Today’s question: Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons was paid like an elite quarterback when he received a five-year, $103.75 million extension in 2013 that included $59 million guaranteed. Do you consider Ryan among the league’s elite quarterbacks and, if not, do you think he will ever reach that status?
Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter: I think Ryan has always been on the cusp of being an elite quarterback, and he played like one when the Falcons had Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and a younger Roddy White all together, along with Michael Turner. But last year, he struggled transitioning to Kyle Shanahan’s offense, a totally different system from what he ran in the past. With another year in Shanahan’s system, he could improve, but I honestly wonder if Shanahan’s system is really the best fit for Ryan. He’s a traditional drop-back passer who Shanahan has suddenly asked to roll out, run bootlegs and throw on the move. I wouldn’t call Ryan a “square peg,” but Shanahan is essentially trying to fit him into a round hole with this offense. If the Falcons do win a playoff game in the next few years, I think it will be, in part, the result of great defense currently being built by Dan Quinn, and not Ryan having to do it all alone.
David Newton, Carolina Panthers reporter: From 2010 to 2014, Ryan put up elite numbers. What kept me from considering him elite in the same breath as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberg and a few others was that he never took the Falcons to the top level; he has a 1-4 career record in the playoffs. He now has two fewer playoff wins than Carolina’s Cam Newton (3-3). Heck, former Atlanta Quarterback Michael Vick (2-3) has more playoff wins than Ryan. And Ryan has had some of the best weapons in the NFL in wide Jones and White. Ryan falls into the same category as Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton: good in the regular season but not so good in the playoffs, where he has nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Those numbers won’t get you to the Super Bowl or earn you elite status.
Mike Triplett, New Orleans Saints reporter: I never considered Ryan “elite.” But I have always thought of him as a very good quarterback who could win a Super Bowl with the right supporting cast — in the same class as guys likeEli Manning and Joe Flacco. I still think that’s possible if the Falcons are ever able to support Ryan with a defense and an offensive line while he and Jones are still in their primes. And I certainly don’t think the Falcons should be anxious to replace Ryan anytime soon. But he doesn’t seem to be in that same class as fellow NFC South quarterbacks Drew Brees and Cam Newton, both of whom played at an MVP level to drive their respective teams’ Super Bowl runs.