It might seem logical for the NFL’s highest-paid player to be the league’s best player, too.
But that obviously wasn’t the case when Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons became the NFL’s first $30 million man, even though he isn’t the best quarterback or the best player in the league,
Ryan, though, was able to take advantage of good timing.
He’s only 32, young enough to get a big deal, while Tom Brady has a history of taking below-market deals and Aaron Rodgers’ current deal isn’t up yet.
Is Ryan worth the money? Well, any player is worth what a team will pay him.
And Ryan has his supporters.
Mark Bradley, a veteran columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, made the case for Ryan to be included in the list of elite quarterbacks.
He noted Ryan saved the franchise in the aftermath of Michael Vick’s problems and led the team to the playoffs six times in his first 10 years. He has been an MVP and four-time Pro Bowler and been durable, missing only two games.
On the other hand, Ryan went 1-4 in his first five playoff games in his first five seasons from 2008 to 2012 (getting only two points in a 24-2 loss to the Giants in 2011), then missed the playoffs three years in a row, going 4-12, 6-10 and 8-8 from 2013 through 2015. Coach Mike Smith was fired after the 2014 season.
The Falcons finally made the playoffs again in 2016 and won two playoff games to get to the Super Bowl. But then came 28-3 in the Super Bowl against New England, which is the stat he’s most noted for. Granted, Ryan was a victim of Kyle Shanahan’s playcalling, but elite quarterbacks don’t blow 28-3 leads.
Then last year, the Falcons made it as a wild-card team and beat the Los Angeles Rams 26-13 before losing to the Eagles, 15-10.
So what’s next for Ryan? What will his legacy be? Will the second half of his career be better than the first half? Will he win a Super Bowl?
Bradley flatly predicts the Falcons will win a Super Bowl with Ryan, although he adds that might require a different offensive coordinator.
That’s no sure thing, even though Ryan said “the best is in front of us’’ at a news conference after getting the big deal.
Bradley even said Ryan should be on the list of the top 25 quarterbacks of all time, maybe the top 20.
Considering the fact there are 27 quarterbacks – by my quick count — in the Hall of Fame, (not counting George Blanda, who was also a kicker), Ryan isn’t in the top 25, much less the top 20. He certainly isn’t in that company. He’s yet to show he is a Hall of Fame candidate, although he has time to get into the conversation.
Ryan probably won’t be the highest-paid player for long because salaries keep escalating.
But he was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to get the deal, even though he’s not as good as his salary.