Atlanta Falcons: Will they go after Deshaun Watson in 2017?
If Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan has another poor season in 2016, will they look at Deshaun Watson to replace him?
Your eyeballs might be popping out of your head right now but before you slander me for bringing this up, this is strictly hypothetical and nothing that I expect to happen.
With that being said, let’s ponder at what the Atlanta Falcons‘ future could hold after year 2016.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has been with the Falcons since 2008 and has had a very good career thus far. He has the 12th most wins of active quarterbacks in the NFL and holds just about every statistical record for the Falcons.
However, Ryan is just 1-4 in the playoffs good enough for 23rd in the league for active quarterbacks. Ryan trails former Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick by one playoff win to put things into further perspective.
At the end of the day, nothing matters if your team doesn’t win championships. You can have the best stats in the world and set all sorts of NFL records, but if you aren’t bringing home Lombardi trophies then what’s the point?
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2015 was the first season in Ryan’s career in which the fan base turned on him. Whether it was his fault or not, Ryan was blamed for the majority of the Falcons’ problems during their abysmal 6-game losing streak after starting the year 5-0.
Even though Ryan was credited with comeback wins to help the Falcons to a perfect 5-0 start, all of that was quickly put on the back burner after losing seven out of the next eight games.
Blame was also placed on first year offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for the Falcons’ dumpster fire in the middle of the season. Shanahan called a lot of questionable plays that arguably set up Ryan for failure. It’s a very valid statement and something that I can whole-heartedly agree with.
However, at the end of the day, players are responsible for making the plays on the football field. Coaches can only do so much from the sidelines and cannot take the blame for things such as interceptions. Ryan threw 16 interceptions in 2015 good enough for his second most in his career.
As you all know, the bad will always stand out over the good. Nobody will remember the Falcons’ come from behind win to beat the Dallas Cowboys but they will remember Ryan’s pick six against the Indianapolis Colts or his interception against the New Orleans Saints in week 17 to lose the game.
Ryan is owed $50 million over the next three years and if he follows up his poor play in 2015 with another poor season in 2016, people will be calling for his head even more than what the fan base was calling for in 2015.
It’s also important to look at the Falcons’ upcoming schedule in 2016 and how that could factor into all of this. The Falcons will likely have the league’s hardest schedule next season. Atlanta faces six of the eight teams that still remain in the playoffs.
Those teams include the Carolina Panthers twice, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.
There is a very good chance that the Falcons could lose a ton of games in 2016 despite having a better roster due to the high competition level that they will face. Atlanta had the easiest schedule in the NFL this season and was only able to walk away with eight wins.
Ryan definitely has his work cut out for him in 2016 and if he doesn’t perform, there’s a college quarterback that the fan base will be dying to have when he likely declares for the NFL draft after next season.
He goes by the name of Deshaun Watson and currently plays for the Clemson Tigers. Watson is a Georgia native and played his high school football just 10.8 miles away from the Falcons’ Flowery Branch headquarters at Gainesville high school.
While in high school, Watson spent time as a ball boy for the Falcons and even spent time throwing passes to Julio Jones and Roddy White before games.
Watson just finished up his Sophomore season at Clemson and came just five points short of winning a National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide last Monday night.
Despite the losing effort, Watson broke two National Championship records. His 405 passing yards set a championship game record and his 478 total yard of offense was a championship game record as well.
Watson accounted for 473 of Clemson’s 550 total yards and would have won the MVP award without question. Watson was the best player on the field between the two teams and put on a show that will be remembered for quite some time.
What makes Watson so special is his ability to run and pass. Not only is Watson an extremely accurate passer, he is also one of the best pure athletes in college football. The Heisman runner-up rushed with 73 yards rushing against Alabama which was the most rushing yards by a quarterback that they had allowed all season.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban explained to the media that Watson was the best quarterback his team had faced since Cam Newton in 2010. To hear that come out of arguably the best coach in college football history speaks volumes.
Watson completed 68 percent of his passes on the season for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns. Watson also rushed for 1,1o5 yards and scored 12 touchdowns on the ground, respectively.
Watson became the first quarterback in FBS history to pass for more than 4,000 yards and rush for another 1,000.
I spoke with fellow journalist Kyle Funderburk about his take on this matter. Funderburk has been a fan of the franchise for more than 10 years and has witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly.
When asked on who he would rather have between Ryan and Watson he answered with the following.
“If Shanahan is OC then I want Watson because his athleticism can make up for terrible play calls,” Funderburk said. “Without Shanahan, then I want Matt Ryan. It’s clear that offensive coordinator Shanahan has ruined Ryan. Ryan this past year was at his best when he was in control of the offense, much like he was for the past several years of his career. Shanahan took that control away from Ryan and we see what happens. Great QB’s need and deserve to run the offense how they please. You wouldn’t take control away from Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, would you?”
Funderburk didn’t stop there.
“Why was Shanahan considered a good OC in the first place? Robert Griffen III is why. RG3’s athleticism made up for the lack of control of the offense in the pocket. It’s easy to look like a good OC when the QB scrambles for a first down, fans only see and notice results. If Shanahan stays with the Falcons then Matt Ryan needs to go for the same reason you don’t want to keep a good dog in a shelter; he deserves freedom. That would leave a hole at quarterback which the Falcons should look to fill with a scrambling quarterback, maybe a DeShaun Watson if they want to use the 2016 Draft to fill other holes and take Watson in 2017.”
He makes a very good point in that if Shanahan stays, Ryan isn’t going to live up to his full potential. However, if Shanahan leaves, then Ryan will hopefully be able to get back to his old form and have a decent shot of leading the Falcons to a Super Bowl in the next few years.
Atlanta Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn should have the final say to make a drastic decision such as this. He witnessed first hand the greatness of Russell Wilson while on the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff.
Watson possesses a lot of the same skills that Wilson has. He’s a great scrambler and a very good passer. To say that Quinn didn’t fall in love with the style of play that Wilson has isn’t fair to say. Sure, that’s purely speculation and there is no evidence that supports that, but he saw a winning recipe in Seattle and wants to bring that same recipe to Atlanta.
To say that Quinn is in love with Ryan is also unfair to say. A first year head coach isn’t going to come out and bash a proven quarterback in the NFL and risk getting on everyone’s bad side including owner Arthur Blank. He is going to sit back and let everything fall into place before he makes his move.
If this is truly Quinn’s team, he should have full say as to what he wants out of his ball team.
Here comes the hard part. How on Earth are the Atlanta Falcons going to draft Watson and dump off Ryan’s outrageous contract on someone else? Your guess is as good as mine. I have no clue how that would work or happen, but to think that the Falcons won’t at least think about is preposterous.
Baring anything major in 2016, Watson will be a top 5 draft pick and very well could be the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft depending on what team will be drafting first. In order for the Falcons to move up to the first pick, they will have to somehow convince that team involved to take Ryan.
Put the large sum of money owed to Ryan aside. Giving a team Ryan and your first round pick in the 2017 draft should be good enough to move up to the first overall pick. Ryan still has anywhere from 6-8 years left in the league and is a good quarterback who can help a team win right then.
In order for that trade to happen, it would have to be the perfect storm. All of the stars would have to align and the football gods would have to be on our side.
I made a rather blunt statement on twitter during Monday night’s National Championship game that said the Falcons should draft Watson in the 2017 draft and trade Ryan to the team willing to make the deal.
I had a lot of mixed reviews to say the least.
A lot of people loved the idea, but some despised it. I’m very interested to hear your take on this in the comment section. If there is some way that the Falcons could pull this off, would you pull the trigger? Ryan isn’t getting any younger and will be 32 at the start of the 2017 season while Watson will be 21.
Would riding it out with Ryan really give the Falcons the best chance to win a championship in the next five years or would drafting a young quarterback be the way to go?
That is the 100 million dollar question, folks.
Next: 5 positions that the Atlanta Falcons need to address in the 2016 draft
Put Watson aside for a moment. If the Falcons were to do this, would it have to be for Watson? Or would you be open to the team drafting a quarterback later in the draft sometime in the next two years and see where it takes them?
We all want to see the Falcons win a championship and won’t be satisfied until they do so.