Atlanta Falcons: 4 Reasons QB Matt Ryan Is on the Verge of Becoming Elite

Zayne Grantham@ZPGSportsContributor IIIMarch 13, 2012

Atlanta Falcons: 4 Reasons QB Matt Ryan Is on the Verge of Becoming Elite

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    Matt Ryan is not an elite quarterback in National Football League. Nor are the Atlanta Falcons an elite football team.

    However, both Ryan and the Falcons are very close to becoming an annual threat in the NFL.

    Ryan will be entering his fifth year in the league in 2012, and he has helped the Falcons to reach the playoffs in three of his four years.

    Despite the good performances over the past few years, Ryan is not considered an elite quarterback, and he shouldn't be.

    Yet.

    Ryan is on the verge of becoming an elite quarterback at the professional level. If a few things go right in 2012, then Ryan could very well be in the discussion of the top five quarterbacks in the league.

    Let's take a look at four reasons why Ryan is very close to being an elite quarterback in the NFL.

He Has the Skills

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    There has never been any doubt of Matt Ryan's ability to perform on the gridiron.

    Ryan has shown elite skills at the quarterback position since his days at Boston College, and he has shown glimpses of greatness since coming into the league in 2008.

    In four years, Ryan has accumulated 14,238 passing yards, 95 touchdowns and 46 interceptions. Through those years, Ryan has completed 60.9 percent of his passes and recorded an 88.4 passer rating.

    While these numbers may look like those of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, they are still impressive. We also have to remember that Brees, Brady and Rodgers did not come into the NFL lighting up the stat books like they are now.

    The elite quarterbacks in the game today had years where they underperformed, or even struggled. Ryan has had those years, and looks to be getting better and better each year.

    In 2011, Ryan finished the season with a very good 92.2 passer rating, which is the best of his career so far.

    Going into his fifth year, Ryan will be poised to play better than he has thus far in his career.

He Has the Team Around Him

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    There is no doubt that Matt Ryan has a very talented group of coaches and players surrounding him.

    This is a key in a player's success in the NFL, especially at the quarterback position.

    If you look at any of the game’s elite passers, they have amazing coaches and players standing next to them.

    We can look at divisional opponent Drew Brees as an example. His head coach, Sean Payton, may be the best offensive coach in the game today and Brees also has a great group of running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and linemen around him. That has to help.

    Now that Ryan finally has a group of players around them are talented and experienced, he should blossom.

    Receivers like Roddy White and Julio Jones make a quarterback's life easier, but a tight end like Tony Gonzalez makes a quarterback very happy. Granted, the Falcons have had a talented offense since Ryan joined the team in 2008, but he now has options all over the field that are above average and have league experience.

    A new offensive coordinator in Atlanta will shake things up a bit, and it will be interesting to see how Ryan does.

    However, Ryan and the Falcons could benefit greatly from a balanced offensive scheme.

He Has the Experience

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    In 2012, Matt Ryan will be entering his fifth year in the NFL. In his first four years, he and the Falcons reached the playoffs three times and won the NFC South in 2010.

    Ryan has accumulated a ton of NFL experience and it has definitely helped him. Now, Ryan has to put that experience to good use.

    A huge factor in an elite quarterback is their ability to lead their teammates. Ryan has shown great leadership, but he must now show that he can lead the team to a place it has not been since he took over: a Super Bowl.

    Ryan and the Falcons have yet to win a playoff game under head coach Mike Smith—that is not a good thing.

    Granted, each team that has beaten the Falcons in the playoffs has gone on to either play in or win the Super Bowl, but the Falcons still have to do more than make the playoffs.

    Atlanta is at a point where the playoffs are expected. Now they have to win in the postseason.

    Ryan has to use those experiences to guide his team to playoff wins. That is what keeps a good or great quarterback from being elite.

He Has to Become Elite

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    Matt Ryan is at a point in his career where he has to become one of the best in the game.

    When the Falcons selected Ryan with the second overall pick of the 2008 NFL draft, they were not hoping to get just a good quarterback, but a game changer.

    Ryan has helped the Falcons win a lot of games, but he has to start growing and doing the things that the elite passers do.

    Players like Peyton Manning and Eli Manning will their teams to victory. Even when they are not expected to win, the Manning brothers have been able to overcome the odds and beat the teams that they were supposed to lose to.

    Ryan has the ability, experience and supporting cast to do just that. Now he has to get out there and do it.