Matt Ryan has racked up plenty of accolades over the course of his 12 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. He’s gone to the Pro Bowl four times, made one First-team All-Pro, while winning both the NFL MVP and the Offensive Player of the Year awards in 2016. Ryan has also put up exemplary individual numbers, having thrown for over 51,000 yards with a completion rate of more than 65%.
Despite having never led the Falcons to a Super Bowl win, the 35-year-old Ryan is hardly lacking in the personal confidence department. He recently made the somewhat startling claim that he will be the best quarterback in the NFC South this year — better, that is, than both Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
Matt Ryan’s vote of confidence in himself
Ryan made his comments during a recent appearance on the Pardon My Take podcast hosted by PFT Commenter and Big Cat. At one point in the conversation, Ryan was asked about who he considered the best current quarterback in the NFC South. Ryan paused — and then laughed — before answering: “I think currently, yeah, I’ll go with myself.”
While Ryan’s answer almost instantly started generating headlines, it’s not quite as controversial as it sounds. To begin with, it’s only natural for any player to believe that they are the best — even if that belief is a little bit irrational. Yet Ryan’s claim may not be that far from the truth. Let’s see how he stacks up against the other three starting quarterbacks in the NFC South.
The young gun: Teddy Bridgewater
It’s not quite fair to call Teddy Bridgewater a young gun; after all, the 27-year-old has been in the league for five years, even if he’s spent a lot of that time sidelined with a nasty knee injury. Yet compared to the rest of the starting QBs in the NFC South, Bridgewater is far the youngest. He’ll be looking to bounce back in a big way this year, his first with the Carolina Panthers.
Bridgewater has all the makings of a quality quarterback — good accuracy and excellent vision. He also won all five of his five starts subbing in for an injured Brees last year with the New Orleans Saints.
He’ll also have the opportunity to work again under offensive coordinator Joe Brady this year. But Bridgewater is still too much of an unknown quantity to really compete with Ryan for the division’s best.
The vets: Brees and Brady
Here’s where things start to get a little tricky. Brady and Brees are both clear Hall of Fame shoo-ins with storied careers. Brees also has two of the best receivers in the game today — Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas — on his team, which will certainly boost his numbers even beyond the absurd 74.3% completion rate he posted last year.
It’s tough to judge what kind of a season Brady will have in his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Most commentators assume that we will see a fully rejuvenated Brady, one who’s eager to prove how much he still has left in the tank. Brady is also poised to have a far better set of weapons arrayed around him than in his last few years with the New England Patriots. In fact, Brady’s duo of receivers might be better than Brees’.
That said, Brady will also be 40 this year, giving Ryan a good five-year advantage on him. It’s also important to note that Ryan threw for more yards than both Brees and Brady in the 219 season, while leading the entire league with 408 completions.
Matt Ryan has also proved himself to be a highly consistent player throughout his career, which means we should see more continued excellence from him in 2020. While nothing is guaranteed, he stands a very good chance of being the best QB in his division next year.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference