Tony Gonzalez Is Correct in His Evaluation of Matt Ryan

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2014

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) takes the field against the Carolina Panthers before the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

Earlier this week recently retired Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez told ESPN The Magazine he did not believe Matt Ryan was an elite quarterback.

"Matt's an excellent quarterback," Gonzalez said, via, "But he's not elite. He's this close. He'll get there, but he has some learning to do."

Ever since Eli Manning told 1050 ESPN radio back in 2011 he considered himself in the same class as quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, it is nearly impossible for any high-profile player to say the words “elite” and “quarterback” in the same sentence without making national headlines.

And of course Gonzalez’s quote in ESPN The Magazine earlier this week has been no different.

Just Google Gonzalez’rs name and you will immediately see hundreds of articles about Gonzalez’s now infamous “elite” quote about his former Falcons teammate.

But this writer simply cannot see what all the fuss is about with regards to Gonzalez’s quote.

Ryan is not an elite quarterback. He can be considered an above average NFL quarterback, but certainly not elite.

Ryan threw 17 interceptions last season and had a passer rating of just 89.6. Only six quarterbacks in the league threw more interceptions than Ryan during the 2013 season.

The Falcons also managed to win just four games during the 2013 season following a trip to the NFC Championship Game just a year earlier.

Of course Ryan was dealing with a poor offensive line and a receiving core that was decimated by injuries for most of the season, but the turnovers still fall on Ryan.

Brady also had to deal with a young, inexperienced team and a number of injuries to key players yet he managed to lead his team to the AFC Championship Game. That is what elite quarterbacks do.

Throughout the first six seasons of Ryan’s career he has thrown 77 interceptions in 94 games, has a passer rating of 90.6 and has thrown for 153 touchdowns on 23,472 yards.

These stats are good when compared to other NFL quarterbacks, but are certainly not elite.

Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback and has been an NFL starter for the same period of time as Ryan. Rodgers has thrown for 24,197 yards and 188 touchdowns with passer rating of 104. Rodgers has also thrown 25 fewer interceptions than Ryan throughout the exact same amount of games played.

When comparing Ryan’s stats to those of Rodgers, it becomes clear Gonzalez was 100 percent correct in his evaluation of Ryan.

A quarterback’s performance during the postseason can occasionally boost him from average or good into that class of elite quarterbacks, just ask the likes of Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger about that.

But Ryan hasn’t been elite during the postseason either. Heck, he has not even been average.

Ryan has a 1-4 postseason record with the Falcons and has thrown seven interceptions in five games with a passer rating of just 85.2.

It is time for Falcons fans simply accept Ryan for what he is—a very good quarterback who has the potential to become elite but is not yet there.

Oh wait, that's exactly what Gonzalez said.

So what’s all the fuss about?