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The NFL, for better or worse, can be a cut-throat league; if you start to lose games, you’ll usually end up losing your job before too long. That’s exactly what happened in Atlanta, as head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff got the ax on Monday. The Falcons, however, might be making another significant change in the near future.

When fielding questions from the media, Falcons owner Arthur Blank was asked about Matt Ryan. While the quarterback has spent his entire career in Atlanta, it seems like he could be the next casualty in the club’s rebuilding effort.

The Atlanta Falcons finally made come changes on Monday

Once an NFL season begins, it’s only a matter of time before the first head coach loses his job. On Monday, Dan Quinn of the Atlanta Falcons won that race to the bottom.

Quinn had led the Falcons since 2015, and his time at the helm was something of a mixed bag. He won the NFC title in 2016, posting an 11-5 record; that season, however, ended in a spectacular Super Bowl collapse. Atlanta struggled to maintain that success, however, only making the postseason on one other occasion during Quinn’s reign.

After two consecutive 7-9 seasons, though, things finally hit a breaking point. The Falcons limped to a 0-5 start, blowing leads with troubling regularity; a Week 5 loss to the Christian McCaffrey-less Carolina Panthers sealed Dan Quinn’s fate, as he was finally relieved of his duties.

Matt Ryan may have just received a public kiss of death

While both a head coach and general manager shape the fate of an NFL franchise, a good amount of responsibility falls onto the shoulders of the starting quarterback. The Atlanta Falcons have had a good one in Matt Ryan, but it seems like his time could be running out.

During his media availability, Falcons owner Arthur Blank was asked about the 35-year-old’s future with the franchise. Despite saying all the right things, he remained non-committal.

“I love Matt, much like I love Dan [Quinn and] I love Thomas [Dimitroff],” Blank explained. “Matt’s been a franchise leader for us, great quarterback, one of the leading quarterbacks in the last 13 years in the NFL. I hope he’s going to be part of our plans going forward. But that will be a decision that I won’t make.”

Comparing Ryan to the recently-fired coach and general manager isn’t the greatest endorsement anyone will ever receive. Blank’s comments about the quarterback, though, didn’t end there.

“You know, Matt has the ability to play at a very high level, even at this age. Whether that’s gonna continue or not, I’m not sure,” the Atlanta Falcons owner continued. “I appreciate his willingness to consider doing that, and the level of what he’s played for us for 13 years, which has been incredible. So we’ll have to see. But then again, that’s going to be a decision at the end of the day… part of it will be up to the player, and part of it will be up to the coaching staff. And whether or not Matt can keep himself together and God willing he’ll be able to do that and play at the level that he’s capable of playing at.”

While it’s not exactly fair to Matt Ryan, his time with the Falcons could be running out

During his time in Atlanta, Matt Ryan has been an impressive quarterback; his 2016 season, in particular, was something to behold. Every star player, however, eventually has to cede the stage to the next generation.

While it’s not exactly fair that Ryan has had to suffer through so many mediocre seasons, he and the Falcons could be reaching a natural break-point. Although there’s some stiff competition for the first-overall pick, the 2021 NFL draft will feature three capable quarterback prospects. It’s also worth noting that there’s an out-clause in Ryan’s contract after the 2021 campaign; that would allow Atlanta to bring their new signal-caller along slowly, before making the switch for 2022.

As Arthur Blank indirectly said, this isn’t so much about Matt Ryan as it is about the course of the Atlanta Falcons franchise. Even if they don’t embark on a proper rebuild, there’s no point in trotting out an aging quarterback; if a new coach and general manager want to make a switch, it’s better to do it when there’s no pressure to chase a championship. It’s not exactly fair, but that’s football.

On Monday, the Atlanta Falcons finally made a change. Matt Ryan, for better or worse, could be the next man up.