Falcons: Remembering Matt Ryan’s rookie season

NFL: DEC 14 Buccaneers at Falcons

The Falcons are officially in quarterback purgatory.

There was a slight chance that Desmond Ridder cemented himself as the franchise’s next long-term option at the position, but after his second benching, it’s clear the club will once again be in the market for a quarterback this offseason.

Getting out of purgatory isn’t easy, but it can happen with one move. The draft class has three really intriguing prospects at the top in Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels. All will require a significant trade up the draft board. That’s a small price to pay for a potential franchise quarterback, though.

Justin Fields is also going to constantly be linked to Atlanta this offseason as the Bears seem set to move him in favor of one of the top prospects in the draft. He’s young, oozing with potential and makes sense on paper. There’s a possibility that he could potentially be the long-term answer for the Falcons.

All of this is to say that finding a franchise quarterback is incredibly hard, and it’s new territory for Falcons fans, who were blessed with the steady play of Matt Ryan for more than a decade.

The grass ain’t always greener on the other side. A lot of fans in Atlanta are reminiscing on the days Matty Ice roamed the Georgia Dome in the fourth quarter waiting to lead a game-winning drive. Watching Desmond Ridder all season has brought a newfound admiration for Ryan.

The Boston College product stepped into the starting role and immediately led the Falcons to a postseason berth. It was a magical 2008 season that was chock-full of great moments. I mean, for god’s sake, the man’s first NFL pass went for a touchdown.

He ended the season with 3,440 passing yards, 16 touchdowns to 11 interceptions en route to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. It was one of the best seasons from a rookie quarterback we’ve seen in recent memory, and it came in ranked 6th in ESPN’s rankings of the best rookie quarterback seasons of the past 25 years.

Two rookie quarterbacks led their teams to the postseason in 2008, and Ryan was the better of the two even if Joe Flacco is the one who has had the longer career.

Ryan threw “only” 16 passing touchdowns, but that hides just how efficient he was. He ranked third out of all quarterbacks with 7.4 net yards per pass attempt in 2008. He did this against a difficult schedule, with half of his games against teams that ranked in the top 10 for pass defense DVOA.

Ryan also got better as the season progressed. His best game by DYAR came in Week 6 against the Bears, when he went 22-of-30 for 301 yards with a touchdown and no picks or sacks just before the bye week. Even if you split the season after that game, however, he averaged 47 passing DYAR per game before the bye week and 73 passing DYAR per game afterward. He went from 7.2 yards per pass before the bye to 8.3 yards per pass after.

Ryan would rank second on our list if we counted only passing value, but he had negative rushing value in 2008. He failed on a couple of quarterback sneaks and had two fumbles on scrambles late in the season.

The Falcons find themselves searching for Matt Ryan’s long-term successor, so it’s only right that we remember his rookie season that kicked off the career of the greatest quarterback in franchise history.

Photographer: Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire


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