"Matty Ice" Fueling Red-Hot Falcons
ATLANTA -- Which is the best team in an NFL dominated by mediocrity disguised as parity? Nobody knows, but you should know that if the Atlanta Falcons don't reach Cowboys Stadium in February for the Super Bowl, they'll come within one of their tail feathers.
The truth is, this collection of Falcons would be impressive even in a stronger league.
Enlightened management. Splendid coaching. A bruising running game that is spurred by an efficient offensive line. Clutch wide receivers and a Hall of Fame tight end. An opportunistic defense, along with a field-goal kicker who never misses when it counts.
And Matt Ryan.
Definitely, Matt Ryan.
It's about Ryan, all right, since it's always about the quarterback in the NFL, and this guy with the calm of an assassin is helping the Falcons evolve into the 21st-century version of the Dirty Birds. The original ones flew 12 years ago, and they won the NFC championship game with Chris Chandler, who was a solid quarterback, but who was no Matt Ryan.
"I think that right now, him, Trent Green and Rich Gannon are right there at the top of any quarterback I've ever played with," said Tony Gonzalez, that future Hall of Fame tight end, of Ryan. "He has to keep doing what he's been doing by improving week in and week out. He just needs experience. The more he gets, the more comfortable he'll be on the field, and the better we'll do as an offense.
"But I really think that before it's all said and done, Matt could be one of the better ones.
"He will be the best."
Thomas George: Falcons Seemingly Unstoppable at Home
That is, the best that Gonzalez ever played with. He didn't mean the best quarterback ever -- I think. At the moment, Ryan isn't even the best in the league, which is why we need a little perspective here.
At the top of Ryan's peers, you have Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, because they've fluctuated between pretty good and pretty great, and they've also won Super Bowls.
Philip Rivers hasn't, and neither has Michael Vick, but they've been to multiple Pro Bowls.
Then you have Aaron Rodgers, who has survived Brett Favre's shadow enough to keep the Green Bay Packers vibrant. You also have Ryan's contemporary, Joe Flacco, who finished last year as just the fourth starting quarterback since the 1970 merger to reach the playoffs in his first two NFL seasons.
"The pressure never gets to him. For him, it's about being able to stay calm. ... He ends up throwing in crunch time like he's in somebody's backyard playing pickup football. "
-- Falcons RB Ovie Mughelli on Matt Ryan So, if you had a huge game that you had to win today, you'd start by taking Manning, Brady or Roethlisberger.
Or would you?
Ryan keeps succeeding in these last-minute (literally) dramas for the Falcons without blinking -- the latest came against the Packers on Sunday at the Georgia Dome, where he is now 19-1. That's because, with 49 seconds left in a 17-17 tie, Ryan completed four straight passes (along the way to going 24 of 28 for 198 yards and a touchdown overall) to set up Matt Bryant's game-wining field goal of 47 yards.
Last month, the Falcons trailed the San Francisco 49ers with 82 seconds left, but Ryan pushed his team downfield for a game-winning field goal of 43 yards from Bryant.
Several weeks later, there was the Baltimore Ravens game that was considered the pivotal game for the Falcons before Sunday's. Inside the last minute, Ryan ignored another deficit for a game-winning touchdown pass of 33 yards to Roddy White.
This Matty Ice thing didn't just happen this year for the Falcons. Consider his rookie year: His first NFL pass was a 62-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins. It was the longest touchdown pass of more than 50 yards by somebody making his NFL debut since 1969, when somebody named Roger Staubach did it.
In addition, Ryan's first season featured the most perfect throw you'll ever see, when he connected with Jenkins with one second left against the Chicago Bears. The play went for 26 yards, and the Falcons then hit a game-winning field goal as time expired.
Speaking of Staubach, this is the stuff of that Dallas Cowboys legend whose calm in a huddle ranked with that of Joe Montana.
As for Ryan's huddle ...
Falcons running back Ovie Mughelli laughed, shaking his head.
"Ohhhh," Mughelli finally said. "Probably poise would be the word that would describe it best. The pressure never gets to him. For him, it's about being able to stay calm. It's about staying focused. It's about playing like it's any other down. He ends up throwing in crunch time like he's in somebody's backyard playing pickup football."
That's interesting, but what does Ryan say in the huddle? What does he do, and how is he able to inspire? Mughelli added, "He starts by saying, 'Y'all calm down. You've got to breathe.' His objective is to get us to the level that he's at. Some of us -- especially myself -- I'm a fullback, so I'm hyped, and I'm excited. I want to hit somebody."
In contrast, Ryan always looks as if he is preparing for a stroll in flip-flops along a quiet stream.
So much for appearances. According to the guy who began the weekend with the best passer rating against the blitz (98.7) of anybody not named Drew Brees, he keeps an inferno in his belly.
"I must hide my emotions very well, because I get fired up before the game, and I get anxious every week," Ryan said. "It doesn't change. With that said, when you get out there, and you start playing the game, and you've put in a great week of preparation, it allows you to just go out there and play and trust in your abilities."
Which brings me to a reason I said that management is "enlightened" and that coaching is "splendid."
Atlanta's dynamic duo of general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith inherited one of the biggest messes in NFL history when they came to the Falcons after the 2007 season. Not only was the franchise fresh from Michael Vick's dogfighting horrors, but its previous coach, Bobby Petrino, bolted in the middle of the night before the end of his first season to call Hogs at Arkansas.
Given the above, along with the Falcons' third pick overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, Dimitroff and Smith had to select a quarterback to replace Vick, and it had to be the right one.
"In doing our due diligence, we put him through a lot of things. We put him under pressure," said Smith of Ryan, who was a four-year starter at Boston College. "We had a dinner in Boston, and it was about nine of us from the Falcons, and it was just him. He was fine in that pressure-packed situation, where he's sitting with the owner, the general manager, the head coach, the offensive coordinator, the quarterbacks coach ...
"You could see very quickly he was calm, cool and collected."
Now all Ryan must do to join the elite on an official level is grab a ring sooner rather than later.
11-30-2010, 02:05 PM
RE: Good article on Ryan
Great read. Thanks for the article.
I started off thinking it would be another attempt to minimize our accomplishments (every team in the league being worse than previous seasons, refusing to accept that parity is at work, and by extension inferring that the good teams this year are not very good) but he backtracked on that line of thought quickly. A little info about the huddle with Ryan, some reminiscing about some of the big plays (and FO moves) we have made the past three years, two important pieces of our offense chiming in; good stuff.
Definitely a decent showing by T. Moore.