In this three-part series, I will explore what an ‘ideal’ offseason could look like to get the Falcons back to the playoffs in 2021. In the first part, I will explain why the new regime’s ‘ideal’ offseason is worth a try by way of Matt Ryan‘s current ability. Expanding more so on his current abilities by comparing Aaron Rodgers‘ past few years in Green Bay to Matt Ryan’s past few years in Atlanta.
Using Rodgers’ 2017 and 2018 seasons, we can directly compare his play to Matt Ryan’s “down years” with Dirk Koetter from the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Comparing those years will then directly segway into Rodgers’ 2019 and 2020 seasons and how — with a new regime — the numbers differ drastically.
I am not using Ryan’s 2017 and 2018 season stats for a few reasons. First, I wanted to analyze the two quarterbacks at the same age — 34 and 35-years old. Secondly, I wanted to further concentrate their statistics by associating their “down years” with the offensive play-callers. So comparing both quarterbacks’ 2019 and 2020 seasons would negate this article’s purpose because Rodgers is in a much better situation in those two seasons than Ryan. Instead, we will use Rodgers’ ’17 and ’18 seasons with Mike McCarthy and Ryan’s ’19 and ’20 seasons with Koetter. Thirdly, offsetting the seasons will illustrate exactly how a quality system and general manager can positively affect a quarterback’s performance after just one year.
Matt Ryan ’19 & ’20 (32 Gs): 65.6% completion percentage, 52/25 (Tds/Ints), 4.2% (Td%)/ 2.1% (Int%), 6.3 (ANY/A), 63.6 (QBR)
Aaron Rodgers ’17 & ’18 (23 Gs): 63% completion percentage, 41/8 (Tds/Ints), 5.5% (Td%)/ 1.4% (Int%), 6.43 (ANY/A), 59.4 (QBR)
During the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Rodgers was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. ‘Bad play’, ‘difficult to coach’, and ‘distant’ were just a few of what those articles read — and rightfully so. Rodgers’ numbers from those two seasons were some of the lowest of his career. By all metrics, the once magical Rodgers was officially losing it.
Fast forward to 2019; Green Bay’s new general manager, Brian Gutekunst, fired Mike McCarthy in the middle of the season and hired Matt LaFleur to replace him. LaFleur, no matter how praised he is now, was highly criticized by the media when the hire took place. Many were suggesting he had just gotten the job because of Sean McVay’s merits and not his own. Well, in his first season as head coach, he won 13 games and made it to the Conference Championship with that same ‘old, stubborn, and declining’ Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers ’19 (16 Gs): 62% completion percentage, 26/4 (Tds/Ints), 4.6% (Td%)/ 0.7% (Int%), 6.71 (ANY/A), 55.6 (QBR)
To be fair, Rodgers’ 2019 season was not MVP worthy, but it was a jump in the right direction in terms of improving as a team and not individually. It was his first year in the new LaFleur system, and he still managed to get the Packers within one game of the Super Bowl. Even still, Rodgers and the Packers received criticism that they would not win the same number of close games in 2020 they did in 2019… that they were fraudulent.
It got even worse. The 2020 draft came, and instead of selecting any of the many wide receivers available to directly help Rodgers, the Packers went the other way. Gutekunst traded up in the first round and selected a quarterback — Jordan Love — sparking even more criticism that the team was moving on from their quarterback.
Aaron Rodgers ’20 (16 Gs): 70.7% completion percentage, 48/5 (Tds/Ints), 9.1% (Td%)/ 1.0% (Int%), 8.89 (ANY/A), 84.4 (QBR)
To this past season, Rodgers arguably had his best year in terms of efficiency and scoring, which will likely land him his third MVP award at 37-years-old. Two years in the same system did wonders for both the Green Bay offense and Rodgers himself. Maybe the drafting of Love had a positive effect on Rodgers, but the familiarity within the system is where I credit his success.
In a seriously out of date offense, even a first-ballot Hall of Famer will struggle. Rodgers’ down years are very similar to those of Ryan — even more so, they are the same age during those seasons. Outside of the touchdown and interception ratios, Ryan has the superior stats when comparing the two head-to-head. (Rodgers has the best TD/INT ratio of all time, so that should not be too surprising)
Matt Ryan is now receiving and having to answer those same questions that Rodgers had to. Ryan has ‘fallen off a cliff’ in the same way Rodgers had. Those down years were good years for most NFL quarterbacks, but not to Rodgers and Ryans’ standards. Rodgers, two-years older, is now proving a quarterback-friendly offense can extend the career of any quarterback. By quarterback-friendly, I mean scheming receivers open for easy completions instead of relying on winning one-on-ones. Whereas in Dirk Koetter’s offense, Ryan was regularly blamed for his offensive coordinator’s short-comings.
Ryan did not play inspiring football this year (much like Rodgers in ’17 and ’18), but if he played in a system like the current ones in Green Bay or San Francisco, nobody in Atlanta would be talking about Ryan’s decline.