Is Matt Ryan elite? This is a question that Falcons fans have been bickering about for the better part of the last decade. That debate probably should have ended in 2016, when Matt Ryan took home the MVP trophy. Yet, there were still people who could not let go, clinging to the idea that Kyle Shanahan was simply a genius offensive coordinator. Regardless of the fact, that none of his former QBs even sniffed the caliber of play Ryan displayed over the course of his MVP campaign.
It’s a debate that still occurs today, and has even been heightened by comments like those of Jalen Ramsey, who claimed Ryan was “overrated” in his infamous “Me vs. the world” tirade to GQ. That interview may have affected Ramsey’s performance on the field, but Ryan has not blinked.
The 2016 NFL MVP is putting together an even better show in 2018. This time, with Steve Sarkisian calling the shots. The same Steve Sarkisian, that many regarded as one of the worst offensive play callers in the league last season. But like his quarterback, Sarkisian hasn’t let the noise get in the way of building the league’s most potent offensive attack.
That’s been key to the Falcons battling through a host of injuries on the defensive side of the ball. The offense has had to be at the top of their game, and they have rarely disappointed especially at the quarterback position.
Ryan has put the team on his back, leading the entire NFL in passing through the first seven weeks. He’s currently on pace to easily top 5,000 yards for the first time in his career. In fact, most of his numbers so far in 2018 are on pace to be career bests.
Matt Ryan stats (2016):
Completion percentage: 69.9%
QB Rating: 117.1
Matt Ryan stats (2018 projected)
Completion percentage: 71.1%
QB Rating: 114.2
Just looking at the stats, you can easily make a case that Ryan is having a better year this season than in 2016. However, I’ll take it one step further to show why that is 100% the case (I have to give credit to Reddit user: cburl08 for helping me out with this one).
The Falcons may have some of the best receiving weapons in the NFL, but what really determines how much success many quarterbacks have is pressure. Through seven weeks, there have only been 5 quarterbacks sacked 20 or more times: Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Eli Manning, Deshaun Watson and you guessed it, Matt Ryan. Let’s take a look at their passer ratings.
Allen- 61.8 passer rating
Prescott- 85.6 passer rating
Watson- 89.9 passer rating
Manning- 94.1 passer rating
In comparison, there have only been five quarterbacks that have been sacked less than 10 times: Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Tom Brady, Ben Rothlisberger and Patrick Mahomes. Coincidently, there are only five players that have a passer rating higher than 110, however, one of these guys probably shouldn’t be here.
Brees- 121.6 passer rating
Rivers- 117.8 passer rating
Matt Ryan- 114.2 passer rating
Patrick Mahomes 114.0 passer rating
Jared Goff- 112.7 passer rating (sacked 12 times)
Ryan is doing more now with one of the least effective offensive lines he has ever had. What’s even more impressive, is his ability to protect the ball in light of all the pressure he has been under. Ryan has only thrown two interceptions, both which really were not his fault. The first came on a miscommunication with Julio Jones in week one and the second came as he was being hit after Austin Hooper misses a block.
Protecting the football has become a trend for Ryan. According to Pro Football Focus, Ryan threw the least amount of passes that should have been intercepted in 2017.
No, Atlanta is not about to have another MVP trophy headed to their city. Everybody knows how the NFL likes to spread the award around as most leagues do. He doesn’t have the story or the team to really earn the attention of the voters. That would belong to the likes of Drew Brees, who has never won an MVP despite being one of the best quarterbacks of all-time, and Patrick Mahomes, the rookie sensation who has revitalized football in Kansas City.
However, there is definitely an argument to be made, that if there were some type of hypothetical three-year MVP trophy, Ryan would get the nod for his performance. Since the end of the 2015 season few, if any, have been as consistently dominant as Ryan. There is absolutely no question he belongs in the same conversation as the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees right now.