Breaking Down Why Matt Ryan Is the Next Elite QB in the NFL

Joe Mac@@Joe_Mac_Contributor IIOctober 9, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons looks to the officials for a call against the Carolina Panthers at Georgia Dome on September 30, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Matt Ryan has started from day one; without even a whisper of that possibly changing. There has never been any question from team management or league pundits as to his overall performance as a starting quarterback in the National Football League.

Matter of fact, Ryan is so highly regarded within the NFL that he has been mentioned as being on the cusp of being elite by most experts. Concerning his stature in relation to current greats, Ryan is mentioned alongside them in most categories and analysis.

When vetting Matt Ryan through the most important factors, against the elite in the NFL, Matt Ryan’s status is clear; he is poised to become the next elite quarterback in the NFL.

A look at the factors and a few comparisons:


Winning Percentage

At the end of the day winning is what drives the true worth of a quarterback; Matt Ryan wins, bottom line.

His overall win-loss record in the league (48-21) is beyond reproach. Through his first four full seasons Ryan’s average winning percentage trails only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning through their first four full seasons.

Add in the fact that Ryan’s 43 wins through his first four full seasons rank second in league history, and where Matt Ryan stands among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL begins to take shape.


Quarterback Rating

Among the NFL’s active quarterbacks, Ryan ranks as the ninth-overall rated quarterback; he ranks thirteenth in league history.

He holds company with Aaron Rodgers (first in both categories), Tom Brady (second active/third overall), Peyton Manning (fifth active/sixth overall) & Drew Brees (sixth active/seventh overall).


Completion Percentage

Through his first four full seasons Ryan has completed 60.8 percent of his passes, ranking him tenth overall among active NFL starting quarterbacks.   


Passing Yards

Through his first four full seasons Ryan amassed 14,238 yards passing, fourth in the league compared to Aaron Rodgers’ 17,037, Peyton Manning’s 16,418 and Drew Brees’ 14,437.

It is important to note that the Falcons operated from a run-first offense during this time in Ryan’s career. They were certainly balanced, but the philosophy was to run to set up the pass.  



Matt Ryan’s 95 touchdown passes through his first four full seasons is on par with the elite quarterbacks playing today through their first four full seasons as starters. He only trails Aaron Rodgers (131) and Peyton Manning (111) by wide margins, is basically on par with Tom Brady (97) and Drew Brees (94) and owns a wide margin against Ben Roethlisberger (84).



Through his first four full seasons as a starter, Ryan has protected the football better than all but one of today’s elite quarterbacks through their first four full seasons as a starter. His 46 interceptions rank second only to Rodgers’ 37.


Game-Winning Drives

Matt Ryan came to the NFL with the nickname “Matty Ice”. Through his four full seasons as a starting quarterback he has proven the strength and accuracy of his moniker.

He has directed the most fourth-quarter, come-from-behind victories in the NFL with 11, and the most game-winning drives with 16. Falcons fans know, they believe, that within seven or less points they have a legitimate, tangible shot at winning the game.



Outside of just winning, quarterbacks, more than any other position in sports, are held to the championship standard. Few quarterbacks are regarded as highly as they should without winning an NFL Championship; Dan Marino is arguably the lone exception to the rule.

When exploring Matt Ryan as an individual or comparing him to the best of the best in the NFL he falls short in a big way. Ryan has no playoff wins (0-3) and therefore has yet to make a championship game appearance.

In order to be elite, Matt Ryan must turn the corner in the playoffs and begin to win games. The overall championship has a longer shelf life in regards to being elite, though it does matter in a big way, and Ryan can leap into the elite category with an NFL championship.

That said, winning playoff games speaks volumes to the status of a quarterback and offers a better perspective of where he resides in relation to his place in the league. As a result of his poor playoff numbers, Matt Ryan remains on the outside looking on the group of elite quarterbacks in the NFL.

Throughout his career to date Matt Ryan hasn’t done it all, but he’s done the vast majority of it. His overall body of work makes it clear that he is the next elite quarterback in the NFL.