ESPN’s Bomani Jones ignited a massive argument on Twitter the other day when he claimed that Matt Ryan will not make the NFL Hall of Fame unless something “drastically changes.” Many Falcons fans rose quickly to Ryan’s defense, while others validated the comments Jones made. This is a debate that has been ongoing ever since Ryan won the MVP in 2016 and fell just shy of bringing the Falcons their first Super Bowl, to no fault of his own, finishing the game with the highest passer rating ever for a losing quarterback.
The Argument For
Numbers don’t lie, and Ryan’s are elite. He is already 10th all-time in passing yards and 11th in passing touchdowns. Breaching the top five in both categories is a reasonable feat by the end of his career. Ryan was the fastest quarterback to 40,000 yards and the second fastest to 50,000 yards. He also holds the record for most consecutive games with 200 or more passing yards with 64. He is among the all-time greats statistically, and there is no argument against that.
Ryan has some hardware to add to his resumé as well. He was the 2008 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after he led the Falcons to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance, and of course, won the MVP in 2016. That trophy holds a lot of weight in his case for the Hall of Fame, as he became the first Atlanta athlete of the 21st century in any sport to be named the Most Valuable Player.
The Argument Against
The most significant knock against Ryan is that he has not won a Super Bowl. The Falcons were so close a few years ago, and I probably wouldn’t even have to address this had they defeated the Patriots in Houston. However, Atlanta still has the stars to contend for a couple more years, especially with Matt Ryan under center, but how many more seasons can he continue to play like one of the top quarterbacks in the game? At 35, the window is closing for him to bring home the Lombardi Trophy.
Another issue has been playoff success in general. Ryan boasts a lackluster 4-6 record in the postseason. However, not all of this can be blamed solely on Ryan. Football is the ultimate team sport, and while Ryan’s playoff record may be underwhelming, his numbers certainly are not. In those ten playoff contests, Ryan has thrown 20 TDs compared to just 7 INTs — good for a passer rating of 100.8. Still, not all of that will be remembered if he cannot get over the hump and capture the elusive title of a Super Bowl champion.
The qualm people have with Matt Ryan that is so silly are his three Pro-Bowl appearances. I have never seen the Pro-Bowl as a signifcant deal as far as legacy goes. If Mitch Trubisky can make one, they shouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, which is why Ryan has turned down the opportunity to play in the game several times. Another argument that doesn’t hold much weight is that he has always had elite weapons. Yes, the Falcons offense has always been excellent, but for Ryan’s entire career, the front office has failed to assemble a defense or an offensive line capable of making the team contenders every year. Also, what great quarterback has won without having elite players surrounding him? I’ll answer that — nobody.
I consider Matt Ryan to be a future Hall-of-Famer. His numbers are too good to keep him out of Canton, and the MVP trophy puts him over the top, even if he doesn’t win a Super Bowl. If he accomplishes that, Ryan should be considered a candidate to go in on his first ballot.