Matt Ryan’s notes, intangibles are driving his success

Falcons owner Arthur Blank gave Matt Ryan a hug after the team clinched the NFC South two weeks ago, and he may never let go of him. (Curtis Compton)

Owner Arthur Blank hugged Matt Ryan after the Falcons clinched the NFC South two weeks ago. It's a wonder he ever let go. (Curtis Compton)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Matt Ryan is much like his team. He does little to make you go, “Wow,” at least until you look at the won-loss record. He doesn’t blow you away with his arm or his legs or his sound bites.

His shoe would be, “Air Beige.”

If you walked into a music store, Ryan would be the equivalent of the vinyl in the far left corner, not the digital music players to the right that can hold everything on the floor, as well as possibly wax the floor.

Vinyl still sounds better.

The Falcons are in the playoffs for the second time in Ryan’s three years. The biggest reason they’re here is the maturation of their starting quarterback, who is 33-13 in starts for so many reasons other than being able to throw passes that leave vapor trails.

Ryan was drafted because, as general manager Thomas Dimitroff said, the Falcons needed a quarterback who “could not only handle the football intelligence side of the game, but he also needed to handle a very interesting situation coming here after the 2007 season.”

First time I’ve ever heard the words “very interesting” applied to the NFL equivalent of Kabul, which is pretty much what we had here after Bobby Petrino and Michael Vick.

Ryan gets criticized by some for not having a strong arm. The inaccuracy of this statement aside – Quoth Dimitroff: “He has a strong arm, and a strong arm for this system.” — this is like criticizing a car for not having spinning rims.

Jeff George could throw a ball through cinder block. Unfortunately, he had a head to match. It’s the reason he threw for over 27,000 yards but went 46-78 as a starter.

When Dimitroff was asked to list his criteria for being a successful NFL quarterback, arm strength was the caboose on his scouting train.

The list: 1. Leadership; 2. Football intelligence; 3. Being taller than 5-foot-9 (he was half-joking, but it’s worth noting Dimitoff is 5-8¾, depending on his shoes); 4. Resolve and resilience; 5. and 6. Accuracy and decision-making (interchangeable); 7. Pocket presence and an ability to ad-lib; 8. Arm strength.

The Falcons play Green Bay Saturday night. Remember those embraced quarterback traits and consider this: When Ryan faced the Packers in November, he countered numerous blitzes with quick passes, completing 24 of 28 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown.

On third- and fourth-down, he completed 10 of 12 for four first downs and a touchdown. He drove the offense to a game-winning field goal in the final seconds. He has engineered 13 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter, including six this season.

His quarterback rating of 104.1 on third down is the third best in the NFL, behind only Tom Brady (119.3) and Ben Roethlisberger (114.2). His rating of 96.7 against blitzes ranks second in the NFC to the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.

In the NFL, cool outweighs arm strength every day and twice on Sunday.

Ryan jokes that he’s “old school.” It’s because of his note-taking.

“No computer,” he says.

Just a pencil and a legal pad.

Ryan will take notes about the game plan during game week. He’ll write down his thoughts about the opponent and follow it up with reflections after the game, including the defenses and switches he saw on the field.

“Then I just tear out the sheet, three-hole punch it and put it in a binder,” Ryan said. “Coach [Bill] Musgrave helped me set it up.”

Alphabetized by teams?

“Yeah, I’m kind of like a nerd,” he said. “I’ve even got the dividers with the tabs like you had in school.”

Multi-colors?

“No, just white.”

Ryan said the notebook has helped him whenever he has played against a team for a second time.

“When we played Tampa,” he said, “I could go back to my notes from when Monte Kiffin was there. Raheem [Morris] started calling plays for the defense, and they did some similar things. You had similar checks and fronts and tendencies.”

He said the notes also help when he goes against the same defensive coordinator on another team, or “when teams use similar groupings of players.”

It all seems so basic, right? But these are the things that don’t show up in punt, pass and kick contests.  They just win games.

There are your wows.

By Jeff Schultz

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Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

535 comments Add your comment

John

January 13th, 2011
3:17 pm

John

January 13th, 2011
3:20 pm

Matty Ice is gonna freeze the Packers on Saturday night. 20-17 last time, I don’t see anything else changing. James Stark is nothing. ATL RISE UP

gbal

January 13th, 2011
3:23 pm

HMMM Slow day

Big Country

January 13th, 2011
3:28 pm

Jeff, please tell us that you feel something different and confident about these guys getting ready for the game on Saturday. I am so sick of all of he non-Atlanta talking heads (analysts) not giving any respect to ATL against Green Bay. The Birds have not played their best game up to this point so I hope they start Saturday night and hey, it took all year but we finally have the FOX #1 announce team. Go Birds!

Marcus

January 13th, 2011
3:32 pm

nice …. Matty Ice, just make sure you and the team are still around on Sunday, Jan. 23rd to pull out your notes for CHI or SEA.

thanx ;)

Paul

January 13th, 2011
3:34 pm

Sort of sounds like Peyton Manning, now doesn’t it?

FrontRow

January 13th, 2011
3:37 pm

Jeff you nailed the reason why the Falcons are not “media darlings”. This team is boring and boring is good.

We’ve had flashy players and flashier coaches (with big belt buckles even). The fan’s preference is to see the flashy on the field.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

January 13th, 2011
3:38 pm

win or lose this team has come a LONG way in three years .
now go win .

Matt

January 13th, 2011
3:39 pm

Matt is the greatest QB since Joe Montana…Matt is a choke artist…MV is better…MV is a Dog Killer…should have drafted Flacco….blah, blah, blah. There, now the Trolls can find something else to do today!

The Real Falcon

January 13th, 2011
3:46 pm

Sometimes vanilla, er beige is just fine!

Joey

January 13th, 2011
3:55 pm

I just hope Mularkey/Smith open up the playbook for Ryan. In the playoffs, you’ve got to do some unexpected things, according to the “Parcell’s book.”

Go Falcons!

Ole Smoky

January 13th, 2011
3:57 pm

Matt just wins baby !

Ryno

January 13th, 2011
4:00 pm

Matt is the TCBY of Quarterbacks. No sugar – but still satisfying.

Dawg Man

January 13th, 2011
4:02 pm

We’re very blessed to have him!

JASon

January 13th, 2011
4:04 pm

Matt Ryan is a complete nerd, okay everyone knows that. But I would like to comment on O Led’s article about the falcon’s spending. You know, Arthur Blank thinks purchasing a new stadium is going to help with their revenue, how about working on the customer service at the Georgia Dome? It is the absolute worst. They are slow, they are dumb, and they treat you like crap. People who come from out of town to watch games at the Dome cannot believe how bad the service is there. Maybe if Blank got that in order, he would be seeing better revenues…(not that he would know, considering he’s never had to order at the counter in his life).

cp8

January 13th, 2011
4:06 pm

Nice piece Jeff. Popularity does’nt win football games, performance does. The Pack looks like they’ve hit their stride, but the extra time to prepare and things like Matt’s Notebook make me confident the Falcons will prevail. John Abraham needs to get in Rodgers face and stay there.

Now how about some Weekend Predictions?

Brad

January 13th, 2011
4:07 pm

Funny how the media has crowned the Packers “Super Bowl Champs” already, when it took 2 very rare field goal missed by David Akers and an interception in the endzone from “MVP” Mike Vick for the Packers to even win last week. They are lucky to even be playing, and if not for the Giants choking, they wouldnt even have made the playoffs?!?

WTF?

January 13th, 2011
4:12 pm

Falcons will come out flat thanks to Michael 100 rushes for 10 yards Turner. The guy is either on or off, nothing in between. It’s the in between that the team needs and without it it’s a big fat loss. If the Falcons don’t go deep every few series it will be over by the 3rd quarter and the Packers will take them out of the game. Tough luck, there’s always the pro bowl

WTF =

January 13th, 2011
4:18 pm

Mr. Sunshine

time for timer

January 13th, 2011
4:19 pm

i got a hankering for a hunka, a slice, a slab. a chunka, i got a hankering for a hunk of cheese

Hillbilly Deluxe

January 13th, 2011
4:21 pm

At this point, Ryan isn’t a great QB but he’s a good one. He’s good enough to win, if the rest of the team does what they are supposed to. It’ll be a few years before we really know where he stands in the grand scheme of things, but he’s got potential.

As for strong arms, Bobby Douglas had an arm so strong, his passes used to bounce off the receivers’ chest and half way back to him. Didn’t translate into wins, though.

Ozzy

January 13th, 2011
4:23 pm

Agree with Brad. Packers are just lucky to be even playing this game. Falcons have earned it (by playing boring football and winning). I’ll take another one of the non-flashy boring win on Sat. Let’s fly under the radar to dallas.

Joey

January 13th, 2011
4:24 pm

Ryan was great vs Green Bay in Nov. Not so much vs the Saints a month ago.

Again, Ryan’s performance depends on Mularkey.

Mr. Dawg

January 13th, 2011
4:26 pm

I recall quite well watching ESPN on a Thursday night as Matt Ryan led Boston College to a 14-10 victory over Virginia Tech after trailing 10-0 with just barely enough time to put together two scoring drives late in the 4th quarter. I had heard about him and knew he was a rising star. But in this game he did not play well and was not helping his draft status in a nationally televised game. Then, when the game was on the line he suddnely turned into a different player. I never gave any thought to the fact that he might be a Falcon some day. But you could tell he was something special.

Joey

January 13th, 2011
4:29 pm

The Falcons are better than the Packers, but if Mularkey uses the game plan from the last Saints game, we’ll lose by 2 TDs.

Steve-o

January 13th, 2011
4:30 pm

JASon,
I never attend games at the Georgia Dome, so I can’t comment about the quality of customer service — I’ll take your word on that. But a new stadium is essential. The hideous Georgia Dome was outdated the day it was built. Saw one game there and it was such an unpleasant, stale environment that I will never go to a game until the Falcons have a new staduim, perferably an outdoor facility and if not one with retractable roof. Revenues would be sure to improve with a true NFL-quality stadium.

PMC

January 13th, 2011
4:30 pm

His tangibles are pretty freaking good. What’s Aaron Rogers in his 5th year?

This is year 3 for Ryan and he will be the reason they win Saturday.

Go hang out with Matt Ryan, go play golf, go hang out in the locker room. The guy is a hell of a lot better than most of the media is given him credit for….

No one really talks about the Patriots either really other than to say… they are the best….. and go look at their offensive talent outside of Brady.

Media members get hung up on free buffets and fancy stats. They LOVE big passing stats and long TD’s.

It’s a hell of a lot harder to engineer 15 play clean efficient scoring drives with no turnovers than it is to exploit a busted coverage…and those drives… keep your defense fresh.

The Falcons don’t have the same high end of talent level that some other teams have, but they are good to very good at virtually every position.

Tyson Clabo is going to own Clay Matthews YET AGAIN in this one. Just like last time.

FrontRow

January 13th, 2011
4:32 pm

@JASon – The Falcons have no control over the running of the dome. GWCC runs the dome. That’s why the Falcons want a new stadium – so the team can control the total experience.

Believe me, if AB had his way the service would be top notch. Only the club seats get attention from GWCC.

PMC

January 13th, 2011
4:37 pm

If you don’t like watching football and you just want to catch 10 minutes of sports center and or read the stats page….by all means overlook the Falcons.

Become Michael Lombardi and invent sources.

Atlanta Peach

January 13th, 2011
4:40 pm

I think the National Media is firing up our guys ! To the fair and unbalanced Media, We Thank You for the VICTORY !!!

Atlanta Peach

January 13th, 2011
4:42 pm

Count Down until Choke, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,…………….

Hankie Aron

January 13th, 2011
5:01 pm

Jeff-Your best column in a long time

Atlanta Peach

January 13th, 2011
5:15 pm

Where is everybody ?!?!

Ron "CHOKE" Mexico

January 13th, 2011
5:19 pm

I ain’t never took no notes about football

Einsteindawg

January 13th, 2011
5:24 pm

Just read the article about Bret Farve’s sister, Brandi, arrested for meth production. Her picture reminds me of the Jethro/Jethrine characters from The Beverly Hillbillys. I think it’s really Bret wearing a wig.

Atlanta Peach

January 13th, 2011
5:33 pm

@what ?, what in the hell do your statement have to do what the game in hand ?! Are you trying to bait someone into racists comments ?! If you don’t know, You better ask someone !

Atlanta Peach

January 13th, 2011
5:34 pm

with the game in hand..

Ron "CHOKE" Mexico

January 13th, 2011
5:36 pm

I think Brett is better looking than Brandi, She could be the poster child for trailer trash

74 Dawg

January 13th, 2011
5:37 pm

The Falcons lost three games in the regular season, the packers 6. The falcons are 7 and 1 at home this year. Packers are what.. .500 on the road ? Falcons won head to head. Falcons have better point differential, better record in the second half, a week off , and are playing at home. Green bay has a small edge on defense and at QB. If neither team wins /loses the turn over battle, it should be a close Falcon win. Say, 24 – 17.

Brandi Farve

January 13th, 2011
5:37 pm

Hey Ron, I get out in a few months…where do you live?

juice sourcer

January 13th, 2011
5:45 pm

Very impressive talent. He has it all.

rm

January 13th, 2011
5:52 pm

Leadership and football intelligence are 2 things that Ryan seems to excel at. I believe they got their man.

Love Mark Richt-Hate Coach Richt

January 13th, 2011
6:00 pm

blah…blah…blah let’s just sum it all up – Matt Ryan is a damn good quarterback !

Gumby

January 13th, 2011
6:03 pm

Big points for “Jeff George could throw a ball through cinder block. Unfortunately, he had a head to match.”.
That was some funny stuff Mr Schultz and I’m still laughing. Right on the money.

Atlanta Peach

January 13th, 2011
6:03 pm

If I were the Falcon’s players, I would Boycott any reporters, commentators, or national medias who disrespected and picked against them ! Only give interviews to the hometown media ! I would !

Calvin G. Sims, Sr.

January 13th, 2011
6:18 pm

Beige is my favorite color.

Go Falcons!!!

Jeff Schultz

January 13th, 2011
6:19 pm

Big Country — All I can tell you is players seem loose. Packers are very good. I expect a tight game.

Jeff Schultz

January 13th, 2011
6:20 pm

FrontRow — A lot of truth to what you say. I think we agree winning should be enough.

MWC

January 13th, 2011
6:20 pm

Right On Atlanta Peach !!
AND, they need to tell ESPN to go eat @#$% !!

Jeff Schultz

January 13th, 2011
6:20 pm

Matt — You left out blaming Matt Ryan for the economy, global warming and liberals.