Much has been made about the Falcons’ handling of the end of Matt Ryan‘s tenure and the short-lived pursuit of troubled star Deshaun Watson. At the beginning of the offseason, there was a lot of debate regarding the future of the long-time Falcons’ quarterback. There were obvious signs that Ryan wouldn’t be able to succeed in Atlanta, primarily due to the mediocre personnel surrounding him.
Should they trade him? Should they run it back while slowly building the roster around him? This was the exact deliberation going on inside Flowery Branch. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot talked for months about what to do with Ryan, which coincided with the pursuit of Watson.
At quarterback, Atlanta was going to consider all its options. But first was decision time on Ryan, landing right around when the Falcons made a play for Deshaun Watson. And though the timing on the two situations coincided, both Smith and Fontenot had been talking for a couple months about what to do with Ryan as they sought closure, one way or another, on whether or not to move forward with each member of the previous regime’s core.
“It wasn’t tough, because it had nothing to do with the respect I have for him,” Smith says. “We’d moved on. He had a great career, and I’ll always be appreciative of it, very thankful I got to work with him. But we moved on, and that’s the nature of the game. Professionally, you have to separate that from your personal relationships and do what’s best for the team and organization. And that’s what we did.”
Many Falcons fans initially believed Atlanta’s brass was forced to trade Ryan after pursuing Watson, but the reality is the two were mutually exclusive events. The new regime decided to move off Ryan but needed an answer at signal caller.
They could either go all-in at the position or maintain flexibility. With a weak quarterback free-agent class and even worse draft class, the Falcons elected to sign stopgap starter Marcus Mariota but also drafted Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder with a third-round pick. Now, the Falcons can remain somewhat competitive with Mariota while Ridder develops into what could possibly be the long-term solution in Atlanta. Investing a two-year deal in Mariota and a measly third-rounder in Ridder allows the Falcons to remain flexible entering the 2023 offseason.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire