The time may be now for the Atlanta Falcons to move on from Matt Ryan

Illustration by Olivia Madrzyk | The Signal

To no surprise, the Atlanta Falcons have begun the season with another slow start.

The Falcons have a 2-3 record and find themselves struggling in a talented NFC South featuring the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Buccaneers, an up-and-coming Carolina Panthers team, and a New Orleans Saints team in the first season of the post-Drew Brees era. 

So far, the Falcons’ three losses have come by an average margin of 18 points, including a 23-point loss to Tampa Bay. A 32-6 beat-down from the Philadelphia Eagles doesn’t help their case, nor does a heartbreaking 34-30 home loss to the Washington Football Team. 

Atlanta’s two wins have come against the New York Giants and New York Jets, who have only won a game apiece this season. 

The season’s young, and, as usual, overreactions happen. Still, the Falcons may have to think ahead and prepare for a future that does not include their 14-year signal-caller, Matt Ryan.  

Ryan’s post-2015 NFL MVP season numbers read 115 touchdowns and 47 interceptions. After Sunday, the Falcons are 30-39 since their infamous Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots. 

Putting all the blame on Ryan for the Falcons’ woes over the years seems unfair. After all, the running game has been average, and the offensive line hasn’t given him the best protection. 

Ryan’s current deal, which includes a player option after this season, is signed through the 2023 season. It begs the question if he would be traded or walk away on his own. Or maybe, he could walk away from football and retire with the $267 million he earned over 14 seasons.

After Arthur Smith’s hiring in January, rumors surfaced of the Falcons maybe trading Ryan. Seemingly though, Smith put those rumors to rest as he stated one of his reasons for signing with the Falcons was Matt Ryan himself.  

“It was a big factor; I’ve always been a fan of Matt Ryan from afar…I’m just so impressed with how he handles himself, and he wants to be coached, and Tannehill was the same way”, Smith said on the ‘Flying Coach’ podcast. 

So far, Ryan has played well in his first season without Julio Jones, his top receiver who the franchise traded back in June. Through five games, Ryan’s tossed ten touchdowns to three interceptions; in the team’s losses, Ryan has thrown six touchdowns and three interceptions. 

Days after the Falcons gut-wrenching 34-30 loss to Washington, false rumors surfaced saying Ryan may force his way out of Atlanta. 

Ryan instantly denied those rumors, telling The Athletic that they were “false” and “ridiculous.” 

“I feel fortunate to have been here for 14 years. I really love it here, love the organization, like the new coaching staff, like what they’re about, feel like we have a good nucleus of players, and we can win now, and I’m excited about that,” Ryan said earlier this month. “I don’t know where that report came from. It’s completely false.”

Even though Ryan made it known he loves Atlanta, the NFL is still a business, and teams will make moves depending on what they think is the team’s best interest. All the rumors may beg the question of where General Manager Terry Fontenot could look for a replacement.

Maybe the franchise decides to draft the heir to Ryan––and perhaps the 2022 NFL Draft class isn’t the one to look at. Next year’s draft’s quarterback class doesn’t compare to the 2021’s, which featured Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Mac Jones as first-round selections. 

On the other hand, the team could package a blockbuster trade for a young quarterback that may need a fresh start in their careers, such as Deshaun Watson or Tua Tagovalioa. 

There is still a lot of football left, which means Ryan still has a chance to lead the Falcons to the playoffs, something the team hasn’t done since 2017. But if things don’t turn around, it could be an intriguing story to monitor.