After Sunday’s nervous victory over Minnesota, Falcons coach Mike Smith spoke of Matt Ryan — who’d had his best game of the season — and the “maturation process.” Which sounded a bit odd, given that we around here have, fairly or not, never considered Ryan anything less than mature. He was a starter from Game 1 of Year 1, and he’s 26 now. Speaking of which …
Jim Trotter of SI.com offers a look at four NFL quarterbacks — all of whom were drafted in Round 1 in 2008 or 2009, all of whom had almost immediate success, none of whom are having a noteworthy statistical season in 2011. The four: Mark Sanchez of the Jets, Joe Flacco of the Raves, Josh Freeman of the Bucs … and Matt Ryan.
Trotter makes the case that, because more collegiate quarterbacks are playing in pro-style offenses, more quarterback draftees enter the NFL ready to play from Game 1 of Year 1. But he also writes:
It also could mean that QBs are coming into the league with less room to improve than they did a decade ago, when offenses were more ground-oriented. If true, could fans and some owners be setting themselves up for frustration and disappointment if the players fail to reach elite status before their first contracts expire?
Confronted with this argument, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff — who drafted Ryan with the third overall pick in 2008 — told Trotter this: “It never came up in conversation that maybe [Ryan] had maxed out because of the system he had been under. But it’s interesting that you would think that way. Maybe there is something to it.”
Toward the end of Trotter’s story we hear from Dimitroff again, and this time he addresses a point yours truly has been batting around, sort of, since the end of Ryan’s second season: That Matty Ice could be closer to Eli Manning than to brother Peyton — a very good quarterback but not quite a great one. Said Dimitroff:
There are some very valid levels below that elite [quarterback] level that can allow organizations to be successful and make runs at Super Bowls. Everyone needs to understand that. Owners and team builders and head coaches need to realize that you can win with very good quarterbacks. They don’t have to necessarily be the elite quarterback of the league to be successful as a team.
Is this a concession from TD the GM, or just a reflection of reality? (The latter, I’d say.) But I advise you to real the article for yourself. And thanks to reader Steve Young of Alpharetta – who’s not, I’m assuming, the Steve Young who succeeded Joe Montana in San Fran — for bringing it to my attention.
By Mark Bradley