Recently, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has drawn heavy criticism from fans and sports media. Many are calling his 2016 MVP campaign just a fluke, claiming that he will return to his career average in 2017. Granted, his career average is still a very good franchise quarterback, but there are reasons to believe that he will continue to perform at this elite level for the foreseeable future, or at least for the coming season.
#1: The Supporting Cast
The 2016 Atlanta Falcons had one of the most talented offenses in the NFL. All-Pro Center Alex Mack anchored the offensive line, and tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder were blocking machines, not afraid to make the extra play down the field. There was an explosive duo at runningback with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and the wide receiver corps was thought to be the best in the NFL. Of course, any receiving corps that includes Julio Jones already has a strong argument, but Jones was also complemented by play-makers such as Mohammed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, and Justin Hardy.
All of the players mentioned above will still be with the Falcons in 2017. While Atlanta did lose major contributor Patrick DiMarco to free agency and elected to not re-sign tight end Jacob Tamme, they have compensated for DiMarco’s absence with former Seahawk fullback Derrick Coleman, and Falcons third round pick Austin Hooper looks ready to be a dominant receiving tight end.
Matt Ryan couldn’t have won MVP without a great supporting cast, and he’ll still be surrounded with some of the best offensive talent in the NFL in 2017.
#2. Steve Sarkisian
Kyle Shanahan orchestrated one of the best offenses in NFL history in 2016. However, a major criticism of the Falcons’ former offensive coordinator was his “gimmicky” playbook. Many thought that Shanahan often over-thought the offense, creating plays that were unnecessarily complicated. Also, Shanahan was very strict, not giving Ryan the option to audible out of certain plays.
Shanahan’s replacement, Steve Sarkisian, runs the same offensive style, but has a more grounded approach. His offenses at USC were known for well-developed running games, and hopefully he can help further improve the already great Falcons offense.
"“I think we all know Matt likes to be aggressive in attacking defenses, there’s no doubt that the entire organization is that way. He just wanted me to reassure him that’s how I was. That we were going to be aggressive and do the things [we need to do] to throw it down the field to take advantage of the weapons that we have. And that we would have enough offense, that we would be able to break the huddle, shift to motion, run the ball, play pass, go to no huddle, get in empty and have a variety of offense that would make it tough for [someone] to defend.”"
#3. Ryan’s Drive for Success
Matt Ryan has never been criticized for his work ethic. He’s always been a relentless competitor, never satisfied with defeat.
There were several games throughout his career that seemed unwinnable. In 2008 for example, the Chicago Bears took a one point lead over the Falcons with just a few seconds left. Ryan could’ve easily halfheartedly lofted a Hail Mary towards the endzone, but he made the right play to set up Jason Elam’s game-winning field goal.
After the Super Bowl loss, Ryan was transparent and constructive. He didn’t shy away from the media’s massive focus on the game, and he even starred in a Gatorade commercial about it.
If you thought 2016 Matt Ryan was the most determined Ryan you ever saw, just wait until September. This man is a on a mission, and he won’t let Super Bowl LI be his legacy.