Monday, January 21, 2013

Matt Ryan is not elite yet.

Players View writer Adam Rosen steps up to lay down his requirements for Matt Ryan to be considered an elite quarterback.

Do me a favor and don’t call Matt Ryan elite.

Not just yet.

Since being drafted 3rd overall in the 2008 NFL draft, Ryan has struggled in his first three postseason appearances.

As a rookie in the 2008 season, Ryan and the Falcons lost at Arizona, as he failed to throw for over 200 yards, finishing the game with a quarterback rating of 72.8

In 2010 season, despite having the No. 1 seed, Ryan was embarrassed at home to Green Bay in a 48-21 loss, throwing for 186 yards, two interceptions and finished another playoff defeat with a QBR of 69.4.

Last season, in Atlanta’s 24-2 loss to the New York Giants in the Wild Card  round, Ryan was unable to push the ball downfield in swirling winds.

The Falcons’ offense failed to score a single point, raising more questions about Ryan’s big game ability.

For three years, the “ice” in Ryan’s veins was melting.

Consistently struggling on the road (23-17 record), and in the playoffs, Ryans’ six game-winning drives in 2012 (four of those while facing a deficit), his fifteen career fourth quarter comebacks and twenty-two career game-winning drives were becoming nothing, but numbers.

Ryan was turning into an elite fantasy football quarterback, throwing for 32 touchdowns in 2012, better than 27 of his fellow NFL quarterbacks.

He was the face of the Falcons, but only during regular season, finishing the season fifth or better in most statistical categories, including his 4,719 passing yards in the regular season, and his seven yards per pass and 295 passing yards per game.

No one—not Manning, not Brady, not even Rodgers—has a better completion percentage than Ryan’s 68.6 percent.

Ryan was proving why he was drafted third overall in 2008, but none of this was accomplished when the Falcons needed him the most – in the playoffs.

But for those of us who have been watching Ryan play the past three seasons, wondering if he’ll ever ascend to the height of greatness, Sunday’s performance against the Seahawks shouldn’t fool you.  His status, in my mind, remains the same.

One playoff victory doesn’t make Ryan an elite quarterback.  This silly discussion of where Ryan ranks among the games greats will continue until he’s hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

If you want to debate whether or not Ryan is now among an irrelevant grouping of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, then go ahead.

It doesn’t matter whether or not Ryan now stands on a mythical stage with Brady, Manning, Brees or Rodgers.

That would be a ridiculous conversation.

Although Ryan is providing the Falcons with the best opportunity to win the Super Bowl, Ryan can ill-afford a two-face performance on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.  The Falcons won’t survive.

Take a deep breathe, relax, and forget about one game.

The larger point is this: Ryan still needs two more victories for his first Super Bowl championship.

But if the team we saw during the second half on Sunday, expects to play for the Super Bow championship, the Falcons have another thing coming to them.

It’s no secret that since arriving in Atlanta, Ryan is a master inside the Georgia Dome leading the Falcons to a 33-5 home record throughout his career.

One playoff victory doesn’t take the pressure off of Ryan, who once again entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

All season long, many wondered if the Falcons were a championship caliber team.  Many wondered if Ryan could lead the Falcons to the promise land.

On Sunday, he gets the opportunity to move one-step closer.

But until he becomes a Super Bowl wining quarterback, Ryan will be just another quarterback who couldn’t get it done in the playoffs.

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