Atlanta Falcons: Is Matt Ryan Worthy of the Hall of Fame?
After a sensational 2016 season that earned him the NFL MVP is Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan destined for the Hall of Fame?
Determining NFL Hall of Fame eligibility isn’t easy. There really aren’t any hard and fast rules. No set-in-stone milestones to achieve to guarantee entry. Hardly a year goes by when the “experts” aren’t debating about whether or not this guy should have gotten in (Michael Irvin, for example) or shouldn’t have gotten in (Terrell Davis). So, with that said, can an argument be made – even though his career isn’t close to being over yet (hopefully) – that some day Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons should be enshrined in Canton?
“Well,” I’m sure many would say, “He hasn’t won a Super Bowl yet.” Fourteen of the twenty-eight quarterbacks currently in the Hall of Fame never won a Super Bowl – Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Y.A. Tittle, Sonny Jurgensen, George Blanda, Bobby Layne, Norm Van Brocklin, Otto Graham, Sammy Baugh, Sid Luckman, and Bob Waterfield. To be fair, Tittle, Layne, Van Brocklin, Graham, Baugh, Luckman, and Waterfield did not play during the Super Bowl era. However, Tittle also never won an NFL championship. Moon and Fouts never even made it to the Super Bowl.
Ryan has thrown for 37,701 regular season yards thus far in his career. That’s more than all but eight (Brett Favre, Marino, John Elway, Moon, Tarkenton, Fouts, Joe Montana, and Johnny Unitas) HoF quarterbacks. Ryan’s averaging 4,189 yards per year. If he hits that mark this coming season he’ll pass Unitas and Montana.
Ryan is 32 years old. Let’s make a fairly safe assumption that he plays for another six years (retiring after he turns 37) and maintains that average. He’d finish with 62,835 career passing yards, which would put him second behind only Favre when compared to the current Hall of Fame signal-callers.
Thus far “Matty Ice” has thrown 240 touchdown passes, for an average of about 27 per season. That total would rank him 11th amongst current HoF QBs. If he hits that average this coming season he would move up to eighth. If he maintained that average for another six years he would wind up third behind only Favre and Marino. Ryan also currently has a career TD-to-interception ratio of better than 2 to 1 (2.105 to 1, to be exact). Only one current Hall of Fame quarterback has a touchdown-to-Interception ratio of at least 2-to-1 (Steve Young at 2.17 to 1). In fact, many Hall of Fame field generals have thrown more interceptions than touchdowns (Tittle, Blanda, Layne, Ken Stabler, Baugh, Joe Namath, Van Brocklin, and Waterfield).
The third overall pick of the 2008 draft has a career completion percentage of 64.9% and a career passer rating of 93.6. Only Kurt Warner has a better career completion percentage (65.5%). Only Young (96.8) and Warner (93.7) have better career passer ratings.
Again, to be fair, a lot of the quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame did not play in today’s prolific offenses and with today’s rules that make it easier for quarterbacks to be successful. As such, pitting Ryan’s numbers against, say, Baugh’s, aren’t really an apples-to-oranges comparison. So, let’s look at some of Ryan’s other accomplishments…
He has a career regular season win-loss percentage of .599 (85-57). That’s better than nine of the current Hall of Fame quarterbacks. He’s won a Rookie of the Year award and a league MVP award. He’s been to four Pro Bowls. He set an NFL record last year by throwing touchdowns to thirteen different targets. This past season he became the first NFL QB to throw for at least 200 yards in 50 straight games. He also had a passer rating of 100 or better in 12 games in 2016, tying a record previously held by only Young and Tom Brady.
He’s tied with Russell Wilson for the most regular season wins by a quarterback in the first five seasons of his career. He has led 25 fourth-quarter comebacks, tied for 10th in league history with Matt Stafford and Tony Romo (interesting side note: Ryan has led that many comebacks in nine years, averaging 2.78 per year. In contrast, Peyton Manning has the most comebacks with 45, but needed 18 years to do so, averaging 2.5 per year. Tom Brady has averaged 2.29. Joe Montana averaged 1.94. Dan Marino averaged 2.12. John Elway averaged 2.19. Just for a little perspective).
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I’ll be honest – I always considered Matt Ryan to be a very good quarterback. Never a truly great one though. Certainly not a Hall of Fame-caliber one. After doing the research for this article, however, I think I’ve changed my mind. If Ryan can maintain his current seasonal averages and win at least one Super Bowl before he’s done, he should be a shoo-in for Canton.