Smith-Ryan now one of top 5 coach-QB combos in NFL

These two guys suddenly rank among the NFL's best. Who would've thought that a year ago?

This Falcons' pairing suddenly ranks among the NFL's best. Who would've thought that a year ago? (Curtis Compton/ccompton@AJC.com)

I’ve arrived at East Lake for a Tiger Woods press conference later this morning, but first I wanted to weigh in on the best coach-quarterback combinations in the NFL, which should not be confused with weighing in on the venue for the Georgia-Florida game, and  . . . wait, what day is this?

Right. Wednesday. In four days, the Falcons will play the New England Patriots. It’s another chance to watch Tom Brady play and Bill Belichick coach, and the two will go down as one of the top five coach-quarterback combinations in the Super Bowl era. My others (in no particular order: Bill Walsh-Joe Montana; Tom Landry-Roger Staubach; Chuck Noll-Terry Bradshaw; some other two guys I’ll think of later after I steal a danish from the hospitality tent here at East Lake.

In the NFL, great coach-quarterback combinations can compensate for deficiencies elsewhere. That first Patriots’ Super Bowl winner with Brady was not a great team in terms of personnel. It had some talent but a bunch of spare parts, something necessitated by the salary cap era. But it had great leadership and resolve, thanks to Brady and Belichick.

I realize it’s only their second season together. But it struck me that the Falcons now have one of the premier coach-QB duos in the NFL. Here’s my top 10. Feel free to argue.

They could retire now and still go down as all-time greats.

They could retire now and still go down as all-time greats.

1. Bill Belichick-Tom Brady (New England): They stand alone. They’ve never had a losing season together and missed the playoffs only once (if you exclude last year when Brady was injured for 15 games). They’ve won three Super Bowls and went 18-0 two years ago until the title game loss to the New York Giants. When the Patriots lost last week, it was their first regular-season defeat with Brady starting since Dec. 10, 2006 (albeit he missed most of last year). Each should help induct the other into the Hall of Fame.

2. Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia): I know. If I were in Philly, I’d be tied to a lamp post for this. The Eagles haven’t won a Super Bowl, and ultimately that’s how many define things. But they have been to five NFC title games (winning one) in a span of eight seasons, despite good but not great talent — certainly not on the offensive side of the ball. They’ve also endured despite working among arguably the most demanding/lunatic fan bases in the league.

3. Mike Tomlin-Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh): I balked at this initially. Tomlin inherited a great team and Roethlisberger is not a statistically great QB. But both have proven they know how to win. They won a Super Bowl in their second season. Players follow them. Chances are, they will follow them to more titles before they’re done.

4. Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning (N.Y. Giants): Again, the younger Manning’s statistical greatness can be debated. But he already has won a title. He wins games on the road (as in Dallas the other night) and he certainly works in concert with his coach. Coughlin has had the greatest career turnaround among NFL coaches since, well, Belichick.

5. Mike Smith-Matt Ryan (Falcons): Yes, it’s early. It has been only 18 regular season games. But both are off the charts in terms of commanding respect from others in the locker room, and it has been that way from the time they first stepped into Flowery Branch. Both took over in difficult circumstances, and we don’t need to detail that anymore. But expect Smith and Ryan to be staples of this organization for several seasons.

The rest of the top 10, in brief:

6. Jim Caldwell-Peyton Manning (Indianapolis): The quarterback elevates a still unproven head coach.

7. Ken Whisenhunt-Kurt Warner (Arizona): Warner wasn’t supposed to be starter. That says something.

8. John Harbaugh-Joe Flacco (Baltimore):  Some might debate whether they deserve to be ranked at least as high as Smith and Ryan. The difference is, the Ravens have had one of the NFL’s most dominating defenses and players (Ray Lewis), so Harbaugh and Flacco had an advantage.

9. Sean Payton-Drew Brees (New Orleans): Now they just need to win when it matters.

10. Vacant: After thinking about it, nobody else is worthy of being 10th. It’s too early for Rex Ryan-Mark Sanchez (N.Y. Jets), and the results are either  too mixed or half the pairing is deficient with some of the others: Mike McCarthy-Aaron Rogers (Green Bay), Norv Turner-Phillip Rivers, Jeff Fisher-Anybody (Tennessee), Wade Phillips-T0ny Romo (Dallas).

Your thoughts? Would you rank Smith-Ryan higher or lower?

266 comments Add your comment

Bad News

September 23rd, 2009
10:58 am

Harbaugh & Flacco………….championship game

Smith & NOODLE ARM…………..1 AND CHOKE

Which is better :)

Bad News

September 23rd, 2009
11:02 am

It’s funny but if you look at the list of top 10 coaches and qbs and every last one of them has won playoff games and made it to the championship game except………guess who?????????…..I give up…..

Smitty & NOODLE ARM…………Go figure :)

Paul H

September 23rd, 2009
11:03 am

Smith-Ryan have potential to be #1. As of today, I would put them in top 10 but not sure about top 5. Just yet.

Bad News

September 23rd, 2009
11:07 am

JEFF

The last time I checked, the defense doesn’t not throw interceptions, give up safeties. If Flacco had thrown 2 interceptions, had a fumble & a safety in their playoff games, there would have been no benefit of having a good defense.

Your rationale and reporting is like NOODLE ARM’s strength – VERY WEAK!

mryan

September 23rd, 2009
11:08 am

Bad News giving up? One can only dream. We are optimists here in the ATL! Schultzie, you make a good argument about Baltimore’s defense but that shouldn’t be a negative for Flacco-Harbaugh. Both will be great for years to come! Let’s see that Superbowl in the next 5 yrs!

Al Beeski

September 23rd, 2009
11:09 am

Don’t see how you balked at Tomlin/Big Ben, as I think they are definitely #2 on this list. And they have a great shot to move up to #1 on this list in a couple of years. The object of the game is to win & they’ve proven that better than anybody else on this list in a short period of time sans Giselle/Soul Seller 2 da devil.

mryan

September 23rd, 2009
11:10 am

Double negative Bad News? Shame on you.

C. Tampa Ironworse

September 23rd, 2009
11:13 am

JS…you’re spot on with some of these. Brady, no brainer. I think the Tomlin one is kinda weak and the Peyton/What’s his name…really? It’s hard to say it out loud because we (city of Atlanta) are used to being the bridesmaid…but Ryan might just be the BEST QB in the NFL by year’s end.

PS: Bad News…you’re a noodlebrain AND very weak. WAR Bowtie!

Bad News

September 23rd, 2009
11:14 am

9. Sean Payton-Drew Brees (New Orleans): Now they just need to win when it matters

JEFF

Again, your reporting has more holes than swiss cheese. “Win when it matters”?………Serious?……….Really?

Maybe I’m confused but I believe Drew Brees has 1 championship game appearance and NOODLE ARM has ZERO………

So please point out exactly what game has NOODLE ARM won that mattered more than making it to the championship game……..

I’LL WAIT……….Take your time :)

Bad News

September 23rd, 2009
11:20 am

NO PHILLIP RIVERS…………Are you nuts or what?

NOODLE ARM would not make it on my college top 10 list :)

Huge Falcon Fan

September 23rd, 2009
11:21 am

Maybe one day Ryan can be as good as Flacco. Til that day comes, real Falcon fans will just have to make do with what we have.

MightyQuinn

September 23rd, 2009
11:23 am

Bad News has no life and needs to get laid. Talk about frustrated! Sheesh. And what has happened to BigEasy? That 4-12 prediction is looking pretty weak now, huh? Somehow I don’t think this bunch is going to go 2-12 the rest of the way.

Bad News Thug

September 23rd, 2009
11:23 am

It’s much better to have a “noodle arm” (wow, that is quite clever isn’t it?) then to have a water head like Bad News and the idiot QB that he worships…..

schultz is mighty smart

September 23rd, 2009
11:24 am

How often do you have to submit articles now Jeff? The AJC is overworking you. This is appropriate to show your evil bosses.

Bad News-

September 23rd, 2009
11:26 am

I’m an unemployed loser with no absolutely no life or anything going for me. That’s why I am constantly on this blog and worship a convicted felon that couldn’t read a pop warner defense. Just bare with me as I’m not very bright, which is why the best material I can come up with is ‘Noodle Arm’ over and over and over again….

CraZyTRaDeMaN

September 23rd, 2009
11:26 am

MATT RYAN —-NOODLE ARM
BAD NEWS —–NOODLE =:@

CraZyTRaDeMaN

September 23rd, 2009
11:30 am

MATT RYAN == COLLEGE GRAD
BAD NEWS == Knuckle Dragger

DJ Sniper

September 23rd, 2009
11:30 am

Normally I refrain from commenting on the asinine posts by Bad News, but today I really want to know what this guy is smoking. He’s either a die hard Vick fan, or he’s just a troll who has nothing better to do with his time. First of all, how can this nut compare Brees vs. Ryan in terms of championship game appearances? Ryan is just in his second year in the league, while Brees is in his 8th season. Also, it makes me laugh how he thinks that that Flacco is a better QB than Ryan simply because Flacco made it to the conference championship while Ryan didn’t. This guy’s logic(and I use that term very loosely) is way out in left field.

Oh give it a rest...

September 23rd, 2009
11:36 am

…Ryan and Smith have been together 1 year and 2 games – that hardly qualifies as a “relationship” per pro football terms. They do not belong on ANY list – yet!

BugKiller

September 23rd, 2009
11:40 am

My question is, what has Caldwell done to be number 6? This is his first year. Does the presence of Manning alone make him great? I don’t buy it.

I also don’t buy Andy Reid and McNabb being number 2. They’ve choked more than they’ve won. They’re the Atlanta Braves of football. Which means like Bobby Cox, Andy Reid is vastly overrated.

As far as great coaches and quarterbacks all time, how the heck could you forget Lombardi-Starr?

I’d also submit for recognition Johnson-Aikman. If Jerry Jones had a smaller ego, the Cowboys WOULD have been the only franchise to win 3 Super Bowls in a row, if not 4 Super Bowls in a row. Jerry Jones cost his team more than he’ll ever own up to.

But Johnson-Aikman should be on the all-time list, too.

And I know you said “Super Bowl Era,” but you HAVE to include Paul Brown and Otto Graham on your list as well. The number of Championships they won were staggering.

Leslie Chow

September 23rd, 2009
11:43 am

Hey Bad News, seriously… Katrina was like 6 years ago. Move back already.

Bad News

September 23rd, 2009
11:46 am

DJ Sniper

Thank you for proving my point. NOODLE ARM and Flacco should not be on that list, but since he is on the list, he is open game to be scrutinized and since he is the ONLY player on that list without PLAYOFF WINS………..

He doesn’t belong on the list. Talk to your columnist who decided that 1 year players are better than PROVEN veterans :)

Silent Majority

September 23rd, 2009
11:50 am

Weeb and Joe

Bad News

September 23rd, 2009
11:51 am

A BETTER LIST FOR NOODLE ARM:

TOP 10 CHOKE LIST:

1. NOODLE ARM
2. Joey Harrington
3. Ryan Leaf
4. Rex Grossman
5. Kyle Orton
6. Jay Cutler
7. Carson Palmer
8. Matt Hasselbeck
9. Jake Delhomme
10. Punky Brewster

:)

Silent Majority

September 23rd, 2009
11:51 am

Grant and Tarkenton

Don

September 23rd, 2009
11:53 am

Bad News, you are insane, i call it like i see, for you to bag on a guy that turned around a terrible team and took them to the playoffs (granted with alot of help from the BURNER) in his rookie year leads me to believe that the only reason you do not like him is because you have ahuge man crush on Mike Vick, Mike Vick would not even trash matt ryan because he knows he did a good job last year.

Matt Ryan= good arm, very accurate
Mike Vick= great arm, no accuracy what so ever, couldnt hit the broad side of a barn.

mryan

September 23rd, 2009
12:00 pm

Jeff is not “reporting”; he’s stating his opinion. Just like you are. For argument’s sake, Joe Montana didn’t have the best arm coming out of ND. Not comparing; just saying.

BmoreBlitz

September 23rd, 2009
12:02 pm

Ryan could be on the top 5 list if he was being judged alone(amazing rookie year). Smith not yet, he hasn’t won anything. Now Flacco and Harbaugh, if we’re counting both QB and coach, no question should be ahead of Ryan and Smith. If you want to bring up Baltimore has a better defense, then I call out Smith and ask why Atlanta’s wasn’t better? Smith played a bad base defense that relied on the front 4 getting pressure(Abraham was the only one who could regularly) and changing up cover schemes.

kappellmeister

September 23rd, 2009
12:02 pm

Oh where oh where has FALCONS SORRY gone, oh where oh where can he be?

FalconUGAFan

September 23rd, 2009
12:03 pm

Have to agree it is way too early to put Smith-Ryan in this company…yet. It appears part of your criteria was that they compensated for for deficiencies in other areas. I would argue that the Birds are able to count on Turner and White and a decent front line. Although, I sure hope they earn it through many years of fine work for the well-deserving Falcons fan, tho. Time will tell.

WHAT!!

September 23rd, 2009
12:03 pm

Bad News…..why are so much hate for Matt Ryan? Is it because he proves you and many others wrong week in and week out?

Rebel Fan

September 23rd, 2009
12:03 pm

Schultz,

I like this list except for one thing. I would have put Brees-Payton in the top 5. Here’s why? Brees makes Payton’s offense go. they compliment each other. The only thing the Saints needed was a quarterback to make the offense go. They have that guy in Brees. I also have not seen any QB on this list even sniff Marino’s passing record. Brees came within 15 yards of breaking it last season.

I agree with you Brady-Belicheat, i mean Belichik, are at the top based on their accomplishments and winning the 3 Superbowls.I know Matt Ryan is going to be good but putting him 5th on this list may be a stretch. Do this list in 3 or 4 years and Ryan will be in the top 5, maybe even the top 3.

FalconUGAFan

September 23rd, 2009
12:04 pm

FALCONS SORRY was banned. Its best just to ignore the trolls.

MV7's Pet Dog

September 23rd, 2009
12:05 pm

All time favorite: Billy Joe Tolliver and Jerry Glanville

mryan

September 23rd, 2009
12:05 pm

Bug Killer, Johnson-Aikman is a great call! I hate the Cowboys but they deserve their due.

Falconsforlife, easy buddy. Let’s focus on the positive and leave what’s his name out of this conversation.

That said, Chris Chandler-Dan Reeves? 1 and only Superbowl? Beat the Vikings? Anybody? Nevermind.

mryan

September 23rd, 2009
12:08 pm

Bmore blitz, great argument and great points. And you did it without calling our QB names. Thanks.

Kurt

September 23rd, 2009
12:09 pm

You guys do nothing but humor this deadbeat and give him legitimacy by even responding to him.

BugKiller

September 23rd, 2009
12:10 pm

BmoreBlitz… REALLY???

You want to give Harbaugh-Flacco credit for the defense CARRYING that team?

Flacco is doing much better this year, but last year, ESPECIALLY in the playoffs, he STUNK.

If it weren’t for Rex Ryan’s stout defense, Flacco would have easily lost his first playoff game.

To give Flacco credit for playoff wins last year (or the majority of regular season wins) is simply intellectually dishonest.

Ryan, on the other hand, is the ONLY reason why the Falcons were able to make the playoffs last year. He was able to not only win games at the end (Chicago being the most awesome example) but his ability to play smartly, get the offense into the right plays, and such, to cover for an untalented defense is to be praised.

Good work for old Noodle Arm, I think.

Falcon Fan

September 23rd, 2009
12:13 pm

Jeff George and June Jones

mryan

September 23rd, 2009
12:16 pm

Bugkiller, what about Brooking? You should have seen that SNF game where he jumped on all those dogpiles to try and get credit for an assist. Mike Peterson? Marginal upgrade at best (sarcasm intended)

BmoreBlitz

September 23rd, 2009
12:18 pm

Bugkiller- simply intellectually dishonest? wow… moving on though

I wasn’t giving Flacco the credit, that’s where I was giving credit more to Harbaugh and the coaching staff. They came up with a better plan throughout the playoffs than Smith and company. During the Falcons entire playoff game, the Cardinals knew the snap count and Smith(or Ryan) did nothing to change it up. Smith didn’t play enough to Ryans strengths early and it cost the Falcons the game.

Harbaugh played to the Ravens strengths and we beat two teams we were underdogs against. Adv: Harbaugh and company

FalconFan5114

September 23rd, 2009
12:19 pm

Really dont understand why morons have to slander Ryan to make Vick look better. Vick did what he wanted, and he is gone. Anybody really want to trade Smith and Ryan for Vick and Petrino?

Bad News

September 23rd, 2009
12:20 pm

I think you guys have it wrong! I don’t hate Matt at all. I’m just giving him the same support and motivation the last qb received.

I mean you guys were just trying to motivate your last qb right?

I mean teams should improve right? If so then since the last qb took the team one game from a superbowl, the only improvement would be to make it to the superbowl or win it.

Losing in the 1st round is not an improvement, but what do I know :)

Now Harbaugh & Flacco were 1 game from the superbowl – now that is improving not regressing.

So I am here to support Matt just like you guys supported the last qb.

Until he replaces the last qb in……

wins (38-28-1)

playoff wins (2)

championship games (1)

pro bowls (3)

mvp finalist (2nd)

**NOTE**…..The last qb accomplished this in 4 FULL seasons

Until then, he will forever be recognized for what he is………….

BUST & NOODLE ARM!!!!!!

Russ

September 23rd, 2009
12:21 pm

Bad News – By your standards Flacco is automatically beter than Ryan because he made it to the Championship game. By that rationale, wouldn’t every QB that has made it to the Superbowl be better than any QB that has not? So, I think you better adjust your top ten choke list because there are three QB’s on there who have gone to the Superbowl. Which means all QB’s that have not (including Rape Stand Vick) should be listed ahead of them on the choke list.

Bad News

September 23rd, 2009
12:22 pm

Bug Killer

Which Falcons made the pro bowl last season?

sick and tired

September 23rd, 2009
12:29 pm

I’m sick and tired of hearing all this Matt Ryan and Mike Smith talk like they have accomplished something. They havent done anything yet. The guy has been in the league got lucky the Falcons got a stud running back. Chris Redmond could have run the offense the same way last year. You guys are just so happy to have a traditional QB and you know what I mean by a traditional QB. This team will only go as far as Michael Turner, Offensive line and the Defense. But we know all of you are happy to have aa “TRADITIONAL QB”. The Facons will win because of the running game and when the defense becomes an ELITE, but i guess Matt Ryan will be playing D as well.

Bad News

September 23rd, 2009
12:29 pm

Week Two power rankings
Posted by Mike Florio on September 23, 2009 9:22 AM ET
Week Two is over. Week Three is coming. Wednesday is the one day when there isn’t much to talk about, since players typically are off on Tuesdays.

So we need to do something to generate traffic.

So here are the new Power Rankings. Last week’s rank is in parentheses.

We welcome your complaints and ridicule in the comments. We’ll save our profane responses for Twitter.

Since, you know, it’s private.

1. New York Giants (3)

2. Indianapolis Colts (6)

3. Baltimore Ravens (9)

4. Minnesota Vikings (7)

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (1)

6. San Diego Chargers (4)

7. New Orleans Saints (12)

8. New England Patriots (2)

9. Atlanta Falcons (13)

10. New York Jets (15)

11. Chicago Bears (14)

12. San Francisco 49ers (18)

13. Dallas Cowboys (11)

14. Philadelphia Eagles (5)

15. Houston Texans (24)

16. Buffalo Bills (16)

17. Tennessee Titans (5)

18. Cincinnati Bengals (28)

19. Green Bay Packers (10)

20. Arizona Cardinals (22)

21. Washington Redskins (20)

22. Seattle Seahawks (17)

23. Miami Dolphins (21)

24. Denver Broncos (23)

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (19)

26. Carolina Panthers (25)

27. Oakland Raiders (27)

28. Kansas City Chiefs (26)

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (29)

30. Cleveland Browns (30)

31. St. Louis Rams (31)

32. Detroit Lions (32)

JOE FLACCO ROCKS!!!!! :)

WHAT!!

September 23rd, 2009
12:32 pm

Bad News…….since you are talking about not regressing, what would you call Mike Vicks last two seasons? Again, you’ve been proven wrong. You are really a step below stupid. Give it up. Have respect for yourself.

WHAT!!

September 23rd, 2009
12:34 pm

The last two games Ryan carried this team not Turner, so throw that argument out the window.

Go Falcons

September 23rd, 2009
12:36 pm

Matt Ryan and Mike Smith belong on the list for their composition. Both of them are as professional as they come and they both demand respect just as Jeff Schultz stated. It’s not necessarily about who has won what yet.

If you name a combo of coaches that are as close as being on the same page in the NFL you would be hard pressed as Jeff also stated.

Mike and Matt both keep reiterating that there are things to be learned and implemented yet even though they are winning. Keeps them from getting ahead of themselves.

They are my favorite coach-quarterback combo in the NFL.

They absolutely are the best in Falcon history IMO.

Go Falcons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. Flacco couldn’t hold Ryan’s Jock.

BAD NEWS- P.S. MATT RYAN’S QB RATING FOR 2009: 108.5 (TOP 5)
JOE FLACCO’S QB RATING FOR 2009: 96.1
CHOKE ON THAT!!!!!!