Matt Ryan is coming off arguably the worst season of his career statistically. The veteran quarterback finished his first year under Arthur Smith completing 67% of his passes for 3,968 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. It was also arguably the worst supporting cast he’s had in his career with the Falcons.
Ryan was hit more than any other quarterback in the league this year, which can be attributed to the lack of protection, subpar running game, underwhelming receiving core, and missteps by the coaching staff. It really isn’t fair to blame Ryan for the Falcons’ shortcomings in the first season under the new regime.
Given his poor play and the team’s overall struggles, many question whether the Falcons should keep Ryan. It is fair to criticize the team and Ryan, but critics have to recognize that improvement in 2022 is certain.
The Falcons will more than likely keep Ryan for the 2022 season. It is also fair to assume Fontenot will field better offensive personnel in his second season at the helm. Combine those roster improvements with Ryan’s familiarity within the system, and there should be an improvement.
The best point of reference in this argument is Ryan’s 2015-16 seasons under Kyle Shanahan. In his first season under Shanahan, Ryan completed 66.3% of his passes for 4,591 yards, 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Those numbers are eerily similar to Ryan’s 2021 season under Smith. Then, Ryan and Shanahan put their heads together, coming and setting the league on fire in 2016.
Ryan had one of the greatest seasons we’ve ever seen. He completed 69.9% of his passes for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and only seven interceptions on his way to league MVP. The progress in the system was evident; Ryan looked in control of the offense, and Shanahan seemed to have a better grasp of what Ryan did and didn’t do well.
It is safe to assume Ryan and the offense will take a step forward in 2022, but it really isn’t reasonable to expect a similar leap from 2015 to 2016. Since then, Ryan’s play has declined, and his surrounding personnel is significantly worse. However, that isn’t to say there can’t be substantial growth under Smith in his second season; in fact, I feel that it is certain Ryan will improve.
Smith and Ryan will likely take a similar approach this offseason as the veteran quarterback and Shanahan did before the 2016 season. There have to be improvements along the offensive line and to the receiving core, but Ryan and Smith’s familiarity with each other should only benefit the Falcons offense.
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