Can you remember how many times the Braves, Hawks, or Falcons won a huge game, but were given 10 seconds on ESPN or just a blurb on SI? Or how the Yankees losing a minor game would get 5 minutes of coverage, but the Braves winning a major game would get a 5 second spot? What about the Falcons most recent win against the Redskins, giving them a franchise first 5-0 record? RGIII’s concussion got more coverage than the Atlanta comeback win. Even worse, New Orleans dismal season has gotten more coverage than Atlanta’s historic 6-0 start. That brings us to the love/hate relationship between the sports broadcasting world and Atlanta sports franchises. How does that affect the discussion about the Falcons?
Week after week we hear the term ‘elite’ thrown around with big name quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, etc. In these instances it’s very much appropriate; sportswriters and analysts love these guys and their teams. What about Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons? Any time they are brought into the debate analysts hesitate to use ‘elite.’ Calling them elite is almost blasphemous, like speaking openly about the obvious endemic use of steroids in baseball, or better yet it’s like talking positively about Joe Paterno. We know the Braves have a history of choking, we know the Hawks have never invested enough into the team to win any championships, and we know that the Falcons have not yet won a playoff game in the Smith/Ryan era. But the numbers don’t lie; the Falcons have put up elite numbers and have yet to be given the title of elite. Compare the 49-21 Atlanta record since 2008, Giants 44-27, and Packers 46-25 during the regular season.
The more realistic argument would be the lack of playoff wins, but look a bit further into those numbers: 0-3 since 2008. All 3 teams that beat the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl, and 2 of 3 of those teams won the Super Bowl. Since 2009 Matt Ryan’s QBR has dramatically improved year after year, this team is off to a 6-0 start, and the arsenal of weapons makes them a threat all over the field. It’s about time this team and its QB are given the respect they have earned. But the unfortunate truth is that we’ll have to take our respect and title of ‘elite’ in the playoffs. I wouldn’t be a loyal fan, however, if I didn’t admit that these close games and just-in-time comebacks can’t be a regular thing.