Matt Ryan: a Falcons QB worthy of Hall of Fame

An American football

By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

As soon as Matt Ryan made his move to sign and then retired an Atlanta Falcon, and the ink was barely dry on the deal, thoughts immediately turned toward the quarterback’s career. Did he play well enough to earn a spot in the Professional Football Hall-of-Fame. A close analysis of his career by the statistics, and his Super Bowl appearance, and who he was paired with, indicate that he did.

The first thing you’ll notice about Ryan’s name is how often it appears among the all-time greats. You can find Ryan in the top ten in statistics in completions, passing yards, and touchdowns for his career. Only Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre can be found consistently ahead of him. He’s right there battling with Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger, ahead of legends like Dan Marino, John Elway, Warren Moon, and Fran Tarkenton. And he has the sixth most game-winning drives, showing he was clutch.

Currently, Ryan’s still ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson, players clearly in the twilight of their careers. And he has something some of the other candidates don’t have: an MVP trophy. So “Matty Ice” certainly belongs in the HoF discussion.

But, critics will point to several drawbacks for the Ryan case. He was 4-6 in playoff games, and ten playoff games sounds like 3-4 years for Brady and Manning. There’s also that crushing Super Bowl loss when the team was up 28-3. If you listen to 92.9 FM, 680 AM and other sports talk radio, sportscasters, guests and callers frequently bring those factors up against Ryan’s bid for the Hall-of-Fame.

So how do we judge the case of Matt Ryan? The best way to do that is to look at how he played in those playoff games and an evaluation of who he played with. Certainly, Ryan has a losing record, but in most of those games, he kept the Falcons in those contests. It’s not as though he threw three straight picks when the team was far ahead. Few blame him for the Super Bowl debacle. Some of those on the top twenty lists (Rivers, Moon, Carson Palmer, Vinny Testaverde, Dan Fouts) never made it to the big game. Others struggled a little more in their appearance or appearances (Marino, Tarkenton, Drew Bledsoe).

For everyone without a ring, there’s the argument that these players would have done better with a complete cast: a better running back, wide receivers, offensive line and defense. That’s certainly true, and a reason why some think those behind Ryan in statistics (Stafford, Flacco, Wilson) stand a better chance of getting into the Canton facility, because of their Super Bowl wins. It should be noted that many Ryan critics and supporters claim Eli Manning wasn’t a good quarterback despite his two rings, but his career statistics say otherwise.

If so, we should see those running backs, pass catchers, linemen, defenders and coaches succeed elsewhere, without Ryan. Ryan did play with some decent talent, and some (Julio Jones) certainly deserve their own discussions about the NFL Hall-of-Fame. But not a player or coach did better playing elsewhere, winning in a different situation outside of the shadow of Ryan. He took a team without much of a history and made it relevant for virtually his entire career in Atlanta, the success that raised expectations that were perhaps just a bit beyond what skill and luck could provide.

I think we’ll see Matt Ryan in the gold jacket in Ohio before too long, when people look at the body of work he was able to produce. And hopefully, his success will have fired up the franchise to continue to demand the best, instead of settling for mediocrity.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at His Twitter account is JohnTures2.