The FalconsLife message board on AtlantaFalcons.com is where die-hard Falcons fans go to talk, share ideas and discuss every imaginable topic concerning the Falcons.
During the offseason we'll take a look at a hot topic on the Talk About the Falcons department of FalconsLife and examine what's on the minds of Falcons fans.
The world of football and Falcons fans in particular have embraced the recent four-year run of the franchise to levels previously unseen. The expectation of a consistent winner is now firmly on the shoulders of the Falcons and most fans of the team are excited about having such expectations after seasons of up-and-down performances.
One of the questions asked recently after the Falcons' third loss in the playoffs is about Matt Ryan. Entering his fifth season in the NFL, Ryan is clearly the team's franchise quarterback, but many that discuss the sport for a living have hinted that Ryan needs to start winning playoff games to be considered an elite-level quarterback.
This topic recently was involved in a hot debate on FalconsLife when Falcons fan, trudweathers, brought up a sound comparison of the four-year career of Ryan to current Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
Trudweathers points out Manning's record in every playoff game he's played in during his 14-year career, paying particularly close attention to the future Hall of Famer's first three playoff games.
Manning's playoff opportunities didn't even begin until his third season, which resulted in a 19-16 loss to the Titans. He went on to lose the next two, including a 41-0 beating in 2003 to the Jets. Trudweathers is quick to point out that he's not comparing the talent level or potential career path of Ryan to Manning, but rather that playoff losses early in the career of a quarterback don't paint the entire picture of what can come to be for the signal caller.
"I'm not saying Matt Ryan is the next Payton Manning but then again, if some of the more vocal doubters were Colt's [sic] fans sitting on Peyton Manning back in the year 2000 wouldn't you be jumping to conclusions as well," he wrote.
Even after turning the corner in 2004 with a win, it still took Manning four more seasons before he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. While some fans point to the early success of other quarterbacks in the league, it's important to remember that every situation—and quarterback—is different.
Ryan took the Falcons to the playoffs in his rookie season, creating expectations that may have been unfair. While he's still yet to deliver that first playoff win during the franchise's most successful four-year run, he's kept Atlanta relevant and in the mix every season, just as did Manning did shortly into his career.
Manning's career playoff record demonstrates how challenging it is to win in the NFL. His career playoff record is 9-9, highlighted by the 4-0 run through the playoffs after the 2006 season.
Teams are only as good as the sum of their parts and Manning's career demonstrates this. Few will question that he's one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, but he required a team effort to achieve greatness for one season.
The same goes for Ryan, although he'd be the first to tell anyone that he can continue to improve and play better in the playoffs. He'll always take the responsibility for the team's performance, another similarity between the two quarterbacks.
If you think Manning didn't assume the brunt of the accountability for his team's play, take a look at his post-game comments following his third straight playoff loss: "It's very disappointing. I take full responsibility. I didn't do my job."
The point, and a good one, that trudweathers and many other Falcons fans and Ryan defenders are trying to make is that Ryan's career is still in the very early stages of development. The future appears bright and while their have been some letdowns, he's not the first talented, team-leading quarterback to experience them.
Manning overcame his early drought and there's a good chance Ryan will as well. In a quarterback-driven league, the Falcons are still in good hands with Ryan at the wheel.
Perhaps the whole topic can best be summed up by another fan posting on the thread, stoned_jc7:
"Matt Ryan isn't the best QB in the League. But he is the best We have ever had. And while I guess he does have flaws that just makes him a lot like us. A little dysfunctional and diluted. But doing the best he can with what he has. For me all I have to look at is his record as a starter. He is a good QB. Could be great. The playoffs success will come."