The Matt Ryan Effect: Forgetting Michael Vick, Returning to the Playoffs

Nick VandiverCorrespondent INovember 7, 2008

Ah, how eager teams are to forget the troubles of the past. The Falcons finally thought they had their quarterback of the future way back when they drafted Michael Vick.

They thought that his great combination of arm strength and speed would do great things for the Atlanta offense. But they fell victim to one of the little known rules of football:

Never draft a running quarterback.

Running quarterbacks give more attention to their skills with their feet instead of their arms. Vick's running was like a receiver throwing a touchdown. It's flashy, and it works sometimes, but it's not what you were put there to do.

The Falcons needed Vick to be a great pocket passer, and he never rose to those expectations. While he does have the records for QB rushing yards in a game and a season, he never fully reached his potential as a passer.

Then, just last year, Falcon nation was horrified as their star quarterback became involved in a dogfighting scandal. People thought of it as a travesty in Falcon history. While Vick wasn't the greatest quarterback, he generally got the job done.

With Vick in court and prison for years, Atlanta Falcon fans thought the franchise was about to enter a depression. Who could fill the small, yet speedy shoes of Michael Vick? Who could ever come in and lead this team to the kind of season that they wanted several of from Vick?

And then came the draft.

The Falcons draft pick came down to a coin toss with the Raiders. The Falcons won the toss and wound up getting the third overall pick. Many wanted them to just take a safe pick like Darren McFadden or Jake Long.

Everyone knew that they would come to the NFL and do what they do best. But the most dangerous gamble in football is to take a quarterback in the first round. You never know if they have have the maturity and talent to play on the pro level.

But the Falcons had a good feeling. They had seen this kid from Boston College come back with less than a minute left to beat Virginia Tech and lead his team to a bowl game.

They had seen his natural throwing ability and marvelled at his leadership skills. So, taking a great risk at the chance for great gain, the Falcons made the pick.

"With the third overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons select...Matt Ryan, quarterback-Boston College."

These were the fateful words that set it all in motion.

With the Falcons terrible record last year, no one expected Ryan to come in and work any miracles. A 7-9 or 8-8 record would have been a great stepping stone for the young QB.

But no...Matt Ryan would not settle for that.

With his live arm and quiet leadership skill, Matt Ryan has already led this team to five wins and they are looking to go to the playoffs in the first year of their rookie quarterback.

He showed his talent by leading the Falcons to a win against the Bears at the last second. Literally.

With 11 seconds left, Matt Ryan threw deep down the left sideline for Michael Jenkins. Jenkins, with great concentration, caught the ball way past midfield and tiptoed just in-bounds. With one second left, Jason Elam kicked the game-winning field goal to beat the Bears.

All in all, the Falcons couldn't have imagined a better outcome for their franchise quarterback. They expect him to be an elite aerial threat for years to come, and opposing teams hope that won't be the case.

One thing is certain, though: Whatever happens this year, the Atlanta Falcons will never regret taking a chance on a tall, skinny kid from Boston College.