Atlanta Falcons: 30 greatest players in franchise history
- NFL MVP (2016), Bert Bell Award (2016)
- First-Team All-Pro (2016), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2016)
- 4x Pro Bowl (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016)
- NFL passer rating leader (2016)
- NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (2008)
- Owner of most Falcons’ all-time passing records
Though still in the midst of his prime, quarterback Matt Ryan has done enough make it into the top-four of Falcons all-time greats. While he has been a commonplace at Pro Bowls during his first 10 years in the league, his 2016 campaign undoubtedly pushed him over the top.
Ryan initially came to the Falcons as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft out of Boston College. He started under center day one for the Dirty Birds, which was actually uncommon at the time. One could argue that he and fellow 2008 first-rounder Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens put that line of thinking in starting quarterbacks as rookies en vogue in NFL circles.
His career started off with a bang, as he threw for a 62-yard touchdown bomb to Michael Jenkins on his first NFL pass. Ryan was brought in to be the franchise savior after the Michael Vick scandal and reaped benefits almost immediately.
Atlanta made the NFC playoffs in four of his first five years in the league. Keep in mind that the Falcons never had back-to-back winning seasons before Ryan’s arrival in Flowery Branch. He brought stability to the quarterback position Atlanta frankly didn’t even have during the peak Steve Bartkowski years. And he still has plenty left in the tank, as Ryan is still in his early 30s.
Ryan has led the Falcons to the playoffs six times in 10 seasons, won three division titles, made it to two NFC Championship Games and reached Super Bowl LI as a starter. His 2016 campaign was stuff of legend. In Kyle Shanahan’s offense, Ryan completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He beat out Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady to win NFL MVP in 2016. No Falcon had ever won the award before Ryan took home the honor. Atlanta looks be in the midst of Super Bowl contention heading into 2018, and Ryan is a huge reason for that.
Through the 2017 NFL season, Ryan is 95-63 as a starter, completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 41,796 yards, 260 touchdowns and 126 interceptions. Outside of throwing picks, Ryan holds about every passing record in Falcons franchise history.
But what is helping Ryan build a Pro Football Hall of Fame case more than anything is his model of consistency. He has missed a grand total of two starts in his career. Ryan has thrown for over 4,000 yards since 2011. He has made the Pro Bowl every ever numbered years since 2010.
Odds are, Ryan will need a few more Pro Bowls and one more championship run to ensure that he will indeed be Canton bound. Given that he takes tremendous care of his body, there is a great deal of optimism that Ryan could play into his early 40s if he feels so inclined. Every Sunday since 2008, Ryan has given the Falcons a chance to win, and that’s all that matters.