Matt Ryan’s has the Atlanta Falcons as contenders again and is in line to possibly win MVP. But he could be aiming higher.
There have only ever been four seasons in the NFL in which a quarterback has had over 10.0 yards per attempt. The last time a quarterback did that was Norm Van Brocklin (10.1) for the Los Angeles Rams in 1954.
As of Week 6 in 2016, Matt Ryan is leading the league with a ridiculous 9.9. The last time any other quarterback had that good of a season was Kurt Warner‘s improbable 2000 season with the Rams (fifth best all time). Nobody else in 2016 is anywhere close (Philip Rivers is in second at 8.2).
What’s scary, though, is that Ryan’s 9.9 yards per attempt average could be even higher.
The Seattle Seahawks finally slowed Ryan down, forcing him to “just” 7.98 yards per attempt in a 26-24 loss for the Atlanta Falcons. If he did that consistently, 7.98 yards per attempt would still put Ryan in the top six quarterbacks in the NFL in 2016.
Matt Ryan is a truly impressive quarterback and we need to acknowledge it.
Somehow we lost sight in the tumult of the last few seasons for the Falcons. Somewhere in the discussion on whether Joe Flacco was actually elite or not (remember that?) it got lost. Somehow it was lost in the depression of Cam Newton‘s return to Earth.
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Ryan is on the verge of doing something that no quarterback has done in the last decade and a half. He could join Warner and break the decades-old marks. There is still plenty of football left to play, yes, but he has shown no sign of slowing down.
While today’s pass-happy NFL has yielded big-time numbers in total yards and gaudy touchdown statistics, the venerable yards per attempt statistic has held up. For every Peyton Manning (his best season in 2004 places him 15th at 9.2) we can look to a Ken Stabler or (ninth, 9.4, 1976). For every Aaron Rodgers (15th, 9.2, 2011) we can still look at an Otto Graham (three of the top-seven single-season records). Even the best passers in the modern NFL haven’t been able to touch what the venerable greats have done. Ryan has a chance to do it, though.
Whether you root for another team in the NFC South or you’re generally just predisposed to hating the Dirty Birds, you should be rooting for Ryan. He’s on pace to do the unthinkable. And, along with Warner, he can end up right along some of the most storied names in history. If Ryan can keep up his current pace, he’ll finish in the top five in yards per attempt and join Warner, Ed Brown (Chicago, 9.9, 1956), Van Brocklin, Graham, and Sid Luckman (10.9, 1943, Chicago).
Every player with a season in the top 10, with the exception of Brown, is in the Hall of Fame. Ryan is capable of turning in a Hall of Fame performance this year. He’s capable of being enshrined with these all-time heroes. He’s capable of winning over every sports fan’s heart in the process.
The Seahawks were just a minor speed bump for Ryan. He’s tuned up the Denver Broncos vaunted defense (9.54 yards per attempt), decimated the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers (13.59 yards per attempt), stomped the hyped Oakland Raiders D (11.65 yards per attempt), and also posted over eight yards per attempt on the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The only real defensive tests left for Ryan this season are the Arizona Cardinals (Week 12 after a bye) and Rams (Week 14). If the recent history is any indicator, Ryan will only pad his stats more before taking those foes on. It took a few years to get here, but Ryan’s winning games and winning people over, including myself. I’ll be rooting for him every week to see just how far he can go.