Matt Ryan entered the league with a very similar scouting report as Peyton Manning: scouts praised his football IQ and accuracy, touted him as a pro-readyquarterback, but questioned his arm strength. Both quarterbacks started from day one and are at their best when in the no-huddle offense.

Much like Manning early in his career, Ryan has been branded as a quarterback who is a regular season star, only to falter in the post-season.

When running the no-huddle offense under Mike Mularky, Ryan was at his best, orchestrating a symphony at the line of scrimmage. Although the authoritative, no-huddle Matty Ice is amongst the league’s best, when huddling the Falcons offense became stagnant.
Mularky left Atlanta to take the head job in Jacksonville, while the Falcons hired the Jaguars’ former offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter for the same position. Koetter has vowed to run the no-huddle offense more often, trying to capture the lightning in a bottle of Ryan’s 16 career game-winning drives.

Dave, do you think this will make Ryan the top-ten-level player that Koetter has claimed that he is? Can there be too much of a good thing? What do you expect out of Ryan and the Falcons’s offense this season in a stacked NFC?

Dave’s Response

For some reason, Shawn, I seem to love the “new era” Falcons that emerged in 2008. Although Matt Ryan is a great quarterback, Mike Smith has done a wonderful job with the organization that previously had never had back-to-back winning seasons. Currently, they’ve had four straight and counting.

Believe it or not, I have picked Atlanta to win all three playoff games they have lost since the Ryan-Smith era began; I only bring that up not to embarrass myself and my playoff predictions, but to stay I have a tendency to lean Atlanta’s way. I just like them.

That being said, with New Orleans expected to take a downward spin this year without their head coach, it could be Atlanta’s division to lose. There has been a lot of talk about Quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers, but who knows if they will live up to the hype. Atlanta should win the NFC South this season.

But the question isn’t whether they can win the division, it’s whether they can win a playoff game. Ideally, they would like to win multiple playoff games. Ryan flourished under Mularky but is switching to Koetter’s new system. Not only will the offense feature more no-huddles, but it will also ask Ryan to carry the team with his passing as running back Michael Turner is supposed to get a reduction in carries.

Honestly Shawn, I already thought Matt Ryan was a top ten quarterback. Looking at ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski’s top 30 quarterbacks list, he has Ryan ranked at 11th. Jaworski is an excellent analyst, but I have to disagree slightly with this ranking. The three Matt’s: Ryan, Schaub and Stafford belong in the top ten instead of Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco and Tony Romo. I could be convinced to leave Cutler there, but Flacco and Romo, in my mind, are not top ten quarterbacks.

That makes Ryan either ninth or tenth on the list. So to me, Koetter’s claim was similar to saying the Browns’ new owner doesn’t plan to relocate them. It just doesn’t really seem like news.

As far as this season goes, however, the saying “everything in moderation” might apply very well. Too much no-huddle could be a bad thing, but fans should not expect Koetter to run it so much that it becomes ineffective.

I said it last January, but this is the year I pick Atlanta to win a playoff game, and they actually come through.

Shawn’s conclusion

While running all no-huddle, all the time worked for Jim Kelly’s K-Gun offense in Buffalo, I do agree, Dave, that the secret to the success of the no-huddle offense is the sudden change of tempo. It allows Ryan and the offense to get in a rhythm while taking the defense by surprise.

And Ryan is as intuitive as anyone not named Peyton at the line of scrimmage.

Cutler is potentially ready to have the kind of season that earns that high of a ranking from Jaws, but we must be careful not to rank solely on potential with a disregard to production. Ryan has done nothing but win in Atlanta, which caused comparisons to the league’s elite since his sophomore campaign.

I, too, have been shocked with the lack of postseason success, but Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff are right to bring about sweeping change. Koetter has accurately assessed the talent he has in Ryan, and running a more aggressive offense is a long-overdue move.

If Koetter incorporates the versatile Jacquizz Rodgers in a role similar to how he employed MJD in Jacksonville, that wouldn’t hurt Ryan, either. Having a reliable check-down option will cut down on Ryan’s interceptions and bump up his completion percentage, which were the only slight regressions that victimized Ryan during a career year in 2011.

Ryan’s offseason commitment to strengthening his core will help prevent a late-season fade.  This is the year that he becomes a top-five quarterback. As a quarterback whose greatness lies in reading a defense and making smart, accurate throws, Ryan does not receive the respect he deserves from the World Wide Leader.

But you and I know, Dave, how quickly a quarterback’s perception changes when he’s wearing a ring.