The other day in Weekend Predictions — a weekly and somewhat hallucinatory departure from this planet — I recounted how Bill Parcells solicited a job offer from Falcons owner Arthur Blank in December of 2007, only to then give him the standard hello-I-must be-going Bronx salute and take a similar position with the Miami Dolphins.
Actually, I’m not really sure Parcells ever gave Blank an official salute. He might have just left one of those little Bobby Petrino sticky notes on the door of the executive washroom.
But today, we recall another interesting tie between the Falcons and Dolphins, before Sunday’s season opener at the Georgia Dome: Matt Ryan.
Seems hard to believe now. But Ryan actually was only the third player selected in the 2008 draft. Miami passed on him first overall, opting for left tackle Jake Long. St. Louis passed on him second overall, taking defensive end Chris Long. What’s even harder to believe is really smart people like me thought Thomas Dimitroff must have been dropped on his head at some point for taking Ryan and passing on Kansas City defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. (I was just kidding. Sort of like taking Georgia over Oklahoma State.)
We know the rest. Ryan threw a touchdown pass on his first NFL attempt. He was named Rookie of the Year. He helped heal a franchise, its owner and a city. He led the Falcons to an 11-5 record and the playoffs. Parcells is fortunate. Because if the Dolphins didn’t also have a strong season, and had tanked, he’d be fried in South Florida.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with Jake Long. Great left tackles are difficult to come by in the NFL, and obviously it’s an important position. But Long isn’t Ryan — and certainly neither is Miami quarterback Chad Pennington (solid but injury prone).
Knowing what you know now about Ryan, imagine how would you would feel if you saw him emerge from the tunnel Sunday in a Dolphins uniform?
The Florida Sun-Sentinel noted that former Dallas quarterback-turned-broadcaster Troy Aikman raised the issue during a recent Miami pre-season game, saying: “There [are] a lot of people that wondered why the Dolphins didn’t take Matt Ryan. If you know he’s a franchise quarterback, then you take him there. Something about it, the Dolphins didn’t think he was a franchise quarterback.”
They guessed wrong on that one. And think about this, if Parcells had signed with the Falcons and come to the same conclusion about Ryan, he wouldn’t have drafted him here either.
Parcells not coming here was the best thing that ever happened to the Falcons.