Live from the Dome: It’s a Matty Ice anniversary!

Matt Ryan against the Titans one year ago. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Matt Ryan delivers against the Titans one year ago. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It was a year ago that the course of the Falcons changed. It was the third exhibition of the 2008 preseason  that told the new administration what it had suspected since the April draft: That it could go with a rookie quarterback as its starter and get away with it.

We forget now, in the light of a rookie of the year award and a 11-5 season of the highest giddiness and even a playoff turn, how bold that decision was. The Falcons had drafted Michael Vick No. 1 overall in 2001, and he hadn’t started as a rookie. But this was a different time, a different rookie.

We look back and we see it as a no-brainer: You have Matt Ryan and you have Chris Redman and D.J. Shockley — who else are you going to start? But we forget how perilous the state of the Good Ship Falcon was in August 2008. They were widely projected as the NFL’s worst team, and they were coming off the most depressing season in the history of North American team sports. (Quarterback in jail, coach in the Ozarks, et cetera.)

It took guts just to draft Ryan No. 3 overall — the consensus, local and otherwise, held that Glenn Dorsey was the better choice — but it took more to say, “He’s our starter in Week 1 of Year 1.” NFL teams had all but gotten away from that, preferring to nurture, preferring to cover their assets in case a big-name draftee flopped. (Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, et alia.) But that’s why Matt Ryan wasn’t just a good pick: He was the perfect pick at the absolute proper moment.

We on the periphery looked on the Falcons’ unassuming offensive line — considered the NFL’s worst by some observers, lest we forget — and said knowingly, “Putting a rookie quarterback behind those blockers is just one more indication why the Falcons are bush league.” But the new Falcons had seen two things in mini-camp and then in summer drills that we outsiders couldn’t quite grasp.

1. That Matt Ryan was a different sort of rookie.

2. That this offensive line, under the tutelage of Paul Boudreau, could hold up its end.

We should never underrate the second part. Indeed, on the way into the Dome on the night of that third exhibition last year, Thomas Dimitroff told a reporter that the key to starting Ryan would be the Falcons first having convinced themselves internally they could protect him. The first two exhibitions had given them an indication, and the third — a 17-3 victory over Tennessee — was the clincher. Ryan threw 21 passes, completing 15. (Here’s my column from that night, if you’re so inclined.)

The Falcons named Ryan the starter the next day. He threw a touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins on his first delivery of the regular season. He took a frightful beating in the second week in Tampa Bay but played better in the second half than the first, and that was when the Falcons knew beyond all doubt they’d made the proper choice. The kid was a keeper. The kid was a kid by no measure other than age.

We forget now how major that decision was: Say the line had broken down and Ryan had thrown 32 interceptions — Peyton Manning did as a rookie — and the season after going 4-12 the Falcons had gone 3-13 and their No. 1 draft pick had been a first-year bust. Would we Atlantans have washed our hands of NFL football altogether?

We’ll never know. All we know is this: On Saturday night the Falcons were to play another third exhibition of another preseason, and there’s no reason to feel bad about them or their future or their brain trust. Or their quarterback.

(OK, folks. I’ll be here all night, chatting and cracking semi-wise. If you’d care to join me, I’d be obliged. It’d get mighty lonely in the big ol’ Dome without you.)

511 comments Add your comment

BugKiller

August 29th, 2009
7:02 pm

Bradley,

When I see Matt Ryan, and hear what people who actually know a thing or two about football (obviously, NOT Vick fans) have to say about Ryan, I can’t help but say that but for the lack of a marriage to the hottest woman in the world, Matt Ryan IS Tom Brady.

I mean, did you ever think Atlanta… ATLANTA… would ever have a Tom Brady? A Joe Montana?

I know, I know, I bury Ryan in hyperbole, but here’s the thing:

I could usually care less about the NFL, except for Tom Brady. My blood runs Red & Black (the Bulldog kind), and the NFL was always something to do on Sunday if I wasn’t working. Saturdays were always my day, until I was laid up in a hospital in Okinawa after having my second knee surgery and saw the magic of Tom Brady as he won his first Super Bowl.

I don’t have a true NFL allegiance to a team, but man, I have no problem admitting my man-crush on Brady. No matter what you think about his coach, Brady is the best QB in the NFL right now, and depending on how his career finishes, I believe he’ll be considered the best ever when all is said and done.

So when I see a lot of Tom Brady in Matt Ryan, I see the potential for greatness this city has never known in professional football in the person of Matt Ryan.

He makes my Sundays more fun.

haha

August 29th, 2009
7:08 pm

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:09 pm

I think it would be crazy to elevate Ryan to the same plateau as Brady just now, but I will say this: I was more impressed with Ryan last season than I was with Brady in 2001, when he replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe and led the Patriots to the Super Bowl upset of St. Louis.

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:10 pm

Second, actually, Haha. But who’s counting?

Falcons Ticket Operator

August 29th, 2009
7:12 pm

Bugkiller, Vick is so far in your head you couldn’t even make a comment without referencing his name…LMAO!!!!

Tyler

August 29th, 2009
7:18 pm

Hows the new video boards looking mark?

mountain_jim

August 29th, 2009
7:18 pm

I’m at home here in the WNC mountains and just had a fright – I have been waiting for this game all week, knowing it was national tv and I could see it live, then I discovered Charlotte is at 8 on the local CBS. It was with great relief that I soon discovered the Spartanburg WB network channel is (scheduled to)show the Atlanta game – yes!

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:20 pm

They look nice, Tyler. Not as nice as the 96-yard TV screen in Big D, but nice.

Goldenglove002

August 29th, 2009
7:24 pm

Mark, do you know what channel this is on? Gotta get my preset set so I can switch between this and the braves.

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:25 pm

It’s on CBS, Goldenglove. Dan Fouts and Greg Gumbel will provide the vocal stylings.

bigeasy830

August 29th, 2009
7:28 pm

Bugkiller, before you put Matt Ryan on the level of 2 QBs that won multiple Super Bowls, he first need to win a play-off game, and you say Vick fans know nothing about football, hahahahahaha. Talk about a man crush, my goodness Bugkiller, sounds like if you could you would have Matt Ryan’s love child. And Mark Bradley, I bet you the Fans in New England will take that Super Bowl in 2001 over a over hyped season that Matt Ryan had. Tom Brady won it all, Matt Ryan won ROY and was one and done in the play-offs. Were you impressed with his 2 INTs in that play-off game against the Rams. HAHAHAHHAHA. Falcons Suck

Falcons will be 4-12 in 2009
“Back To Life, Back To Reality”

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:31 pm

I was hugely impressed with everything Matt Ryan did last season. Hugely impressed. How could you not be?

George

August 29th, 2009
7:32 pm

Gearing up for another night of double subjects and run-on sentences. Let Mark Bradley in the broadcast booth!!

bigeasy830

August 29th, 2009
7:36 pm

One and done in the play-offs with 2 INTs, that is how you could not be. Brady was never one and done, Joe Montana was never one and done. Terry Bradshaw was never one and done and who was the starting QB of the Falcons that wore #7 a couple of years back? Him, that guy he was never one and done either.

Falcons will be 4-12 in 2009
“Back To Life, Back To Reality”

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:36 pm

You wouldn’t want that, George.

George

August 29th, 2009
7:36 pm

That’s right, tune in to CBS for their commentary with double subjects and run-on sentences. I still say let the sports writers do the broadcasts.

Brent S.

August 29th, 2009
7:37 pm

Hey Big Easy, go take a long walk off a short pier!!!! They ONLY reason that Ryan didn’t win that play-off game in Arizona, is b/c he had NO DEFENSE, which was the difference between Ryan’s team and Joe Flacco’s team (Ravens). Our defense last year was old and slow. Granted, I loved K. Brooking, and he was, until this year, my favorite Falcon. But times have changed, and I don’t think all these people, including yourself, predicting the Falcons sucking this year has ANY validity. Everyone thought we would SUCK last year too, but look what happened!! I predict at least 10-6 and FINALLY Back-2-Back winning seasons!!!!

mountain_jim

August 29th, 2009
7:39 pm

Braves are done – Rochy needed to clear those bases to take that game last night…

rico43

August 29th, 2009
7:39 pm

How much action is each QB expected to see, Mark?

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:41 pm

Montana was indeed one-and-done in the playoffs. Check 1985.

And how many of those QBs made the playoffs as rookie starters?

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:43 pm

According to esteemed colleague Chris Vivlamore, who’s sitting to my left, Mike Smith wouldn’t commit to any rotation regarding his quarterbacks this week, Rico.

Seeing that the third exhibition is the one teams see as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, Ryan will — I’m guessing — play into the second quarter. Beyond that, I don’t know.

JJB

August 29th, 2009
7:44 pm

Mark, because Bigeasy830 is a dolt who probably watches the games from a looted TV

Rod

August 29th, 2009
7:45 pm

Hey Mark, What do you think of this quote as far a DJ is concerned: Smith said. “It’s been very competitive. Of course we are not going to just evaluate what takes place in the [exhibition] games. We are going to weigh the whole body of work, which entails mini-camp, training camp and [organized team activities] and what they’ve done in these preseason games.” DJ had a great mini, ota and training camp. I don’t care to see DJ as the 3rd stringer again this year it should be #2 or go and see what other teams my bring him on board. I still think when all the dust settles the QB that has the most talent will be the #2 qb and I believe it is DJ.

Justin

August 29th, 2009
7:45 pm

Bigeasy they lost to the cardinals not the rams.

Shamus Thacker

August 29th, 2009
7:45 pm

We’ll be able to just flat outscore some teams this year. If the defense can manage to at least equal last year’s performance, we’ll be a better team overall. Our record, even with the tough schedule, will be better than most football psychics predict…

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:47 pm

Rod, I would read that quote to mean Shockley has a lot of friends inside the building at 4400 Falcon Parkway. One of his best friends is Matt Ryan.

Shamus Thacker

August 29th, 2009
7:51 pm

Best thing that’s happened in the HISTORY of the Falcon’s franchise, was when Bobby Petrino walked out that door! He made all this possible!!

Oink, Oink, Petrino, you F’n IDIOT!!

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:53 pm

I still wonder, Shamus, what Petrino and Vick could have done together. Some good things, I’ll always believe.

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
7:55 pm

Shawn Merriman was just introduced. He didn’t do his little dance, much to my displeasure. Now the Falcons.

Not a huge crowd, you should know. Lots of empties even in the lower arena. But Dome crowds fool me. They fill in right at kickoff.

Charlie

August 29th, 2009
7:55 pm

Vick is old news. For what it is worth, he looked like Brooking running the other night. Arm looks good, but he never could hit a timing pattern.

Charlie

August 29th, 2009
7:59 pm

Petrino was not an NFL coach, my gues is Vick would not have changed that.

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
8:00 pm

During the anthem, I counted the jerseys in the section in front of me. The total: 7 Ryans, 2 Vicks, one Peerless Price.

Peerless Price? Talk about a throwback.

Shamus Thacker

August 29th, 2009
8:01 pm

Mark Bradley: I still wonder, Shamus, what Petrino and Vick could have done together. Some good things, I’ll always believe.”"

Maybe so Mark, but I sure wouldn’t trade what he have now to have found out.

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
8:02 pm

I wouldn’t, either. But I bet Petrino has a big season at Arky. Bad guy, good coach.

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
8:04 pm

Ready to go, almost. Let me know if Fouts or Gumbel says anything good. Or, failing that, interesting.

And while we’re at it: Why doesn’t anybody hate a football announcer the way people hate Tim McCarver?

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
8:06 pm

Ryan to Gonzalez, first snap. Off play-action. Nine yards. Easy.

Tweezy

August 29th, 2009
8:07 pm

Fouts thinks this is a SB preview! A stretch but hope is eternal.

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
8:09 pm

Ryan overthrows White on a short out, then misses him deep. Falcons punt.

I don’t see San Diego as a Super Bowl team. Not ahead of Pittsburgh and New England. And I don’t think the Falcons are apt to get there, either. Not this year.

BugKiller

August 29th, 2009
8:11 pm

Bradley,

Let’s just say that the overrated legacy, Joe Buck, is the worst thing to happen to televised sports in YEARS.

Baseball, football, he ruins it all. He’s absolutely horrible. If his father wasn’t named Jack Buck, he’d be somebody’s accountant in St. Louis.

He has to be the least talented announcer per amount of games he calls.

FOX’s second team, in both baseball and football are much preferable to listening to Buck.

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
8:13 pm

Every time I see Philip Rivers throw, I think, “What’s wrong with his delivery?” I never can get used to that throwing motion.

Peria Jerry just tackled Darren Sproles, by the way.

BugKiller

August 29th, 2009
8:15 pm

To tell you how much I loathe Joe Buck, I’d rather be locked in a room for 48 hours listening to John Madden and Peter King wax eloquent about their mutual love of all things Favre than listen to Buck for one minute.

That the kind of loathing you buy.

BugKiller

August 29th, 2009
8:16 pm

Brent Grimes is too SHORT.

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
8:16 pm

Abraham ran down Sproles on a screen pass and landed funny. He’s still in, though.

Rivers to Vincent Jackson over Brent Grimes. Jackson might have pushed off.

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
8:17 pm

Sproles on a 10-yard touchdown run off a stretch draw. Not much of a defensive series there, I’m afraid.

toccoadawg

August 29th, 2009
8:19 pm

so much for Defense

La Jolla Dawg

August 29th, 2009
8:20 pm

I’ll hear about this, regardless of whether or not it is a pre-season game–come on Falcons! I am very concerned about the defense–that was terrible.

Bad News

August 29th, 2009
8:21 pm

Like I said over and over and over again, you are not playing Detroit & St. Louis – You are playing with the BIG BOYS!

Matty Ice throwing lollipops thinking he can fool the Chargers – please.

On defense, the Chargers ran it down their throats like they were playing a high school team.

It’s going to be a looooooooooong season!

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2009
8:21 pm

That was terrible, La Jolla. Way too easy.

BugKiller

August 29th, 2009
8:22 pm

Difference between the Falcons and the Bulldogs:

The Falcons will have to score 30 points in some games because their defense is REALLY young, even though they have a good coordinator.

The Bulldogs will have to score over 30 points in EVERY game, despite the fact that they have a veteran defense because their coordinator is the WORST in the SEC.

On the surface, defense may be the problems, but when you peel back a few layers, you see hope for the Falcons because of BVG.

There is NO hope for Bulldog Nation as long as Martinez retains his job, which he in no way deserves.

Bad News

August 29th, 2009
8:22 pm

Exposed….. exposed……exposed….