By Mike Bell

After starting 5-0, the wheels have come off for the Falcons. Matt Ryan’s late game blunders have cost the team at least 3 wins, maybe more. The Falcons gave Ryan the biggest contract in team history and this season he hasn’t come close to earning it.

Just so you don’t think this is a hatchet job on Ryan, hear me out.

There are bigger issues on the team than just the QB. Most notably the lack of a solid offensive line. A lack of playmakers on defense. The General Manger & his brain trust have done well drafting skilled position players but have failed everywhere else. Throw in an offensive coordinator who’s plan doesn’t fit Matt Ryan’s game and you wind up with a fundamentally flawed team.

One of the ways to turn this thing around is to accept what Ryan is, a good but not great quarterback who is clearly at the point of diminishing returns for this club. I say trade him for as many draft picks as you can get and let a new GM start to put this thing back together in 2016.

Matt is a great guy, I have never met a more approachable star player in any sport. He has 24 come from behind victories. He led this team to it’s best 5-year run. But right now 2012 looks like the high water mark for Ryan’s career and quite frankly a distant memory.

Yeah, I wanted LSU defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey with the 3rd pick in the 2008 draft. Laugh all ya want but at the end of the day Dorsey has one more playoff win than Matt Ryan. 2008 wasn’t exactly a great year for QB’s in the draft. Louisville’s Brian Brohm was considered one of the best in class at one point. The Ravens took Joe Flacco (considered a project by some experts) with the 18th overall pick. 8 seasons later Flacco has a Super Bowl ring and a 10-5 playoff record. His team was built the right way. The Falcons were not, they reached with the Ryan pick because they desperately wanted to wash away the memories of Mike Vick.

Here’s my top 5 reason why the Falcons should move on from Ryan…

1.) It’s all downhill from here… He’s 31 this Spring and his marginal arm strength isn’t getting better, it’s gotten noticeably worse this year. He’s repeatedly said he’s healthy. If anything, Ryan critics like myself would accept the injury angle, since it’s one of the few plausible explanations for Ryan’s dramatic drop off after the Falcons 5-0 start. He never had a great arm, it’s average at best. Watch Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, Big Ben or heck even Jameis Winston Sunday and you see guys throwing lasers out there. This year Ryan’s passes are ducks. Unless Matt starts heaving the ball as he breaks the huddle he can’t reach Julio Jones sprinting downfield beyond 30 yards.

2.) This team needs a lot of pieces. You can get multiple draft picks for him… What is Matt Ryan’s market value? Get on the phone and find out. Eventually, the Browns will put someone in charge who has a clue, but until that time see if they’ll give up a first rounder and a second or third pick for a “franchise quarterback”. Tony Romo is 5 years older than Ryan and he’s coming off 2 broken clavicles and a lost season. Would Jerry Jones want a shot at Matt?

3.) Are you going to fire Shanahan and have Ryan learn his 3rd offense in 3 years? So what are you going to do to fix this dysfunctional offense? One of the few viable options for Ryan, when Julio is blanketed, is Roddy White. Except Kyle Shanahan doesn’t see it that way. In all likelihood, White is gone next year as a cap casualty. One less weapon for Ryan. Speaking of weapons, the only time Matt looks like a gunslinger this season is while running no huddle. Someone should tell that to Kyle Shanahan. Is Quinn committed to Shanahan next year as OC? No, I wouldn’t understand that either. But if Shanahan stays, would Quinn be willing to move on from Matt? If your Dan Quinn you probably had to pledge allegiance to Ryan when you interviewed with Arthur Blank, but with this year’s 5-game losing streak meltdown as evidence, does Quinn say to Arthur “I just can’t win with Ryan” and it’s time for a different course?

4.) He is not worth the contract you gave him… I never understood why the Falcons went and paid Ryan with one year left on his deal. Oh yeah, I do… this is Atlanta and heaven forbid we create a controversy or hurt the star QB’s feelings by dangling the threat of a franchise tag if a more sensible contract couldn’t be
reached. The fact this franchise waited over 40 years to have back to back winning seasons combined with the relative success of the first 5 years of Smitty’s run clouded their judgment. There was only one way to move forward and that was building on Matt Ryan’s success. Success is 1 playoff win in 7 years? Ownership wanted a 180 degree turn from the Mike Vick debacle. A new face of the franchise. And he has never put a foot wrong off the field, but 8 seasons later you have plateaued with Matt Ryan.

5.) You will not win a Super Bowl with Matt Ryan as your quarterback… the wrong side of 30 for Ryan, diminishing physical skills combined with an inability to win the big game. $100 Million quarterbacks are defined by how they handle the bright lights of the biggest moments. The pick six against Green Bay before the half in the 2010 Playoffs. The missed shotgun snap against the 49ers in the NFC title game? These are facts. The 24-2 loss to the Giants in 2011. That game more than any other playoff loss showed Ryan needs a pristine pocket to succeed. The GM has never provided this team with Pro Bowl caliber, let alone better than average, offensive linemen. Julio Jones is one of the most exciting players in the league. The best athlete on the team, no doubt. But to acquire him the Falcons lost valuable draft picks. They made it to the NFC Championship, but 3 years later have clearly missed their window. This team requires a major overhaul. Trade Matt Ryan in the offseason and get those building block picks, just make sure a new GM is here to make those decisions.

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