Despite both of their illustrious tenures ending in horrible fashion, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones can expect no Falcons quarterback or wide receiver to don #2 or #11, respectively, Arthur Smith told reporters following Wednesday’s practice.
Arthur Smith said he won't put a QB at 2 or a WR at 11 despite not officially retiring those numbers.
— Daniel Flick (@DFlickDraft) August 2, 2023
Matt Ryan is the greatest quarterback and Julio Jones is the greatest receiver in franchise history. Both will eventually end up in the Falcons Ring of Honor, and the latter will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, while the former also has a shot to get to Canton.
Nevertheless, Ryan spent 14 seasons in Atlanta after the club selected the Boston College product third overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. He’d go on to break every major passing record for the Falcons, including passing yards, passing touchdowns, attempts, completions, passer rating, and wins.
What’s most impressive is his impact off the field. When he took over as signal caller, the franchise was in turmoil following Michael Vick‘s arrest and Bobby Petrino’s decision to leave the team in the middle of the season. Ryan took over and immediately led the Falcons to the playoffs en route to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
However, the Falcons completely botched the end of his career. A combination of poor front office decisions culminated in the club pursuing disgraced Deshaun Watson, leaving Ryan to pick up the pieces. The least they can do is never let someone wear #2 ever again.
Julio Jones’ tenure was a bit different. His career is that of a sure-fire Hall of Famer. In November of 2018, he became the fastest player in league history to reach 10,000 yards then became the franchise record holder for all-time receiving yards the next year. Then, in 2020, he became the all-time career receptions leader for the Falcons.
Moreover, Jones’ 87.9 receiving yards per game is the second highest in NFL history, and as of 2022, he is tied for third all-time in career games with 100 yards receiving with 59. However, injuries eventually derailed his career. Not willing to stick around for a rebuild entering the twilight of his career, Jones forced his way out of Atlanta via a live TV phone call with Shannon Sharpe.
The Falcons don’t retire numbers, but if they were to start somewhere, #2 and #11 would be great places to do so.
Photographer: Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire